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How to Fix Ugly Wedding Chairs Without Going Over Budget

Updated on January 13, 2017

Don't Let Ugly Chairs Ruin Your Wedding

Your wedding reception is going to be beautiful. You've got your centerpieces, your decorations, a 32-layer cake with a different flavor for each layer...The only problem? Your banquet hall's got some tickity-tackity chairs. I don't know why otherwise-decent reception halls will have only ugly metal folding chairs in their possession, but it happens. A lot.

I can't wave my wand and turn ugly chairs into silver-plated Chiavaris, but I've run into the ugly chair problem several times and there are a couple of different ways to solve it.

But she looks perfectly happy!
But she looks perfectly happy!

Can't I just like, not have any chairs?

Ha ha ha no.

What's the first thing you do when someone comes to your house? You offer them a seat, right? Unless your reception is gonna be a super-short cake and punch type deal (half hr max) you've got to have chairs. Nobody wants to stand around all night, and some people can't. It's better to have butt-ugly chairs than no chair at all.

And yes, you need chairs for the wedding ceremony too. You can re-use them as your wedding reception chairs, if you've got some strong people who'll help you move 'em, but nobody wants to stand around for your whole ceremony. Even if it's supposed to be a short ceremony, your relatives WILL get there early. I've seen people show up 1 hour + early for wedding receptions, 'cause they wanna gossip and catch up with people.

Bag style chair cover
Bag style chair cover

Rent Chair Covers

One option is to cover those ugly chairs with some fabulous chair covers!

However, just like there are 500 kinds of butts, there are 500 kinds of chairs, and 500 kinds of chair covers. Do not book chair covers sight-unseen--you need to make sure they will fit the ugly chair in question, or else you will end up further uglifying the chair with an ill-fitting, wrinkled chair cover (or worse, the chair cover won't even fit over the chair!) Your banquet hall may have chair covers available for an extra fee, or may have an existing relationship with a rental company that can provide chair covers that will fit their awful chairs. But if that's no go, borrow an ugly chair for the day and find a party rental store with covers that fit. If they won't let you do that, you need to take exact measurements of the chair in question and try to find a place in town that has covers to fit.

If you aren't already getting party rentals for your shindig, a great place to find a party rental store local to you is Yelp.com.

One easy option is the bag-style chair cover (see picture). It fits over most any chair, even folding chairs. Eh, I'm not a fan, but clearly a lot of people like them. However, you do have to tie them on, which is harder than just slipping on a fitted cover.

How much is this all going to cost? If you're looking for a basic white polyester chair cover, expect to spend at least $2-3 / chair. If you want to bring a little color into the mix, colored chair covers are an option but can be expensive and difficult to find. Remember, it's a wedding: it's okay to use white. Another option is using a white chair cover, then tying a nice colored chair sash around the chair. You can either rent the chair sashes from the same company, or use strips of tulle or any fabric, but tying the sashes is going to add to your set-up time. How fast can you tie a perfect bow?

I think I need to lie down now.
I think I need to lie down now.

Buy Chair Covers

If you're not having any luck with rentals, you can buy chair covers online and have them shipped to you. You will need to get dead-accurate measurements of the chair. A reputable dealer will send you a sample first (which you may or may not have to pay for), so you don't end up paying for 300 chair covers that don't fit.

Whether you decide to rent or buy, don't forget that somebody has to put all these dang chair covers on. Your venue might do it, probably for an extra fee, but if that's a no go you need to allow time to get this done. When testing out the sample cover, make note of how much time it takes to get it on the chair so you can get an idea of how much time this is going to take up.

Chair Cover & Sash Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bag-style chair covers, on square back (probably chiavari) and round-back banquet chairs.It doesn't HAVE to be white.Folding chair cover and round-back banquet chair cover, in crush material. It's supposed to be wrinkly.Why you need to make sure the chair cover fits! If it doesn't fit, it will just look weird. This can't possibly be worse than what it's covering. Boo.Back-only cover for a chiavari.Folding chair with cover and sash.White wood padded chair with sash.A whole lotta look.Spandex chair cover for a round-back banquet chair. Very sleek--great for a modern look.
Bag-style chair covers, on square back (probably chiavari) and round-back banquet chairs.
Bag-style chair covers, on square back (probably chiavari) and round-back banquet chairs.
It doesn't HAVE to be white.
It doesn't HAVE to be white.
Folding chair cover and round-back banquet chair cover, in crush material. It's supposed to be wrinkly.
Folding chair cover and round-back banquet chair cover, in crush material. It's supposed to be wrinkly.
Why you need to make sure the chair cover fits! If it doesn't fit, it will just look weird. This can't possibly be worse than what it's covering. Boo.
Why you need to make sure the chair cover fits! If it doesn't fit, it will just look weird. This can't possibly be worse than what it's covering. Boo.
Back-only cover for a chiavari.
Back-only cover for a chiavari.
Folding chair with cover and sash.
Folding chair with cover and sash.
White wood padded chair with sash.
White wood padded chair with sash.
A whole lotta look.
A whole lotta look.
Spandex chair cover for a round-back banquet chair. Very sleek--great for a modern look.
Spandex chair cover for a round-back banquet chair. Very sleek--great for a modern look.

So Should I Rent Or Buy?

You may have noticed that it costs about the same to rent a chair cover as it does to buy a chair cover. What the heck?

The chair covers available to the general public to buy on Amazon or Alibaba or what-have-you aren't the same as rental chair covers. Since rentals have to last, they're usually a thicker, sturdier fabric. Since you're probably only gonna use them once, who cares? Well the better fabric will drape better, and it won't be see-through. The last thing you wanna see is the ugly chair, right?

A rental company will also be able to deliver the chair covers straight to the venue, and will have the staff available to set up the chair covers and tie sashes--this will cost extra of course, but unless you have a crew of buddies willing to do this it's something that needs to be done.

Whether renting or purchasing, find out how the chair covers will arrive---on hangers, folded, in plastic wrap? Nothing looks worse than a wrinkly chair cover, so if the company is sending you the chair covers in shrink wrap, you're probably going to need a portable steamer to steam these things on-site.

Well that was easy.
Well that was easy.

Rent better chairs

Sounds counter-intuitive, but a chair cover to cover an ugly chair can often cost more to rent or buy than just renting a nice chair that doesn't need to be covered. Make sure your banquet hall allows outside chairs and provides a space to put the unwanted chairs.

Almost every rental company in the country has white wood / white resin wedding chairs (see picture). These go with any d├ęcor and rent for $2-5 depending on what part of the country you live in. And, no futzing around with bows, though you can add bows to them if you're the sort that likes futzing around with things. You can also find them in light wood, dark wood, or black.

If you're going for a more casual feel, you can rent nice white plastic folding chairs for $1-2 each.

You can get a UHaul and pick them up yourself, or get them delivered by the rental company. The white resin chairs in the picture stack 25 per 5' tall stack--definitely won't fit in your car! Don't expect your venue to set up somebody else's chairs, so you need to either pay the rental company to do it or make sure you have enough set-up time to do it yourself.

Another benefit? Unlike most venue chairs, they're foldable and stackable, so if your guests decide they need to expand the dance floor they're easy to move out of the way.

Rental Wedding Chairs - When life hands you ugly chairs, rent better ones.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
White padded chairs. Very popular, available at almost every rental company.Natural padded chairs. The white and the natural are the most popular and available options, but I've seen black, mahogany, slate...as well as custom color pads.Gold Chiavari chair. This one's got a white pad, but most places that rent Chiavaris have different pads you can choose, or you don't have to go with a pad at all. Chiavaris with the pads rent for $5-10 and a lot of places will not let you use them oSilver Chiavari chair.White plastic "bistro" chair.White plastic folding chairs. Can be had for $1-2 each, stack small so they don't take up a ton of room.White plastic fanback chairs. These are available at a lot of rental companies and are a little fancier-looking than the white plastic folding chairs.
White padded chairs. Very popular, available at almost every rental company.
White padded chairs. Very popular, available at almost every rental company.
Natural padded chairs. The white and the natural are the most popular and available options, but I've seen black, mahogany, slate...as well as custom color pads.
Natural padded chairs. The white and the natural are the most popular and available options, but I've seen black, mahogany, slate...as well as custom color pads.
Gold Chiavari chair. This one's got a white pad, but most places that rent Chiavaris have different pads you can choose, or you don't have to go with a pad at all. Chiavaris with the pads rent for $5-10 and a lot of places will not let you use them o
Gold Chiavari chair. This one's got a white pad, but most places that rent Chiavaris have different pads you can choose, or you don't have to go with a pad at all. Chiavaris with the pads rent for $5-10 and a lot of places will not let you use them o
Silver Chiavari chair.
Silver Chiavari chair.
White plastic "bistro" chair.
White plastic "bistro" chair.
White plastic folding chairs. Can be had for $1-2 each, stack small so they don't take up a ton of room.
White plastic folding chairs. Can be had for $1-2 each, stack small so they don't take up a ton of room.
White plastic fanback chairs. These are available at a lot of rental companies and are a little fancier-looking than the white plastic folding chairs.
White plastic fanback chairs. These are available at a lot of rental companies and are a little fancier-looking than the white plastic folding chairs.
Why not change your wedding colors to match this pimpin' chair?....seriously I want this chair
Why not change your wedding colors to match this pimpin' chair?....seriously I want this chair

Okay, so what happens if I can't afford to do any of that stuff?

All of the above options are going to cost $300-400 easy (assuming a 100-person wedding, and assuming you're using the same chairs for ceremony & reception). If you can't swing that, here are some more options:

* Rent or buy chair covers for the head table only. It's not the perfect solution, but renting 10 chair covers makes a smaller dent in the budget than renting 200, and many of your important pictures will be of the head table.

* Roll with it: Are your chairs truly hideous, or do they just not match your wedding colors? If it's still early and you haven't paid for your table linens or bridesmaids dresses yet, why not change the color scheme to match the chairs?

I do not recommend trying to sew your own chair covers. It's ridiculously time-consuming, and takes way more fabric than you'd think.

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