Are you envisioning a lavish banquet, with rows of tables and ruffles on every seat cover? What about an outdoor wedding with white tents and a bounce house for the kids? Or would you like to plan a singles' mixer with a dance floor, margarita machine, and photo booth? In your head, these visions are seamless and easy. Reality, however, poses the question: Where are all these things coming from?

Picture your event. What are the central items? A dance needs a dance floor, for example, but a reception doesn't need a fondue fountain (sorry, bridezillas). If you can't splurge on everything, put your money towards the most important rentals first. And if you're tempted to just use folding tables and chairs from your local office supply store, think again: the infrastructure goes a long way towards setting the atmosphere of your event.

The sooner you reserve equipment, the better. One month beforehand is the latest you'll want to wait. If your date is a weekend or holiday, or you'll have a large number of attendees, you’ll need to reserve even sooner. Reserving usually requires a deposit of 20 to 30 percent.

Rent items that require lots of set-up for a longer time span than you think you'll need, just in case the process is more complicated than you expect. Ask your venue how far ahead of time you can set up things like tents and tables to give yourself ample time to decorate.

Before you sign a contract with a company, be sure of the particulars. Do they offer refunds for rain? How far in advance can you cancel and still get refunded? What will void your security deposit? Are delivery, set-up, and takedown free? (You should still tip, though.) Are there special delivery hours or time limits on rentals? Is there a minimum order price? Do they have insurance? Are there packages that include everything, or do you need to order things like tent-pole covers a la carte?

Double-check to make sure your location does not require special fire or safety permits for setting up tents and large structures. You don’t want to be surprised by this at the last moment. Many parks have very strict regulations, and some cities even require building permits for large structures.

Before renting anything, check with your venue to see what you need. Sometimes venues have a storehouse with available items, or preferred vendors who offer special deals. They might also have regulations about what you can bring into the venue, and you'll want to know about size limitations ahead of time. If you're working with an all-inclusive wedding or event planner, they can take care of the arrangements for you.

How big is your party? When renting tents and arranging furniture, you'll need to do some math. Guests sitting in rows require a minimum of six square feet per person. Mingling guests need seven. Guests at dinner tables need eight to 12 square feet, depending on table size. Dance floors should have least two square feet per person. Not only that, but you'll need to allow space for bands, DJs, buffet tables, waiting lines, and an extra two feet all around the space for breathing room.

Your location and season will affect your choice of rentals. Tents, for instance, should have sidewalls only in cooler weather, as they can trap heat. You can also rent heaters or air conditioning units for any enclosed space.  

If you'll be setting up large equipment on a lawn, be sure to mow and perform maintenance a few days in advance. You don’t want to be stuck maneuvering around tents or stages after set-up, and if you've mowed too recently, the grass sap will stain white surfaces. On the other hand, wait as long as you can to set up outdoor chairs and tables, so pollen doesn't have a chance to collect.

Even if you're starting with an empty room, you can still transform it into the venue you desire. You can rent chairs, tables, bar stools, decorations, and most kinds of furniture. Everything you need for serving food is available at most large rental companies, including fondue fountains, drink machines, trays, china, glassware, flatware, chair covers, and tablecloths. Outdoor events are no problem with tents, patio heaters, and umbrellas. You can also rent portable bars, lights, plants, bounce houses, photo booths, stages, and dance floors. There's no need to buy anything yourself; if you need it, someone is renting it.

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Cassie Macklin | Report Abuse

We're having an indoor wedding (since it's winter) but I never thought of tent rental places also doing indoor items. Thanks!

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