What No One Tells You About Wedding Rentals & Decor

Once you begin to think about the design of your wedding day and what it will all look like, you’ll need to decide what items you will source through a wedding rental vendor and what decor items you will purchase. If you are getting married in northern Virginia or the Washington, DC area more broadly, there are so many options! Whatever you choose, you’ll want the items at your wedding to be representative of who you are as a couple and to help share the story of your love for all your guests to experience. Here we’ll share some commonly overlooked details and what no one tells you about wedding rentals and decor!

Think About What You Already Have

Look at what you already have around you that could be used for decor. If you’re looking for a vintage lounge set, is there a relative who might have something that you could borrow? If you do need to purchase something, what could you buy now that you think you could reuse after the wedding so you get additional use out of it? Think frames for displaying photos, pillows for your lounge furniture, or even a custom-made table for your sweetheart table or head table that then becomes your dining table in your home. Maximize your dollars by finding ways to use items as decorations in your home after the wedding day is over.

Wedding Rentals and Decor in Northern Virginia Lounge Furniture
Photo by E. Losinio Photography | Venue: 48 Fields

Keep Your Meal Style in Mind

The style of your meal matters for the type of wedding rentals you’ll want to secure!

  • Buffet: If you’re having a buffet, you need to decide whether you want plates at the tables for guests to bring up to the buffet with them when they go through the buffet line, or if you’re going to keep all the plates at the buffet table itself for guests to pick up. If you opt for no plates on the guest tables, you’ll need to think through whether you’d like to have a charger at the table, or no plate at all and just the napkin laying on the linen.
  • Plated: I hate to break it to you, but the photos you see on Pinterest with stacks of plates on top of a charger are just for show. Many of those photos are created during carefully curated styled photoshoots, and practically speaking, on your wedding day, if you choose to have a plated dinner, you won’t be able to leave the china on the tables for your guests to see when they take their seats unless you rent an additional set of plates typically called the “show” plate. This is because your caterer will need to have all the plates in the kitchen area to prep and plate each guest’s entree in advance. If you want the look of having a full set of china out in your reception space for your photographer to capture, you’ll need to rent extra plates for all your guest place settings, or to save on costs, just enough extra plates for only the head table that your photographer can heavily photograph.
  • Family-Style: If you’re having a family-style dinner, you’ll want to free up even more space on your tables so your caterer has plenty of room to place dishes that all of your guests will share at the table. Avoid filling up your table with a lot of decor and go smaller on your floral arrangements.
Photo by Franzi Lee Photography | Venue: Mt. Defiance Cider Barn

Get Your Wedding Rental Quantities Right!

Check with your planner, caterer or the rental company on the recommended quantity for each type of wedding rental item you’ll secure. More often than not, caterers are the ones managing rental orders and working with the rental company to adjust quantities. You should always order extra china, glassware, flatware and napkins. Guests may drop a fork, break a glass or dirty up a napkin and need a new one.

On the flip side, if you’re renting chairs for the ceremony, calculate how many people will be standing during the ceremony and subtract them from the chair count. This includes the couple, officiant (if included in the guest count), bridesmaids, groomsmen and any flower girls or ring bearers old enough to stand during the entire ceremony. None of these people need a seat during your ceremony!

Consider the Footprint of Your Tablescape

The footprint of your tablescape refers to the size of how items on your guest tables are arranged, such as the china, flatware, glassware, and centerpieces. It’s essential you know the exact dimensions of the tables where your guests will sit and eat. You don’t want your tables to look too full or too empty, and placing the recommended amount of guests per table will ensure your seating arrangements look great and provide enough room and comfort for your guests.

If you’re going to have chargers, we’d suggest sticking to fewer guests per table than the maximum the table can accommodate. You don’t want your guests to be cramped with place settings on top of each other. If you’re having bread and butter plates or multiple glasses for water, champagne and wine, those will also take up valuable table space.

To create the appropriate amount of space for your tabletop designs, you may need to rent more tables than first thought to make sure the tablescape has room to breathe and every element can be fully seen. If you’re spending more for upgraded flatware, you don’t want it to be hidden underneath the sides of your plates for no one to see!

Wedding Rentals and Decor in Northern Virginia Farm Tables
Photo by Leigh Anne Brader Photography, LLC | Venue: 48 Fields

Read Your Contracts!

If you take nothing else away from this article, please, please make sure you thoroughly read your contracts before signing and submitting payment. Here are some details you’ll want to be clear about:

  • Weather: Most rental companies in northern Virginia or the Washington, DC area do not allow certain types of furniture or pieces to be outside getting wet, and will refuse delivery of their items if you have no plan in place to keep the items dry. If your wedding is partially or entirely outdoors, what will be your back up plan if it rains? Create a Plan B that can be implemented if the weather doesn’t cooperate and make sure you have space for all of the wedding rentals if you have to move inside or within a tent. 
  • Who is Handling Set Up and Tear Down: Will the wedding rental company just drop off and pick up the items or does their service also include setting up (i.e. placing ceremony chairs and stacking them back up at the end of the ceremony). If the rental company is just dropping off and picking up, will your caterer set out chairs or will you need to find some family members or groomsmen who can help with this before or after your ceremony rehearsal? Avoid getting hit with an extra fee from the rental company if they end up having to do something outside the scope of their contract. Clearly communicate the amount of time the wedding decor company has to return to pick up their items at the end of the reception to make sure you don’t go over your venue rental time. That would be a quick way to have some of your venue security deposit withheld if the rental company takes too long to get out of the venue. 
  • Costs: What happens if an item gets damaged? Before you assume the risk of renting a particular item, you should know how much are you responsible for paying in replacement costs if anything ends up broken or damaged. Some rental companies include damage waivers within their contracts, almost like an insurance charge to cover the wear and tear of their wedding rentals so you don’t end up paying hefty replacement fees if something does become damaged. If the rental company provides specialty, one-of-a-kind pieces, you may not be able to adjust your rental order after booking a specific item since they may have potentially lost revenue by not having the item in their inventory to rent to other couples. Be aware of the dates when you can no longer make any changes to rental quantities or lower the count of particular items.
Wedding Rentals and Decor in Northern Virginia Bohemian Decor and Lounge Furniture
Photo by E. Losinio Photography | Venue: Mt. Defiance Cider Barn

Wedding Decor Delivery Fees

Make sure you know when the rentals can be delivered for your wedding. If you’re unsure, confirm with the venue prior to booking your wedding rentals. Some wedding rental vendors may assume they can deliver items the day before the wedding and pick up a day or two after. However, not every venue will allow that, especially if the venue often has weddings each day during the weekend. You don’t want to move forward with a quote that was based on next-day pick up only to realize the cost will go up significantly because you actually need same-day delivery. Next-day pick up is usually the more cost-efficient option. 

Your wedding decor company may also have a “minimum” amount that needs to be spent before your order can qualify for delivery. This could be a year-round policy or you may see this just during peak wedding season. See if you can pick up smaller items via Will Call at the rental company’s location or have a family member rent a U-Haul if getting larger furniture and want to save some money on the delivery fee. Just know that if you have a Saturday wedding, some rental companies won’t open again until Monday for you to return the items, so if you’re renting a U-Haul, you may be holding onto it all weekend.

Don’t forget – the more rental companies, the more delivery fees. Try to consolidate your order and get as many items from one rental company as possible to get the most bang for your buck. You could also get delivery from one rental vendor and choose to pick up from another to balance it out.

Wedding Rentals and Decor in Northern Virginia Bar Cart
Photo by Brett Denfeld Photography | Venue: The Middleburg Barn

What Comes to the Venue Must Go

This is when you need to think through the logistics. Working with an experienced wedding planner or coordinator will be a huge help in this area. Wedding planners are used to helping pack up at the end of the night and will be aware of all the items you’re bringing that need to find a way home once the wedding is over. Anything you bring to the venue must go home! Many venues in northern Virginia and Washington, DC require all wedding rentals, decor and other personal items be taken out of the venue the same night as the wedding. If you’re getting married in the DC area and this is the case for your venue, you’ll need to have some family members or friends who you can reliably trust to help stick around and load up a car and potentially drive it off the property if the venue doesn’t allow any vehicles to stay overnight.

Regardless of whether you rent or buy your wedding decorations, strive to make your wedding design unique and personal to you! It will be far more memorable and speak to your relationship in a greater way.


Are you looking for a modern rustic farmhouse touch and want an elevated dining experience for your guests? Learn more about our hand-made farm table wedding rentals and reach out for availability!

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