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From the Archives: Part 1 of 4 – Saving You Money on Linen Rentals

This gorgeous Sweetheart Table was captured by Michele Mateus Photography

When you’re planning your wedding, DIY or otherwise, you want to save money everywhere you can, and my goal as a wedding planner is to help you to avoid unforeseen expenses and to help you have the wedding you have always dreamed of, on your budget. Every dollar and cent I can help you save means that you have room in your budget for something else, or you can put aside those savings for your honeymoon or to buy your first house!
For those of you unfamiliar, I spent 18 months in the rental industry and, as an observant person, I learned a few tips and tricks to keep your rentals affordable. When you put your rental order together you may think the total amount at the bottom of the invoice is all you need to budget for rentals, but there are incidentals: missing, broken, or damaged items are accounted for after your wedding is over! When you’re least expecting it, your credit card, already so close to its breaking point, can be charged above and beyond your budgeted amount.

Ensure you read through each segment carefully; there are multiple tips in each category!

Linens are, by far, going to be the most costly of all your rental items – table linens can cost as much as double the tables you put them on, if not more, and cloth napkins get stained regularly! Keep your well-budgeted rental costs down by following the tips below.

Image provided by Bake Photography

BEFORE: When picking out your table linens, there are more “standard” sizes than there are table sizes – thankfully, most companies keep their standard linen sizes to a minimum selection. If you’re going with round tables for guest seating, you can save money by having short linens. These linens will only reach about 15” off the edge of the table, and you know what, no one is going to notice! If you’re set on the idea of having “floor length” linens for your guest tables, then go with a linen that doesn’t quite reach the floor. It will sit about 6” off the floor, you won’t have to worry about your guests pulling the table cloths with their feet when they sit down, and it can save you $6/linen, or more. And when you have ten tables of eight, that’s a $60+ saving! Try to go with floor length linens on all tables without people at them.

If you are going with rectangular guest tables, again, I recommend the shorter linens. If you’re doing a ‘harvest tables’ style and butting your tables end to end, you might even need less linens! Instead of using one linen per table, lay the linens as far as they will go on each table. You can figure out how many linens you need simply; if you’re using 6’ tables and have six tables in a row, it adds up to 36’ long. If you’re using a shorter linen, it will likely be a 60”x120” (5’x10’). If each cloth is 10’ long, you will only need four linens, and you will still have 2’ of hang on either end. That is two linens less per row of tables; so if each linen is around $12 and you have three rows of six tables, you save $72!

Lastly, for table linens that don’t reach the floor, ask the person you’re placing the order with if there are alternate sizes you can consider. You can save $5 a linen if you go with a 54”x120” instead of a 60”x120” linen (if your rental company carries them, that is!).

For any linen, get darker colours where possible; they hide stains well. If you haven’t already picked your colour scheme, try to make sure that black, navy, burgundy, or another dark colour is in your palette! You’d be surprised how much people pay in just stained linen replacement or cleanings. This is especially true for napkins! While white napkins are the most popular, keep in mind that your guests are wiping their hands and faces with these pieces of linen and so they are much more susceptible to stains! If you can’t avoid a light coloured napkin, you might want to think about keeping tomato sauce, and other foods notorious for their staining power, off your menu.

If you can’t avoid a light coloured napkin, you might want to think about keeping tomato sauce, and other foods notorious for their staining power, off your menu.

When it comes to runners, do what you can to stray away from renting linen runners – play around with décor and see what you can do! Often, rental companies don’t carry large numbers of their coloured runners, and if they do, they may not carry your exact colour. If you would like to go with the fabric runner, ask your rental company if you can take one as a sample to make sure the colour is right. Some companies offer a sample at no charge if you don’t have it longer than three days. If you take a sample, this would also be a great time to set up a test of your tables with centrepieces and take photos, which can be a big help when you’re not the one setting up your reception space!

Pro tip: Place your rental order at least 4 months before your wedding, this way no one else can snag up the things you want! Ask about the cancellation fee, most companies won’t penalize you for changing your order the week before your wedding, so refine your rentals then. 

On a beautiful table, like the ones at The Loft at Earls, Yaletown, all you need is a nice napkin. Thanks Paris Lenahan for the image!

DURING: When you set up your linens, check them for rips, stains, or burns. If you find any, take a photo and e-mail or call the rental company right away. It doesn’t matter if they’re closed, they need something to prove that you weren’t the one to damage the linen. When you don’t let them know until after the event, they can and will charge you for the damages that you were not responsible for. If you’re not there to set up, ask that your on-site coordinator do this for you. This is important for anything you rent!

Ensure that your caterer has a stain remover pen (or ten) on them should a spill happen on a table, and if you have candles make sure that there is something sitting under them! If that wax gets on the linen it can be very hard to remove, and I can promise you, if you thought the linen was expensive to rent, it will be even more expensive to replace.

Thanks to Luminessence Photography for this image!

AFTER: Before returning the linens, shake them out: you are charged extra cleaning charges if the linens are full of confetti or other things left over from your wedding. If you had candles, while you shake the linens out, check for wax residue. If you have any, you will want to remove it, otherwise the linen will be considered damaged. Check out the video for how to do that! (If you’re stuck with a small freezer like I am, you can use a cookie pan with ice to get it off).  As you’re packing the linens into the bags for returning, ensure the linens are dry; if not, hang them for a while, or throw them in the dryer. Wet linens put in a bag will mildew. For most companies, wet linens are considered damaged linen because of this mildew.

If your items are being picked up by the company and you don’t have time to check the linens for damage, and then are charged for any replacement, you can ask to keep these linens. Most companies have a policy that if you can fix the damage in a way that makes the linen look like it did before (aka this won’t work on rips and tears) you can return the linen for a full refund. Rental companies prefer to retain their inventory so they don’t need to place orders to restock!

Love me a dark coloured napkin! Thanks Joanna Moss Photography for the image!

If you have any questions about these tips or you have other ways to save money on rentals, let me know in the comments below! And on July 17th we’ll be releasing part two of this four part series, all about how you can save on renting plates and cutlery!

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