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Improving the Rental Industry

Last year I had the honor of speaking at Lend & Gather here in Brooklyn and the Wythe Hotel. Lend & Gather is a conference for rental companies that mainly serve the event world. As an event designer, I often work with rental companies to execute the vision we have for our clients. We design their event on paper and then either purchase or rent the props, furniture, and decor we need to make it come alive. Whether that’s a cozy lounge, candles, linens for the tables, and often the tables themselves, rental companies are basically how events get produced.

Without rental companies, the event would be empty. No ghost chairs to sit in. No sequin linens to gaze at. No silverware to eat your filet mignon with.

Couples are often surprised that caterers and venues rent everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) for every event. Each coffee spoon, napkin, chair, table, and glass is rented from a company that specializes in schlepping, keeping inventory, and cleaning all of these items. Which is why the caterers and venues choose to rent and not house all of these items themselves. For one, there just isn’t enough space, especially here in NYC, to house glassware/plates/flatware/linens. For two, renting and cleaning enough of everything for a 200 person event is a business model on it’s own.

We (event designers, florists, venues, and caterers) all work together with the rental companies to make your dreams come true one silver fork at a time.

Some rental companies are huge and vast and offer the most basic array of event goods. Others are smaller, boutique businesses that rent one of a kind vintage pieces and collections of colored glassware and plates. Some rental companies only do linens. And like Patina Rentals, some build their own furniture from scratch to rent to you pretty party people.

My job at the Lend & Gather conference (in addition to decorating it, that post coming tomorrow), was to educate owners of rental companies on what I wished they offered in order to help me better serve my event design clients.

Here’s a small snippet of what we discussed:

1) Website and Image Improvements

This has gotten INCREDIBLY better over the last few years. Let me back up a bit: When I start working with an event design client, I build them a design deck. This is a super long PDF file with images and collages of each element I want to bring to their wedding to create the vision that we’ve created. I need this design deck to be the most beautiful, incredible, inspiring PDF they have ever seen. In order to do that, the images I grab from rental companies websites need to be beautiful as well. Sharp, in focus, true to color, and on a light colored, close-to-white-as-possible, background. Do this, and we will be friends forever.

2) Large and Unique Pieces 

This is especially true in urban areas where event designers and florists might not have the square footage to house that one giant thing that a client needed that one time. I’d love a rental company to offer me a variety of larger scale installation type elements that I can incorporate into a space. Chuppahs, Mandaps, backdrop walls, arches…etc. I would gladly rent this from a company instead of housing it all myself.

3) Smaller Pieces

This request got a lot of eye rolls and push back from the business owners in attendance. I get it – organizing and cleaning a gazillion brass candlesticks is the seventh ring of hell. BUT – if someone could figure out how to do it smartly, you’d make a lot of money. I’m not talking about the basic votives I can get from Tom, Dick, and Harry Rentals up the street. The geometric things. The weird stuff. The 300 crystal votive holders that are all a different pattern. 200 vintage brass candlesticks. Large elevated vases. Smaller compotes. The bulk items, but in hard to find, contemporary shapes. I want to rent these things.

4) Customizable Pieces

My clients hire me as their event designer because they want a personalized wedding. They want it to look cohesive, intentional, and unique. Give me items that I can customize with vinyl decals – we will be in business together forever. Tell me that anything in your warehouse can be made to be any color I want – I’ll sing your praises until the end of time. Be willing to work with me to make my design deck come to life with custom made furniture – Let’s make out. But seriously, being able to put a vinyl decal of the same pattern from their invite on their bar is the type of decor that couples with event designers expect (and almost require).

My lovely readers, do you agree with these four wishes for rental companies? Anything else you’d add? Rental companies, anything you’d like to see event designers approve upon? Give me the dirt!

Photos by Bonnie and Lauren

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