Need to cook two hams for a holiday feast for 35 people but have only one oven?
Have enough glasses, plates, forks and napkins to serve only 12 people and afraid those other 23 people on the guest list will be eating with their hands?
Don't have enough serving pieces and afraid you'll have to resort to serving the green beans in an old Cool-Whip bowl? Don't want to wash all those platters and spoons and get dishpan hands?
A rental business can solve all those conundrums.
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Consumers' options in party rentals keep expanding, and even the most seasoned holiday host might be surprised by the variety of designs and gear available. When it comes to basics such as tables, chairs, plates and glasses, renting might be easier than borrowing, less expensive than buying and better looking than disposable.
"Anything you need to throw a holiday party, we typically have it," said Sam Purdon, the self-described third-generation "do- everything guy" at Purdon's, a Lexington rental business since 1974.
Some key things you need to know about rentals:
Don't presume your party is too small. Many rental companies have no minimum order requirement, and if they do, it might be less than you might guess.
Neither Purdon's nor Lexington's other major rental company, Bryant's Rent-All, in business since 1953, has a minimum. You could come in and rent one fork, Purdon said.
Get it delivered. Having your order dropped off at home saves time and sanity. Fees include delivery and pickup but setup is extra.
At Bryant's, the minimum delivery fee is $60 for most of Fayette County. At Purdon's, it's $50.
However, both companies deliver all over Kentucky for an additional fee.
Get it delivered. For those of you who didn't pay attention to No. 2, remember: You cannot show up at the rental warehouse expecting to fit an 8-foot-long banquet table in your Prius. Dishes and glasses are packed in wide boxes and large plastic crates. Plan accordingly.
Order early. Rental companies take orders weeks and months in advance. But inventories are deep, so you still have time. Bryant's and Purdon's operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
Purdon advised that as soon as you have an RSVP list or guest list, come in and start to order. It can be adjusted as plans become more concrete and numbers change.
Same goes for Bryant's. Terry Bryant, president of the company and a member of the second generation to run it, said rentals for large holiday events should be reserved in October. But more modest, family-size needs can be taken care of most any time. Bryant's has a "pretty good supply of everything," he said.
Both companies require a 50 percent non-refundable deposit for reservations, but that fee is applicable to the final total. The final payment is due before delivery.
Most companies take orders by phone, in person or online. Peruse offerings online first. Some have prices on their websites. Purdon says he always prefers orders to be done in person or by phone, but online orders work for simple situations.
When renting for the holidays, people often go for more inexpensive items first, so late customers might have no choice but to go with costlier options.
Count tables carefully. An 8-foot-long table can seat 10, but it probably won't be wide enough to set down serving dishes. When the cost is about $8 per table, why not order an extra to use as a buffet? The other issue: room planning. Figure out if you need to rearrange a space.
Rent extra glasses. For parties, figure three glasses per person because guests tend to drink different wines or lose track of their glasses. (Those wineglass charms don't work once the party starts rolling.) Yes, you could buy cheap glassware, but then what? Renting gives you the option of one all-purpose glass or different sizes and shapes for red wine, white wine, Champagne or water.
Disposable or plastic is not necessarily cheaper than renting glass, Purdon said. He added that nicer plastic cups are about 30 cents each, but glasses rent for about 48 cents.
There can be a breakage fee. At Purdon's and Bryant's, it's the cost of replacement.
The rent-extras rule also applies to place settings.
Claim your gravy boat. If you know you'll need a particular piece of serving equipment — rental companies have all sorts — get moving. Again, you could buy or borrow, but the point here is to reduce the amount of work for yourself.
Bryant said he has a "fairly wide range of serving equipment," including two styles of gravy boats ($1 to $2), but also everything from serving spoons to tongs.
Mix and match. Mismatched place settings are a trend, so consider renting multiple styles of dishes and bowls, and incorporating the china you have on hand.
Rent, don't buy, linens. Some of your biggest savings can come from renting tablecloths and napkins. They're usually available in dozens of colors with prices starting about 55 cents apiece for napkins and $9 to $18 for tablecloths.
Rent an extra oven. You can agonize over the kitchen remodel that never happened or you can rent the kind of professional equipment catering services use.
Purdon's rents a small, portable electric convection oven for $55. Caterers use them all the time, Purdon said.
Bryant's has a small electric convection oven for $60 and a large propane convection oven for $290 plus the cost of propane.
Other appliances — griddles, deep fryers, etc. — are available.
Don't make a knee-jerk decision about dining chairs. There are choices beyond the basics.
Bryant's has stylish chairs that range from gold, silver or black bamboo ballroom-style seating ($9.75) to an eye-catching and modern clear Lucite chair ($10.50).
Purdon's offers a gold bamboo chair with seat cover, on special for $5.95 apiece through February.
Purdon's also offers cocktail-height tables made from old bourbon barrels for $35 apiece and a buffet table created from two barrels ($100). Purdon said those are usually best for special events but would work at a party.
If your budget is small, there are the ubiquitous metal-and-plastic folding chairs, which start about $1 apiece.
Make a final check. Walk through the entire event. Ask yourself: Do I really have time to polish my grandmother's silver? Do I have enough spoons for soup and dessert? If flatware is 40 to 48 cents apiece, perhaps it makes sense to order more.
Think beyond the meal. Sometimes you can rent additional items for out-of-town holiday visitors. Bryant's has nearly 150 twin-size rollaway beds; rent is $24 a week.
Leave the dishes for someone else. Perhaps the best part of renting is that plates, glasses, cutlery and linens do not have to be washed before they are returned. When the last guest has left, simply rinse tableware, put it back in the plastic crates for pickup and savor your smart planning.