Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sharing the love (and the cost)

One thing that doesn't come with our venue is chairs for the rooftop ceremony. The venue provides chairs for the reception tables inside, and certainly has more than enough chairs to provide them for the roof, but for some reason, won't allow their chairs to be used outside on the roof. Fair enough. So we knew we needed to rent chairs.

One of Eric's recurring concerns is that it will be very hot on the roof. It's certainly a valid concern; while most people having outdoor weddings simply pray for it not to rain, we have a rain contingency plan (the venue lets us use one of their indoor spaces). What we do not have is protection from a bright, hot sun beating down on us, which is actually what happened at his sister's wedding a couple years ago. (It was a minor annoyance, to be sure, but a couple people got sunburns during the ceremony!)

So when we started talking about chairs, Eric was worried that plastic chairs would feel much hotter than wooden ones, and so he preferred the wooden ones. You know, the ones that look like this:

These aren't actually wood, by the way; they're usually a composite resin material that just looks like wood. I have to confess, I was never really fully convinced of the hot-chair issue, but if Eric feels strongly about something, it's worth doing, because he doesn't have a super-strong opinion (when it comes to wedding planning) that often.

The alternative is the plastic ones, which look like this:


I like the wooden ones, too, because they look nicer. However, they're also more expensive -- usually at least $1 more per chair to rent. When you're renting more than 100 chairs, it adds up quickly!

Of course, I also love the gorgeous chiavari chairs:


But around here, at a price of about $8/each, that's way out of our budget! Plus, to be honest, I don't really think they fit the feel of our wedding too much, so I wasn't too sad to cross them off of our list.

What I did want was the wooden ones, and I wanted to find a way to make them even less expensive. So I emailed our wedding coordinator contact at Glassworks and asked her to please pass my contact info to the bride getting married the day before me, and tell her to please contact me if she might be interested in splitting the cost of renting chairs.

For a while, I didn't hear anything, so I assumed the other bride wasn't interested. But then, out of the blue, I got a phone call (with an apology for taking so long to get back to me) expressing interest from Jenica. Then the negotiations began.

It turned out she was having a larger wedding than us -- definitely 150, whereas I think we're going to end up having about 125. The width of the rooftop at Glassworks isn't huge, so you're limited in the number of chairs you can fit in each row, and, as it turns out, the wooden chairs are just slightly wider than the plastic ones. Enough so that if you use the wooden ones, you can fit only 5 chairs on each side of the aisle, but if you use the plastic ones, you can fit 6 on each side.

Here's 5 chairs on each side of the aisle, and the altar does seem kind of far away... (source)

For 150 people, that's the difference between 12 rows and 15 rows, and when you're worried about sound being carried, that can be a big difference. To be honest, I hadn't even thought of it, but it was one of Jenica's #1 concerns, so she really wanted the plastic ones.

I said we were flexible, and even though Eric wanted the wooden ones, I figured a significant price difference would probably be enough to convince him, so Jenica and I asked around for quotes.

She got the first one, and it was a great quote, with one exception. She told the company that she would be using the chairs on Saturday, and I would be using the chairs on Sunday. The company, seeing an opportunity, offered us a "deal": Instead of being charged fully for each day's rental (because we were two different weddings), the second day would be 50% off. The 150% price was more than other place's 100% price, and I knew it. I was also annoyed at that company, because if Jenica hadn't disclosed there would be two parties using the chair, they wouldn't have charged her double -- they would have given her the 100% quote because it was a single contract, and most places won't pickup on Sunday anyway. But because they saw an opportunity, they took it.

So then I made a couple calls, and simply told the rental companies that we needed the chairs for Sunday of Memorial weekend, and asked when they would anticipate delivery/pickup occurring. Most places said they would deliver late Friday afternoon or first thing Saturday morning, and would not pick up until Tuesday, because they were normally closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays and Monday would be a holiday. Jackpot! If you don't tell them it's for two events, they just charge you for a single event, as long as it's within their normal delivery schedule.

So with that setup, we got some more quotes and found one that was the best. The plastic chairs were still significantly less expensive than the wooden ones, and both Jenica and I went back and forth -- first she said she wouldn't mind getting the wooden ones, since they looked nicer and with the shared cost, they were a good deal. Then Eric and I said we wouldn't mind getting the plastic ones, since they're less expensive, and even less so with the shared cost. In the end, economy won out; Jenica said she and her fiance were already over budget and it would be helpful to cut costs any way they could. We decided the plastic chairs won't be much hotter than the wooden ones (we're dealing with the heat in other ways, too -- more in a later post), and, let's face it, we care more about price than the look of the chairs.

I signed the contract and specified Saturday morning delivery, and Jenica and I split the cost of the deposit, and we'll split the cost of the balance come May. I'm really happy we were able to work this shared rental out -- sometimes it seems like companies in the wedding industry are just out to get you, but we found a way to use the system to our advantage. Can you imagine how silly it would be to have her chairs stacked and put away Saturday night, then have a separate set of chairs put up for our wedding, when her chairs were sitting right there, waiting until Tuesday pickup anyway?

And we really won in terms of price -- our share of the entire rental essentially works out, per chair, to the price of a single chair from other companies, not including delivery and setup. So we kind of got delivery and setup (which can be a lot of money!) for free!

What do you think -- are we scamming the system? Or are we simply being smart shoppers?