After 3 years of coordinating weddings, I’ve learned a few things about how to make set up run smoothly. While it all gets completed one way or another, the time leading up to the ceremony can either fly by with ease, or it can feel like an uphill battle, tackling one obstacle after another to pull off the vision for the day. Each couple is different when it comes to prepping for their wedding day, but this blog includes some easy tips to implement that will help eliminate many common set-up struggles on the day of the wedding.
1. Have a Plan
This may sound like a no brainer, but it’s important that you've written down the order that you plan to set up items, starting with large areas, and then breaking it down further by specific tables or items. Here's an example:
12:00-1:00pm - The reception space
-- Four 6' tables
-- Four linens
-- place greenery garland along front edge
-- Add candles every 6-8 inches
-- 12 place settings (plate, silverware, wine glass & napkin)
-- One 6' table
-- One linen
-- 3 cupcake stands
-- dessert plates and forks
Beyond just the order, think about incorporating lists of the specific items on each table or in specific areas. Or, if you’re really artsy, provide sketches for tablescapes and layouts.
2. Give everyone a task
We love family and friends that want to be involved, and it seems like there’s never a shortage of helping hands on the wedding day, but have you ever heard of having too many cooks in the kitchen? When there’s no plan, or no leader to guide set-up, things can get disorganized pretty quickly, and that’s how you end up without enough time for everything, or worse, something being forgotten altogether. Before your wedding day, make two lists:
1) a list of your decorations - The outline from your plan in tip #1 is a great tool for this!
2) a list of your helpers - These need to be people that you’ve spoken with ahead of time about helping (don’t just assume they’ll show up), and it shouldn’t be anyone that’s getting ready or taking photos during the designated set-up time.
Then, assign specific tasks to each of them. This could include setting up the ceremony chairs, placing linens on the tables, setting silverware, placing centerpieces, etc. When everyone knows the order that things need to happen AND their specific role, set up will go much smoother.
3. Unpack everything
Nothing slows down set up like taking items out of their packaging. And, nothing makes set up messier than plastic, boxes, and packaging all over the room. While it’s ok to leave items wrapped in paper or boxes if they are breakable, try removing any excess packaging, like zip ties, tape, price tags (especially stickers!) so things are easy to take out and place on tables.
4. Sort your items
The first step to set up is unloading all of the items from your car into the venue. Usually, all of the items are placed in one area, but when your decorations are sorted into totes or boxes by their designated table or area, the items can be unloaded and placed directly where they’ll need to be in the venue. This will save you so much time, and keep set up organized.
5. Put together your decor before arriving to the venue
Make sure that all of your decorations are completely put together before the wedding day. While it may seem easier to transport items in pieces, unless it’s absolutely necessary for them to fit in the car, you should try to have everything put together. That includes floral arrangements, placing candles inside their vases, writing out chalkboard signs, putting pictures into frames, etc.
6. Check your accessories
No, I don’t mean your jewelry (although that’s important, too!). As you’re planning and packing your decor, keep in mind what items will need power or batteries, and make sure you have those items assembled or packed. Bonus points if they are all in the same tote or box (see tip #4). Along with accessories, make sure that electronics are compatible with one another, items are downloaded and not dependent on wifi, and when possible, that you’ve done a test run prior to the wedding day.
7. Measure once, and check it twice
For large decor, it’s important to have measurements, not only to ensure it fits in the space how you’ve envisioned it, but also to ensure you can transport it easily to and from the venue (or pay for delivery, if needed). Don’t just assume the vintage couch you rented will fit in the back of your friend’s truck, or that the pallet menu board you created will fit in your car. Find or ask for measurements to save yourself from a tetris-induced headache the day of your wedding.
Thrifty Events offers wedding planning, event design, and day of coordination services.
Candi Block, Founder & Event Planner
Midwest native with big-family roots, now newlywed, entrepreneur, and new home owner in the PNW. Love being involved in the community, crafting, creating, and Netflix binging.