Raise your hand if you’re a disorganized hot mess most of the time … yep, me too! Now where are my Type A friends who get anxiety when someone even touches something on your desk? There’s news for you, too. No matter where you fall on the messy-organized spectrum, putting together an orderly, executable system for wedding day set up is going to save you a lot of anxiety while you get all pretty (Is everything there? Are they doing it right?). It’s also a huge kindness to the people working their tails off so your day looks perfect.
Whether it’s a backyard gathering for 20 or a ballroom gala for 200, you probably have some feelings on how you want your wedding to look. When other people — whether they’re friends and family or hired event staff — are doing the set-up without proper guidance, you’re forcing them to make decisions for themselves. By setting up a detailed plan of action that your set-up crew can see beforehand, you take the guesswork out of it, giving everyone some peace of mind.
Don’t expect people to read your mind.
You may think everything is perfectly obvious, but that unlabeled box of personal photos and candlesticks was supposed to be divided among the guest tables, yet Aunt Jane assumed they were supposed to go on the shelf in the entryway. Your box of extra, in-case-of-emergency candles got mistaken for desired decor, so your cousin just kind of stuck them wherever he thought would look good. They’re both reasonable assumptions, but it’s not what you wanted.
So how do you deal?
Make diagrams and either print them out or email them to the people helping. The easiest way to do this is set up a mock-up somewhere in your home and take a picture. If there are items you’re renting and don’t have stashed around your home pre-wedding, grab a stand-in item and make a note that (for example) the water glass will actually be the 9-inch cylinder vase at the venue. This way, everyone knows what your plan is.
Separate items by table, not by decoration type.
This is a foolproof way of making sure things go where they need to go, especially if your tables will have different decor. Rather than putting all of the candle holders in one box and hoping for the best, put three candleholders in a box with the respective candles, the two photos of you and your partner at 3 years old, the #3 card, a holder for the card, and, if you have them with you, the linens and centerpiece vase. Label that box (visible from the outside) Table 3 and repeat as necessary. Separate other decorations like the buffet tables, desert table, sign-in table. Not only does this make it less confusing, it saves precious time and you’ll ensure all the things for each table are present and accounted for.
Assign people to take home you items at tear-down.
True Story: My husband of well over a year and I bought a plain white puzzle for our guestbook. I have not seen this since I lovingly admired a few of the messages at our wedding reception. I have no idea who took it home or what box it could be in. Learn from my mistake! Since it’s unlikely you’ll be doing the packing up yourself, have a list of what needs to go home with someone and ask specific people to be in charge of it. This way you know that Uncle Jim loaded all of the table decor into his Suburban; Mom has the gifts and cards; your best friend grabbed your bouquet and all the flowers … you get the picture. Of course, make sure that these people live relatively close so you can coordinate to pick things up after the wedding.
Make clear what was rented and needs to be returned.
Renting items can get pricey. The last thing you want it to get hit with a replacement fee after the wedding. Since the people helping tear down may not be the same people who helped you set up, make sure there’s a list of rental items so everyone there can easily identify what goes home with you and what gets returned. If you’ve rented from multiple businesses, separate the lists and make note of what will be picked up and what needs to be taken back personally.
Providing all of your helpers with a plan takes less work than you think. Simply knowing how you’re going to pack your boxes can be less stressful than cramming things in arbitrarily and trying to figure out what else will fit. Plus, in all honesty, people will love you for it. The less stress you put on people before your wedding, the happier they are once the whole shindig kicks off.
If that level of organization isn’t your game, find someone who color-coordinates their closet or alphabetizes their book shelf. Organized people usually love to help other people get organized, so it’s a win-win. Knowing where to find your precious memories in the days after your wedding will be well worth it!