the great debate: renting vs. buying.

When we first booked our reception, we knew that the venue would not be providing dishes. They do not hold events there on a regular basis, nor do they plan to in the near future. We kept this in mind when booking our caterer, who is a family friend and has access to dishes through his work. We thought we would be able to use these dishes for our wedding, so we never budgeted for this expense.

A couple months later, I found out there were some circumstances which were preventing us from using the dishes for our wedding. We would have to rent or buy our own, or borrow them from somewhere else. Not knowing where else to borrow them from, we starting weighing the pros and cons of the two remaining options, renting and buying. Here's what we came up with:

-Generally cheaper
-Don't need to wash the dishes after use (just scrape off food)
-Don't need to figure out what to do with the dishes after the wedding

-Waste of money (nothing to show for it after)

-You can get some of your money back by selling them afterwards

-Generally more expensive
-Need to wash the dishes after use
-Need to do something with the dishes after (sell or give away)

As you can see, there are more pros for renting than buying. But I couldn't help but think that it is such a waste of money. After the wedding we'd have nothing to show for all the money we'd spent.

So I began pricing out some dishes. I found dishes and flatware for a decent price at
Sam's Club. Plain white 10.5" dinner plates would cost about $2.40 per plate. I liked that they were plain white, as we are going for a simple, modern look. But multiply $2.40 times 360 and you get $864, and that's just for one plate. Then we'd need to add salad plates, bread plates, dessert plates, coffee cups, saucers, beer glasses, wine glasses, and mixed drink glasses. Needless to say, the numbers got a quite high, and the prices didn't even include shipping.
So what did it cost to rent 10" dinner plates? At $0.33 per plate times 360, it would cost $118.80. Muuuuuch better. I would even settle for the ivory plates with gold trim for the extra $745.20 we'd be saving.
Believe it or not, I actually considered buying for a lot longer than I'd like to admit. I just couldn't get past the fact that we would have nothing to show for the money we spent on rentals after the wedding. Plus some of the other items (the bread plates, for example) had less of a price differential between renting and buying ($0.75 to buy vs. $0.33 to rent).

After figuring out that it would cost us more than double to buy all of the dishes (and we still hadn't negotiated shipping) I finally caved and signed the contract with the rental company. That is, for everything except the flatware. During my analysis, I found that buying flatware from Sam's Club was actually cheaper than renting. So we went to Sam's and bought the Bakers & Chefs
forks, spoons, and knives, and saved about $60 compared to renting at $0.37 per piece.

In the end, I was glad to know that all of my research had paid off and I had made the most of our money when it came to dinnerware. The rental company has been great to work with so far!
Did anyone else struggle with the rent vs. buy decision for wedding items?


AmyJean said...

This is super helpful. I'm in the midst of the same debate. But the caterer is my friend. So our debate is whether she should use the money i would have spent on rentals towards a purchase or if i should just rent. Her wedding side business is just starting to get going but with the economy so shaky. its hard to know what's the right thing to do!

Amber said...

I am in the middle of the same debate. I might have found a loop hole by renting from a private person instead of the rental company. The benefit to the private person is that she will set up & clear. That service might make the difference for me.

Jenn said...

I wrote a post exactly like this a few months ago! It was really hard to decide, and I think the rent vs. buy decision has to be different for every item.