Renting crap made me feel like I was dumping cash in the garbage.
Not to mention, most rental companies cater specifically to wedding-type-events and so, factor in the “wedding extra.”*
Since I bought nearly everything we used, I’ve been able to sell, lend, and give away a ton of stuff to other equally broke brides.
And it was cheaper than renting. When thrifting, ebaying, etc. I kept a little reference list of rental prices so I would be sure to spend the-same-as or less-than what rental companies were charging.
1) Thrift stores, flea markets, and ebay. I was worried about getting things used, just because it would take a lot of time and scavenging to get enough plates, cups, etc. for a reception of 200 in 6 months. I ended up giving up on plates (the whole “mismatched” thing is very in right now, but it’s not my style) but I was able to find 200+ glasses.
2) Restaurant supply companies. One good one is Instawares, where I found a dozen forks for $1. Keep in mind that the more people you’re having, the bigger serveware you’ll need. Meaning, your normal coffee pot isn’t gonna cut it. Buying one of those huge restaurant-grade ones is the best bet.
3) Table linens. I’m not a fan of chair covers. I think they’re hideous. But I also think bare metal chairs are more hideous. If you can afford to rent some good chairs, do it. But if, like me, you’re stuck with a choice between cold stark metal and a wrinkled sea of ivory**, Tableclothsforless.com is the cheapest place I’ve found to buy not just chair covers, but also table covers, sashes, etc.
4) Wedding forums. Yes. They’re the devil. But there are one or two out there (like Offbeat Bride and Brideshare) that aren’t like the usual evil incarnation. You can find other brides in your area selling (or lending) their old wedding crap.
* I hate how anything wedding-specific immediately triples in price. Because when you’re planning a wedding, obviously you have tons of extra cash to throw around.
**Don’t bother with the steamers. I tried it. Waste of time.