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When it comes to decorations, an aisle runner is really a "nice to have" (can live without it). Technically, however, while an aisle runner is an optional item, its presence does make your ceremony appear more formal and lively. So, if your ceremony site does not provide for one, you can easily get an aisle runner from these sources:
Ask your friends, especially couples that recently got married, if they have an aisle runner that you could borrow (it's not an expensive item, around $40 - though exotic and custom ones that we discuss below can run up to $100 - and surprisingly many people have these). Even If your friends don't have one, they might know someone who does. You may also be able to borrow an aisle runner from your place of work (chances are your admin has one stored away from some corporate event) or the college that any of your friends or family may be attending (drama clubs might have one).
If you are planning to rent furniture for your wedding, it's likely that the same place will have an aisle runner for you to rent as well. The good thing about renting an aisle runner is that once the wedding is over, you can return it instead of having it take up space in your garage (let's face it, there are very few occasions when that aisle runner will be used again). The bad thing about renting an aisle runner is that the total rental price will often be only slightly cheaper, if not the same, than the amount you would pay to buy one.
Between buying and renting an aisle runner, we at WeddingVenture.com recommend you buy one - no hassles with returning it by a deadline, but the price difference between the two options is likely to be minimal. There are a few good affordable aisle runners you could buy online for about the same price as you would pay to rent (and you could later sell the aisle runner to recoup some of the costs). We list some examples below.
Most common aisle runner styles:
Elegant - 100', about $40: Wedding Fabric Aisle Runner - White with Flower Imprint
Church style - 100', around $35: Durable Northwest Aisle Runner, White in 36-Inch by 100-Feet size
Also, there are more elegant options that include customization and personalization, such as monograms.
Full customization - custom aisle runner
Signature lettering - aisle runner that appears to made specifically for your special event
If you decide to rent or buy an isle runner, here are some things to consider before purchasing:
The color of your aisle runner should fit within your chosen color palette (i.e. the color of your flowers, bridesmaids' dresses and other decorations at your ceremony site). This is why the most popular color for a wedding aisle runner is white - no matter what your theme color is (red, brown, purple, or otherwise), white will always work well with any color palette.
A thought of a moment from WeddingVenture.com: on the other hand, do you really need an aisle runner? They are white and will look dirty the moment the wedding party will enter - on your way out, you will already be walking on "a dirty tablecloth".
Double-check what your aisle runner is made of. Some of the popular materials include fabric, plastic, vinyl, polyethylene, paper, etc. Out of all of these, we at WeddingVenture.com definitely recommends fabric. While fabric aisle runners are generally a bit more expensive than the other types, they are also more elegant (some of the plastic ones out there look outright cheap), less slippery (an important consideration for the bride making her big entrance) and generally sturdier (sturdier also means the aisle runner will stay in place as you walk on it) than the other kinds.
No matter which material you choose, we would still recommend you get pins or staples to hold the aisle runner in place (especially if you have your ceremony in the windy outdoors). This will avoid the embarrassing situation (which we've witnessed firsthand before!) where the aisle runner gets stuck to the bride's shoe and starts dragging behind her like a roll of toilet paper.
Aisle runners generally come in solid colors or patterns. It is, of course, a matter of taste which one you would prefer for your wedding. One thing to note, however, is that solid colors do generally look better on photographs and do not distract the viewers from the newlyweds.