When you’re planning an event, you’ll come to notice something about the various pieces of décor you can get for a party. You can find it in two ways; either rented or purchased. Renting it is almost always cheaper, of course, but then you have to return it. Buying it is more expensive, but if you re-use it more than a few times, you save money in the long run.
The Pros and Cons of Renting and Buying
If you’re thinking of buying décor, there are benefits, but there are also some drawbacks. Let’s look at them.
Pro: Buying some items means getting a ton of use out of them, meaning the cost-per-event for those items is extremely low compared to renting them.
Pro: Having items in stock that you’ve purchased means future events cost less to set up. If you’re in a position to be charging for your event planning, that means more profit for you.
Pro: Buying some items means you have more budget in the future to rent better items to complete the overall theme or look of a party; putting your budget towards 100% rental might not stretch enough to cover the same amount of party.
Pro: You can offer a consistent style for your events with tangible photos of actual décor, not just examples of a style that falls flat with rented items later that aren’t a perfect match.
Con: The first event you buy décor for is going to cost more, because most of the savings are back-loaded.
Con: If you buy specific, narrow-use décor items that aren’t used in future events, you’re not actually saving yourself any money and those items go to waste.
Con: If you’re planning events for clients, you may be tempted to guide your clients towards narrow themes you already have the items for, rather than planning an event to suit their tastes and needs.
Con: You need additional resources for items you buy, including storage space and item tracking so you know if items are returned to you, and even insurance if you rent out items later.
Consideration: Renting items means those items will be used, rather than new, most of the time. Sure, sometimes you’re the first one to rent it, and you get it new. And sure, you can buy décor items second-hand. If you’re worried about scratches or minor blemishes to your décor, you want to buy new, or make sure your rental company takes good care of their items.
As you can see, while there are a variety of pros and cons to buying (and you can reverse them for the pros and cons of renting), there are still a lot of considerations you need to make for your specific circumstances. So the question is, should you rent or buy? It’s not an easy question to answer, so let’s go through the various considerations you might have.
Are You an Event Planner, Company Organizer, or Individual?
This is probably one of the biggest considerations you have to make when deciding between renting and buying event décor.
Individuals rarely find a reason to purchase décor rather than rent it, in most cases. If you’re the kind of person who likes throwing parties for every holiday and organizing events for your workplace, then buying a stash of décor can be a good idea. On the other hand, unless you have a place to store it, most people end up bringing out an old cardboard box of décor items once a year, and they get progressively more tattered each year until they need to be replaced. It really comes down to whether or not you think you’ll get much use out of it more than once.
As a company organizer, you may be tasked to organize events for your company, but you don’t have to worry as much about some of the other pros and cons of buying or renting décor. For example, you might easily be able to find storage space, or your budget might be more than enough to rent anything you could need. This, though, depends on your company more than anything. Are you likely to be hosting similar events throughout the year or on an annual basis? Would the investment of buying décor make it worthwhile? It’s a determination you’d have to make.
If you’re an event planner, you can buy décor items to set up cheaper events for clients. This gives you budget options, and you can profit more by booking more events with the same décor. On the other hand, you can also likely partner with rental companies and get cheaper rates, because you’ll be an ongoing relationship rather than a one-time customer, once you’ve proven yourself.
Are The Items Even Available to Rent?
In some cases, this can be a concern. Depending on the kind of event you’re hosting, you may not be able to easily find whatever décor items you’re looking for. Of course, with the internet, you can often have just about anything custom made and shipped to you, or you can find it on a site like Alibaba, but that’s not always convenient, and that’s not a rental in any case.
This is usually more of a concern in two situations. The first is if you’re hosting an unorthodox style of event with an unusual theme. Items that resonate with some of the more exotic themes out there might be harder to find available for rent.
The second situation is when you’re being very picky about specific items. This happens a lot with weddings; the bride or the groom will have very specific tastes about a specific shape of vase for flowers, or specific shades of color for napkins, or what have you. If you’re not willing to compromise, it will be a lot harder to find the specific items you want in the inventory of a rental company.
What Kinds of Items Are You Thinking of Buying?
Some items will need to be purchased, because it’s difficult to get more than one or two uses out of them. Others are better to rent because you’re unlikely to get your own repeated use out of them.
For example, things like table runners, napkins, and signage are all items you’re not likely to find as rental options, but are going to be better for purchases regardless. Custom-made signs are also something you’d purchase, but they can get expensive depending on the complexity.
Conversely, things like tuxedos for male attendees, small decorative items like vases, artificial flower arrangements, and props, and on-theme decorative items are all better for rent. Most people aren’t going to wear a particular costume more than once or twice a year at most, and when they do, they might no longer fit. Props and such are easy to rent and harder to make repeated use out of.
What’s Your Budget?
If you have a limited budget, or parts of your budget have to be allocated in specific ways, you might not have a choice between renting and buying.
As we mentioned above, buying tends to be more expensive than renting. The expense goes beyond just the cost of buying the items, too. You have to buy the items, you have to find a place to store them – which might involve paying for storage somewhere if you don’t have space in your home or company building – and you have to consider things like setup, teardown, and maintenance. You can buy a bunch of candleholders for an event, but then you have to clean off the melted wax and prep them for the next year, after all.
In some cases, renting an item will be more expensive than just buying the item, because some of those costs are rolled into the rental cost. The rental company has to perform all of that maintenance too, after all. If you’re only renting one item, then comparing the costs is a good idea. If you’re renting a lot of different items, it can be worthwhile to build up lists and compare costs.
Will You Re-Use The Items?
Some items are easy to re-use. A candleholder, a festive banner, a Christmas tree; maybe you only use them once a year, but you can re-use them every year for a decade or more. As long as you have the ability to re-use them, as well as store them, there’s no reason not to buy them.
Other items you might not have a plan to re-use. A lot of wedding décor items, for example, are not typically intended to be re-used, which is why some are given to guests and others are planned to be sold.
Some items can be repurposed and reused in that way. A prop sword and shield can be décor for a Game of Throne party, and then used for a Witcher party, and used for a medieval party later on down the road. The same goes for campy sci-fi props; different party themes can use the same props in similar ways.
It really comes down to whether or not you actually plan to re-use the items. This can be dependant on the context of the event as well as the theme, as well.
Can You Re-Sell?
Weddings in particular can be expensive, and one common thought is “if we buy it now, we can re-sell it later to someone else having a wedding of their own.” Resale is a good way to recoup some of the money you spent on buying items for a party or event.
There are a few potential problems with this scenario.
- Will someone else want to buy the item second-hand? A lot of weddings, for example, the wedding party doesn’t want to have second-hand items for their special day. Of course, others are fine with it. Other events, people might not even think to shop second-hand.
- How much will you be able to sell the items for? If you buy an item for $10 and can only sell it for $3 used, you’re going through a lot of time and effort to recoup a minimal amount of money.
- Will you be selling locally or online? The broader the audience for selling the items – like if you put it on eBay – the more you’re likely to sell and the more you’ll get for the sales, but you also have to pay for shipping and handling. That can eat into the money you get from the sale, and can make some items not worth selling.
- Is the décor something you can resell? If you put together a themed party for the premier of a TV show your office likes, how many other people are going to want to buy those items later?
It’s not always possible to sell items you’ve bought later, and if it is, sometimes the money you make just isn’t worth it. After all, your time is worth money too.
Do You Have Storage Space?
We’ve mentioned it a couple of times already, but it’s worth pointing out again: when you buy décor items, you have to have somewhere to put them when you’re not using them. This might me a few boxes in the basement, it might mean filling up a storage room in the office, or it might mean renting storage space. This is a consideration you need to take into account when you’re considering buying.
So, should you rent or buy your event décor items? While the decision comes down to your specific situation, many times rentals work out to be the better deal. Between the need to store, resell, or otherwise manage purchased décor items, and the potential savings of renting, it’s often a no-brainer.