Wedding setup & takedown
Updated: Sep 7
Image Via Sidey Clark Photo
The wedding setup and takedown are often the last things couples think about. The setup is the biggest and most complicated undertaking you will have to tackle on your wedding day and it is often seriously underestimated. And the takedown is the least exciting and glamorous - let's be honest, who likes clearing up after a boozy night? Noone!
To make sure things go according to plan, you will have to take into consideration the time it'll take for the setup, the time it'll take for the takedown and who will do it all. If you don't fancy doing it all yourselves, budgeting for this at the start of your wedding planning is key.
On average, setting up a venue will take all morning or even all day. Sometimes two days, depending on the complexity of your wedding and what kind of a venue it is (dry hire, ready-to-go wedding venue or a tipi/marquee wedding). Always check with the venue if it's possible to do the set-up the day before. It helps so much because you won't have to rush so much and any mistakes can be sorted out in plenty of time. Allow anything from 6 to 9 hours for set up in one day.
Allow at least a couple of hours to tear everything down, sort the recycling and bin the rubbish. Have crates and boxes ready for hired items and make sure you have transport for it all for easy returns.
You doing it all yourselves is easily avoidable though if you have a planner who swoons in with their team at the end of the night, or the next day and sorts it all out for you.
Outdoor tipi or marquee weddings
If you chose to have an outdoor wedding - tipi or marquee, you need to allow three days for setup and takedown. After all, you are building a venue from scratch! One day for the structure and rigging, one day for all general deliveries: furniture, props, decor, floristry, tableware, OTD stationery, signage, booze, catering equipment, toilets, etc, and a whole day for clear-up and takedown. It is a lot to think about! Not to mention factoring in the weather and having a plan B for the ceremony - tent layout turnaround or a last-minute stretch tent hire.
Dry hire venues
If you opt for a dry-hire venue, you will need to factor in everything that needs to be delivered and set up for you on the day.
I'm talking furniture, props, crockery, glassware, tableware, flowers, staging (dancefloor, DJ booth, lighting), fridges, booze, signage, on-the-day stationery, cake, etc. And then, you'll need to pack all of this up for them to come and pick it up again the day after.
All of these suppliers will need to be briefed, and coordinated, and deliveries/collections supervised. You will need to have your serious logistics hat on for all of it to go smoothly.
Most of the big things will be delivered and left for you to sort and set up, and that is massively time-consuming and backbreaking if you don't have a planner and team who can do this for you.
A ready-to-go wedding venue
If you hired a wedding venue that has tables and chairs already or an in-house or recommended catering company that sets the tables and chairs for you, including the bar, you can cross these big things off your list. This doesn't mean you will walk into the most beautiful wedding table setup of your dreams though. Tablescaping is an art form and will require a stylist to design and execute it. Caterers will do the basic table set-up; plates, glassware, cutlery, and napkins, all sourced by them but advised by the stylist. All the extra little details are up to the planner/stylists.
Hand on heart, I will tell you right now that a wedding set-up is no laughing matter and you should NOT do this yourself on the morning of your wedding. Nor should you leave this to family and friends to sort out for you because you want to save money. This could easily spell disaster.
Why I hear you ask? Because there is a chance, a very likely chance, that things will go wrong on the day; like deliveries running late, wrong items delivered, things getting broken or forgotten, and then you'll need a pro who is experienced in troubleshooting and thinking fast on their feet. You and your family/friends will not know how best to improvise or have a backup supplier on speed dial. Fact!
And that's not even covering the decor!
Wedding design and styling
A simple example of a styling mood board for a two-venue setup
If you want your wedding to stand out and look unique to your taste, decorating, on top of the above-mentioned standard set-up requirements, will require a whole different team, briefed and managed by your planner/stylist. If you don't have a planner/stylist on board with whom you worked on your wedding aesthetic from the start, you'll have to make do with the best you and your mates can source and style. If you're good with that, then that's fine. If you're not, hire a planner/stylist and team who know what they're doing and have a piece of mind, while getting ready in the morning, that your venue will look exactly the way you planned.
Often, because of the cost, couples don't prioritise florals. Flowers cost a lot of money, true, but flowers are one of the biggest aesthetic enhancers of your wedding, so, if you want that wow factor and nice-looking photos, invest in a good florist and let them do their job. If I hear 'my mum wants to do the table flowers' one more time, I will run for the hills! No offense mums but honestly, doing the floral arrangements for rows and rows of tables for a 150-guest wedding is not something I would recommend if you're not a florist. Unless you don't want to get ready in the morning with your daughter/son and possibly miss the ceremony.
Floristry is not just buying flowers from the flower market and plonking them into vases. Flowers require a lot of prepping - conditioning, storing right, cutting right, and a good eye for arranging and doing that very quickly. I work with florists on all my weddings, and while my set-up team and I are working on the overall look, they work as hard and as long as we do on the floral arrangements. It is a hard, time-consuming job. Remember, you are not just paying for the flowers, you are paying for expertise, experience, and time.
Multiple venue set-ups
Image Via Amanda Summons Photo
This is where couples underestimate the time and team required, big time!
If your ceremony and reception take place in two different venues, like a chapel or registry office for example, and a separate wedding reception venue, think of the time and teams required to make the set-ups happen.
This means you will need a team to do a quick set-up at the ceremony: floristry, seating, decor, signage, post-ceremony drinks, transport, etc.
Often, ceremony venues allow only an hour for your setup. This requires a team of at least 4+ to quickly do what needs to be done before your guests arrive. It's a huge undertaking.
Then, after the ceremony, the same team will have only an hour, but often less if the ceremony overruns (and it often does), to take everything down and transport it all to your reception venue, often repurposing flowers, ceremony backdrops, props, etc, and they will have to set it all up again before you and your guest arrive. Transport delivery time will need to be factored in here too.
Your wedding reception venue will need up to 4-10 team members to do the setup for around 6- 9 hours so that everything is ready for when you and your guests arrive.
It will need someone to supervise the set-up, and they will need to know how to run the team, handle troubleshooting and prioritise where necessary. You will not be able to do this as you'll be getting ready and then getting married!
As you're reading this, you are thinking, our venue has a coordinator, why can't I leave the set-up to them? Venue coordinators are great and they are there to make sure the usual setup is done as per venue rules and regulations, but they will not be in charge of or know how you want your aesthetic to look. They will not know if the wrong glasses were delivered or if the decor isn't set up the way you originally wanted. You will need a planner/stylist to oversee this if you want your wedding to look a certain way. A planner/stylist will be in charge of their own experienced set-up team and coordinate all the other suppliers for you too. After all, they will get to know you quite well over the wedding planning period and understand your priorities, likes, and dislikes.
I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that investing in a good planner/stylist is money well spent. Often the best investment a couple can make is if they don't want a cookie-cutter wedding and if they don't want to be working on their wedding day.
If you want to find out more about how I work, and how I can help you get the best out of suppliers, help you prioritise, and take the stress out of your wedding planning, simply fill out my 'Let's Talk' form and book yourself in for a no-obligation zoom call.
Whole Lotta Love,