The beachfront house in Isle of Palms, S.C., was a warm and sunny 70 degrees with a slight breeze on April 10, 2009. For Ashley Thomson and Steve Schuster of Charlotte, N.C., it was custom-ordered weather for their wedding day.
In July 2008, Ashley won the sweepstakes sponsored by the American Rental Association (ARA), in which she was selected from thousands of entries to receive $5,000 in rentals for her wedding and reception.
ARA sponsored the sweepstakes in an effort to raise awareness about the rental concept and targeted brides as part of the 2007-2008 national advertising campaign. Print advertisements were placed in Martha Stewart Weddings and Brides magazines to spur interest and readers were directed to ARA’s rental store locator, www.RentalHQ.com to submit entries detailing their ideal wedding and how renting equipment would help fulfill their special dreams.
“Before winning the sweepstakes, I originally planned on renting the basic items needed for my venue, such as linens, plates and silverware. However, the ARA sweepstakes allowed me to splurge on additional items that were not in my initial budget,” Ashley says.
“For the ceremony, I rented a beautiful white arch and white padded folding chairs. For the cocktail hour and the reception, I opted for floor-length linens and upgraded all the reception décor including the chairs, place settings, barware, silverware and buffet décor. I also upgraded to a full bar including two specialty cocktail drinks,” Ashley says.
The bride took her sweepstakes win seriously and visited several ARA member rental stores before choosing a company to provide the day’s needs. Group Dynamics, Charleston, S.C., (see story on page 42), was the chosen company.
“A big part of my decision was based on the variety of products that Group Dynamics offers. In addition to providing all the rentals needed, they offered a wedding consultant, full bar services and group activities,” she says. Also important, she says, was the response time and communication, as she lives two and a half hours away from the wedding site.
“Since I planned my wedding from out of state, I chose a caterer before tasting his meals, a baker before tasting the cake and an officiate over the phone. I believe you can still tell a lot about a person by the timeliness of e-mail responses and conversation over the phone,” she says.
Jonathan Kiser, founder and owner of Group Dynamics, says he was impressed by the amount of research Ashley did on the rental stores and was honored to be chosen as the rental provider for her wedding. “I think it went really well,” he says.
Group Dynamics joined the rental industry last year and became a member of the ARA in February 2008, after five years of upscale event production and destination management experience. Today, Group Dynamics has a full line of event rental products, many of which were used for the Schuster wedding.
“We were pleased to be able to help make Ashley’s wedding a reality. It has been a pleasure to work with Ashley over the last several months,” said Ken Hughes, ARA’s vice president for communications and publisher of Rental Management. “It is our hope that because of this experience, she will consider rental as an option in other aspects of her life when applicable. Many newlyweds purchase homes and need to rent tools to help with overall maintenance and upkeep. Or perhaps there will be a time when she is planning for another celebratory event and will need to rent tables, chairs or other party and event rental items.”
Ashley says her rental experience was a pleasant surprise. “The rental experience has differed from my expectations in that rental companies offer much more than I expected,” she says. “Group Dynamics’ owner, Jonathan Kiser, allowed me to pick out the rentals from his catalog and then met with me to design the layout of my venue. The wedding planning services and group activities proved tremendously beneficial. I planned my wedding from out of town and Jonathan and his assistant made the entire process stress-free.”
The wedding and cocktail hour was held on the beachfront grounds of the Citadel Beach House on Isle of Palms in Charleston. Colors were black and white with aqua accents, and centerpieces on the tables inside reflected the location with candles, shells and sand.
“The best part about using rentals and hiring a rental company is that it is one less thing to worry about on the big day. The rental company gives a bride — or anyone planning a big event — peace of mind, knowing that the rentals will be delivered, set up and returned in a professional and timely manner. The rentals transformed the atmosphere of the venue from an empty house on the beach into a beautiful ocean-front ballroom,” she says.
“I think Group Dynamics did an amazing job. I was extremely impressed by the décor and the wedding coordinating services. The wedding went smoothly and I received so many compliments from friends and family who attended,” she says. “It was a laid-back event with good food, drinks, dancing and great friends and family. It was such an amazing day for Steve and me.”