Wedding Rentals 101
Today we are excited to chat with our long time friend, Ellen Cutler of Table Manners, about all things wedding rentals. Whether it's a full tablescape or a pop of color with a speciality glass, we thought it would be helpful to ask Ellen some questions about rentals, seating and trends she's seeing in the industry. Enjoy!
1. What trends are you seeing this Spring and Summer as it relates to tablescapes?
As people get back to celebrating this Spring and Summer, I have noticed many people taking bold color chances and selecting items that in the past may have only been driven by an event planner. Clients hosting special dinners, graduations or weddings at their home tended to pick a gorgeous linen but kept much of the rest of the equipment on the more traditional or simple side. This Summer, it seems as if everyone, whether they have an event planner or not, and whether it is a dinner for 12 or for 60+ is including at least one colored glass, a contrasting napkin, using gold flatware and seeking out china that may have a texture or geometric design. It has been really fun to help people pick out bright and cheerful items, especially after the past 13 months! It's as if everyone is less afraid of using color and not matching perfectly and instead, they are going for a beautiful eye-popping set up for their guests.
2. When clients ask you "how much will my tabletop items/decor cost me?", do you have a formula or estimate that you typically provide based on guest count? Or does it all depend on final selections? That's a tough question! Each rental item is priced individually so as clients build their look, the more upgraded equipment they pick the more the final cost will be. For clients who want to be cost conscious but also want to include some upgrades, I would advise them to spend more on items that have the most impact. For the most part, linens and napkins are not upgrades - so don’t be afraid to pick a colorful or eye popping linen and napkin and then use basic china and flatware. If a client has enough room in their budget for only one splurge, I would definitely recommend a fun colored water goblet or tumbler or a fun charger plate. Adding either, or both, of these items is going to cost the least amount but give you the most impact. Flatware is another way to make a big impact, but remember, a table setting typically has about 5 pieces on the table so that can add up fast!
3. If a client would like a buffet dinner, what plates should go on the table at each guest's seat? Technically for a buffet dinner, guests get their dinner plate off of the buffet, so there would be no plate at each place setting. I have seen some clients who want to use a charger plate at a buffet dinner and while that is not technically traditional, I see more and more people opting for what they prefer vs what is traditional.
4. Should clients offer full seating if their event is reception style? This is a great question and one I had to think about for my wedding three years ago. When I was in catering, I spoke to so many brides that worried if they had full seating that guests would never move and they were afraid of the traditional feel of full seating. I definitely understand that sentiment, but at the same time, I knew I wanted my guests to feel comfortable and have a relaxed and fun experience. In order to do that, I made sure all our guests had a place to sit for dinner. We used a mix of 3’ round tables with seating for six, 4’ round tables with seating for eight, some high tops with no seating and communal tables with eight stools. It was perfect - some people sat at the same table throughout the entire meal but a lot of other guests really did mix and mingle - including me and my husband. I think first and foremost you need to make sure your guests are comfortable and if there is no place for them to eat or rest their plate that is not going to give them a good experience. Don't feel like you have to stick to tables of eight or ten. You can be creative with how you account for “full seating” to make sure you get the vibe you want and your guests have a place to eat.
5. Any new inventory that you are excited about? Yes! We have so much new and gorgeous equipment! I am most excited about the beautiful acrylic flatware in both gold and silver we are getting in. It can be clean and contemporary and also romantic and beautiful. I see it fitting perfectly in a tent on a farm table or in a museum...it is so versatile! We also have new gold flatware that I am excited about - it's very sleek. In general, we are always adding new items to our inventory. We are fortunate to be a smaller company so we often add to our inventory and it's almost always client driven. For example, if a client reaches out to us for a new item and something we think would be a great additional to our inventory, we often end up purchasing it or making it custom for them, assuming we have enough time.
6. How far in advance should a client reserve their table equipment? That really depends. If there is a certain item you know you want, I suggest reserving it as soon as you think about it because we will hold a reservation for a year out. In general though if you can reserve your rentals three months in advance, that is great but we know a lot of people can’t do that so we often accommodate a shorter turn around time.
7. What brought you into the events industry?
I started at Occasions Caterers YEARS ago and I loved it. I was able to work in so many amazing venues and meet a ton of wonderful people - Emily and Ann Marie included! It is exciting to continue to work together even though we have all moved into new positions in the events world.