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Wedspiration > Advice > Wedding styling and hire 101: tips and advice from the experts
Wedding styling and hire 101: tips and advice from the experts
What’s the biggest expense? What am I most likely to forget to hire? How do wedding stylists and hire companies justify their prices? How can I save money? All of this and much, much more
Words by Karina Lowndes
6 May 2016

Here’s the thing. Planning a DIY wedding can at times get a bit tricky – especially when it comes to prop hire. We’ve experienced firsthand how boggling it can be to figure out what items you need, how much you should be spending and then of course, how it’s all going to come together logistically.

With that in mind, we decided to pick the brains of a few of our fave wedding stylists and prop hire companies so that you won’t feel like a fish out of water when it’s your turn to get this stuff underway.

A few things we took away from these interviews:

  • There are going to be things you haven’t thought of.
  • The next wave of wedding trends is going to be awesome!
  • Big ticket items like marquees, lighting and chairs are expensive for a reason (think of the logistics and labour involved).
  • These people work their asses off. Don’t be fooled into thinking wedding styling is light, glamourous work – it’s physical and down to the wire.
  • Ask nicely enough and these guys can track down almost any kind of hire item


What is generally the biggest expense? 

George & Smee: The lighting can get pricey… it often involves installations at a height and people forget that this is labour time (hours up a ladder hanging!).

Plus ‘time’ is an expense itself. If there is a tight bump-in, the team has to grow to make sure everything can be done in that timescale. Therefore the set-up time can be more expensive than people think, but they have to remember there’s a team running around transforming a space into a wonderland in only a couple of hours normally!

Item wise, tables and chairs can add up when numbers get large.

Hodgepodge Hire: After the marquee, food and alcohol, I would say chairs are the biggest expense if you are having a sit-down type wedding.

South Coast Party Hire: In terms of hire equipment for a marquee wedding, the biggest expense would be the marquee itself. The size of the structure would depend on the number of guests the couple are hoping to have at the wedding and the style of wedding (i.e. sit down or cocktail).

Ivory Lane: Generally with most brides, we find the biggest expense in terms of hire items is furniture. In particular banquet chairs and furniture for the canapé or pre-drinks area.

Styling by Ivory Lane Event Styling & Hire


What are three items couples often don’t think to hire and should?

George & Smee: Chill out/lounge furniture… it’s not just the oldies who like to get comfy at the end of the night, weddings are long days and creating little comfort zones is so important. Ice/drinks buckets! Additional props and styling for the cake table, gift table, grazing tables etc.

Hodgepodge Hire: Dry bars or wine barrels for guest to rest a drink on, couches and extra chairs for some scattered seating.

South Coast Party Hire: Generally speaking, when a client has a marquee wedding it means there is no existing building or structure available for them and their guests. Following on from that there more than likely is not a kitchen for the caterer. Many couples don’t realise at the time that the caterer will need a kitchen area set up for them which will include a small marquee, ovens, prep tables etc. If this cost has not been factored in, it can certainly be a surprise.

Ivory Lane: Lighting lighting lighting!! That’s only one lol.  Lighting is the one thing that makes all of your time and effort into the look and feel of the reception worthwhile and helps give the space that real wow factor!

Furniture for guests to relax in after the ceremony or after the dinner formalities. Casual lounging furniture is great to help your guests mingle and relax! People don’t want to be stuck with the tables as the only place to sit for the entire wedding. A lot of guests like to retreat into a more comfortable space as soon as the formalities are over and the dancing begins.

Another particular thing clients forget to do is provide chairs for the people who are working for you at the reception (like the photographer and band etc.) especially if they are sitting and eating in the same room/marquee with you.  If you are hiring chairs, don’t leave your photographer sitting on a white plastic one when you have made the effort to get gorgeous chairs for your guests. It will ruin the flow of the space.

Marquee and hire items from South Coast Party Hire, image by Dan O’Day


How do you explain your prices to couples trying to keep costs to a minimum?

George & Smee: We try to work with any budget but again time has to be accommodated for, both before and on the day of the wedding during set-up.

Stylists spend a lot of time researching and planning what they are going to create even when given a lot of guidance by the couples, so its important to allocate some budget to time, before collating the wish-list of items. If they are simply hiring, then delivery and pick-up costs need to be allocated for also. Couples should always have two options in mind, A & B: A, being everything they’d love, then B being the scaled down version that would still work! When we send quotes across, we like to show couples all they can have and then it’s up to them what they want to strike off or leave on.

Hodgepodge Hire: Our prices are mostly per item, so they can keep costs down if they have a cocktail style wedding instead of a sit down wedding and we also offer packages for ceremonies. All the items from the ceremony package can be used again at the reception if the reception is at the same property.

South Coast Party Hire: We are always very upfront that a marquee wedding is not necessarily cheaper than a venue. When you think about it, you have to hire everything from the ground up, so it can get quite pricey.

We are always very happy to work with all our clients and their budgets – there are plenty of ways to make it affordable, such as not having a floor in the marquee if the ground is level and firm, having a cocktail style function instead of seated (means a smaller marquee so less cost), and compromising on the style of furniture can also save money. The budget needs to be realistic but we can work to make sure it is affordable!

Ivory Lane: For decor items here at Ivory Lane, we tend to package up everything decorative for their tables; think vases, table numbers, runners, candles, wishing well, seating charts, signage etc. We give them one set price for everything they need to dress their tables rather than individually charging for everything.

Most of our pricing is listed on our website as well, so people have an inclination of our pricing and can go in with an idea before they meet with us. I often suggest to pick a couple of feature items and use them as the main focus of the wedding.

Styling by George & Smee, image by Jason Corroto Photo.


Do you set up all the hire items?

George & Smee: If we are asked to style the items on the day then yes we set-up, but if its only hire and drop off, then no.

Hodgepodge Hire: We set up tables and chairs but we don’t do ‘styling’ as such, so we don’t add flowers or decoration and we don’t set the tables.

South Coast Party Hire: Our initial quotes always include the installation and pack down of the marquee and flooring. Due to insurance reasons we must set up the structures to ensure they are installed safely and to standard.

In terms of the other equipment such as tables, chairs, catering equipment etc. we will not set up these items unless requested by the client for an additional fee. Most clients who have DIY marquee weddings have plans to decorate the marquee and set tables and chairs with the families in the days leading up to the wedding. For this reason, we always try to organise set-up dates wherever possible earlier in the week so the client is then given at least 1-2 day use of the marquee for set up and decorating. We do this at no extra cost for the client.

Ivory Lane: Some items like lighting and some furniture items require installation by a professional team, as we don’t want you working at heights and breaking your neck the day before your wedding. If you would like us to set up and fully style your entire wedding, we can do that too for a reasonable additional fee or you can DIY it! Whatever suits you, your budget and your venue.

Items from Hodgepodge Hire 


What are your top three hire items?

George & Smee: Long timber trestle tables – the long table dining is still so popular and intimate and if they are gorgeous timber ones like ours, you don’t need to then pay for extra linen to cloth them!

Ceremony bars… these are such a hit and always popular with guests, even if it’s just for soft drinks before the ceremony or ice buckets with champagne for after!

Gorgeous eclectic brass and copper-ware to hold candles or flowers – they really transform a table and give the wow factor.

Hodgepodge Hire: Timber trestle tables, vintage chairs and bentwood chairs.

South Coast Party Hire: Marquee and floor would be our most popular hire item followed by our gorgeous range of chairs, the most popular being the walnut bentwood chairs and the white padded folding chairs. Our vintage timber tables are always booked out during wedding season!

Ivory Lane: Banquet Chairs (tiffany chairs, bentwood chairs, timber bistro chairs). Lighting (particularly festoon lighting at the moment). Garden games for guests (we have a flamingo croquet set which is our most popular hire items out of every single thing we have in our inventory!).

Styling by George & Smee, image by Jo Bartholomew


Any trends you’ve noticed of late? 

George & Smee: Cane and wicker lounge furniture is certainly coming in with a vengeance. It helps create the most perfect relaxed lounge areas and can be mixed with timber pieces really well. Also lots of tropical greenery, cacti etc. which we adore!

Hodgepodge Hire: Moroccan rugs and cow hides ( we have just added these to our collection) and gorgeous Australian native bouquets.

South Coast Party Hire: The main trends we have noticed in the last year is the clear roof marquee – these are so popular and despite the heat in summer, many clients still opt to go with the clear roof but just ensure that guests are not entering the marquee until later in the afternoon when the full heat of the sun has diminished. They are truly spectacular to look at!

Ivory Lane: A beautiful mix of timber and crisp whites. Love this look and mixed with luscious greenery. It will never date and suits our country location of Tamworth beautifully!

Outdoor dance floors under amazing lighting. I swear we are installing about 25 of these this year!

Marquee and hire items from South Coast Party Hire 


Do you source specific items for couples? If so, what’s the process?

George & Smee: Yes we do, we can source from other suppliers or purchase for them, along as the items go with our general aesthetic. We have sourced items direct for couples in the past and these items are now part of our lovely collection for other couples to enjoy!

Hodgepodge Hire: Sometimes we do, if we have enough time between when they book and when their big day is. I will just advise that I will source the item as best I can and send the client a photo when I have it so if they decide it is not quite right they still have time to source it somewhere else. For example, I have a client at the moment who need eight rustic bench seats (any colour and size) so I will be collecting them over the next month or so to include in her booking for October.

South Coast Party Hire: We will often book cool rooms and toilets on behalf of our clients as we have access to better rates for them.

Ivory Lane: We sure do! I can be pretty resourceful when I need to be! I don’t mind sourcing specific items for couples if I can see that I will have a use for them in the future and they will be an asset to our inventory. On the other hand, sometimes I will source stuff for clients because we want to do something absolutely freaking amazing and because I love a challenge!

If a client wants a particular item sourced, I usually ask for inspiration images/photos or drawings of what they are after, then I go and research/design and do a cost up for the hire of it. We will also usually then install it for you as well to ensure the vision is exactly what you’re after.

Styling by Ivory Lane Event Styling & Hire


Any money saving tips for cash conscious couples? 

George & Smee: Buy your own alcohol where possible and if venues allow real candlelight, then also purchase these yourself.

Hodgepodge Hire: Re-use the ceremony items at your reception, even the arbour – it makes a great backdrop for either a DIY photo booth or behind the bridal table.

South Coast Party Hire: Be creative with decorating and you won’t need to spend extra money on a clear roof or silk lining. Have a cocktail style function instead of seated – you will need a smaller marquee, less furniture and the catering bill is generally less also. Find a property with a nice, flat, firm piece of grass for the marquee and you wont need a floor which will save you heaps!

Ivory Lane: Garage sale-ing! You will be super surprised at the gorgeous vases, plates and decorating items people will get rid of! Cut crystal is a big garage sale item!

Spend money on one amazing feature and keep the rest simple. For example a hanging floral installation, feature wall installation or lighting installation. This will be enough to wow your guests and allow you to have simple table arrangements.


Furthermore, we’ve written a couple of articles that will hopefully also help when it comes to all things money and budgets:

After more honest, no-BS wedding planning advice? You can find it here

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