10 Tips for Wedding Setup & Cleanup

Tips for wedding setup and cleanup, flowers by Fields in Bloom, photo by Brandi Potter Photography
Tips for wedding setup and cleanup, flowers by Fields in Bloom, photo by Brandi Potter Photography

Wedding setup and cleanup can be a major source of stress.  Even if you have excellent vendors and a solid team of helpers, someone still has to have a plan and execute that plan.  We have put together 10 tips for wedding setup and cleanup in an effort to keep all you soon-to-be brides sane as your wedding day approaches.

  1. Do as much as you can in advance.  Time to slip by since the wedding planning process is so lengthy, but if you plan on spreading out the tasks throughout your engagement you won’t be overwhelmed in the end.  If possible avoid doing any assembly, crafting or shopping the week of the wedding.
  2. Organize your STUFF.  It is really helpful to label boxes as to what they contain and where they go at the venue.  For example, use the general labels categories prep, ceremony and reception or use more specific labels like guestbook table, cake table, etc.  You can also print/draw pictures of exactly how you want things setup and/or inspiration images and put the images in the box so that anyone can handle the setup.
  3. Create an event floor plan.  It is much easier, for most point, to visualize the space from a floor plan with all the tables and chairs in place.  Putting lots of labels and descriptions on the floor plan can help eliminate a bunch of questions and thus save you time.
  4. Have a schedule.  Everything will take longer than you think so create a conservative schedule of what needs to be done when and who is responsible for doing it.  It is also a good idea to add an hour of cushion time for the unexpected. You want to leave plenty of time to relax and get ready before event starts.
  5. Be smart about delegating tasks.  Make sure you are assigning tasks that fit the person’s skills and abilities.  It is important not to ask too much of any one person since you want all your guests to be able to enjoy the celebration.
  6. Create an operations center.  Find a central location at the venue to keep commonly needed items (scissors, tools, tape, etc.), checklists, schedules and the floor plan.  All your helpers will know were to go to find what they need.
  7. Know the venue rules and expectations.  Read your venue contract, ask questions and get advice from the venue staff.  You don’t want to plan something only to find out that it won’t work at your venue or it isn’t allowed.  All venues have different rules on how the venue can be altered and how it is to be left at the end of the night.
  8. Don’t underestimate cleanup.  We find that our clients oftentimes don’t allot enough time to pack up all their belongs and don’t request enough help.  By the end of the night people are tired and the logistics of what goes where can be complicated.  Labeled boxes and checklists help with cleanup just as much as they do with setup.
  9. Coordinate the transportation of STUFF.  Plan how everything will be transported to and from the venue.  Provide adequate packing materials and overestimate the space you’ll need in order to prevent issues.  Remember, don’t count on your car if you are not staying to help clean up.  Also, you will have some items like flower arrangements and leftover food that came from vendors, but will need to have a place to go after the event.
  10. Take care of your team.  Food, fun and appreciation go a long way to show your vendors and helpers how thankful you are for their assistance.  Have snacks and water available throughout the day or even plan to feed them a meal while they’re working.  To keep the mood stress-free and upbeat play some tunes.  And last but not least, don’t forget to express your appreciation so how.

Find more tips on how to manage wedding weekend helpers in a previous blog post.

Tips for Your Wedding Budget

One of the most challenging aspects of planning a wedding is setting the budget.  Money is a touchy subject and no one wants to think about the limitations that money can place on their decisions.  The good thing is that you aren’t alone; almost every bride and groom start out not knowing a thing about how much a bouquet costs or whether they can afford a three tiered cake.  Luckily, the wedding industry is notoriously good at helping you understand the cost of different options and customizing their services to fit your budgetary needs.  In this post, we’ll give you some ideas on how to set and manage your wedding budget.

Show Me the Money

Start by determining how much money you have to work with.  Traditionally, the bride’s parents paid for the wedding while the groom’s family paid for the rehearsal dinner.  But, now-a-days there really isn’t a norm so you’ll want to to have a conversation with all those involved in paying for your wedding.  The numbers and dates need to be crystal clear so everyone can adhere to their commitment.  Be understanding and realistic with your expectations.  It should also be noted that just because you have money for your wedding, doesn’t mean you have to spend it all.

Set the Tone Early

Big fancy events cost a big fancy lot so be realistic about what style and tone you want from the start.  Think about formal versus casual, traditional versus modern and elaborate versus simple.  Make decisions based on your style and your budget, but recognize that all your decisions need to come together to create a cohesive look and feel.  For example, if you splurge on a big hotel ballroom for your reception you’ll have to fill that ballroom with lots of people, large centerpieces and expensive in-house catering.  One splurge can lead to another in order to fit the look of your large fancy venue.  So don’t forget to consider the bigger picture of your event when making decisions that set the tone and style for your event.

Choose Vendors Within Your Price Range

Different vendors operate at different price points.  Vendors listed on The Knot and Wedding Wire are given a $-$$$ designation based on their cost.  Using this tool will help you narrow down what vendors to contact for quotes.  Be sure to get quotes from several vendors for each service so you can recognize the one providing the best value and customer service for the price.  Ask about any additional fees not included in the quote such as delivery, installation and service fees.  Before you sign any contract have a clear understanding of how much money will be due when.

It can be tempting to enlist of the help of family and friends to save money on wedding services, but it really is best to hire experienced, professional vendors in order to prevent unexpected expenses.  It’s so nice that Aunt Suzie can do your flowers, but Aunt Suzie doesn’t have experience figuring out how many of each flower you will need or how much it will cost for example.  In the larger scheme of things, wilting flowers, a last minute trip to the florist or a table without a centerpiece isn’t a big deal, but it creates unnecessary stress on an already stressful day.  Professionals usually get it right and are on time and on budget without all the stress.

Spend Money Where It Counts

No matter what your budget is, you can make the most of it by spending money on the things you care most about and that will have the greatest impact on your guests.  Think about what is most import to you about your wedding day and prioritize spending on those things.  Your vendors should be able to help you make decisions about what is essential and what your options are for budget conscious upgrades. My advice to every couple: Sit down and decide what your top three priorities are and then budget accordingly. Not all wedding vendors agree with me on this approach, but I truly believe that if you budget based on what’s important to you, in the end, you’ll be happy you did.

Control the Guest Count

Your guest count is one of the major factors determining the overall cost of your wedding.  Remember that the cost for every guest includes food was well as drinks, cake, chair and table rentals, centerpieces, invitations, favors and other miscellaneous expenses.  Your guest count may also limit your venue options as larger venues cost more money.  So choose your guests wisely.  The hubs and I didn’t want to offend anyone on our wedding day, but we also wanted a small wedding, so we decided that unless we both knew the person really well, they weren’t invited. But, that approach may or may not work for you and your mamaw may end up inviting everyone from her church anyway. Just sayin’.

Budget for the Little Stuff

Big ticket items, like catering, often overshadow the numerous small purchases made for a wedding, but the small costs shouldn’t be forgotten in the budgeting process.  Favors, postage, bridal accessories, gifts, thank you notes and vendor gratuities are just of few of the small costs that should be budgeted for from the start. Basically, you really need to reign in the trips to Hobby Lobby and late night online shopping. I know, it’s hard!

Plan for the Unexpected

Weather happens, accidents happen, changes need to be made and sometimes we forget things.  All of these situations can cost you more money than you were anticipating. Allocate 5-10% of your budget to an emergency fund.  Touch this money only if you have to deal with something unexpected.

Track Your Spending

It’s so easy to loose track of what you’ve paid for, who’s paid for what and so on.  There is so much going on and so many people involved it can get overwhelming if you let it.  So put a system in place in the very beginning to prevent this.  I suggest creating a calendar (in GoogleDocs or ICal) and spreadsheet (in Excel or GoogleDocs) to track all payments and payment due dates.  If you use an expense tracking app, like Mint, try creating a custom category for all wedding expenses so they can be easily found.  Some couples even open a separate bank account to keep their wedding funds separate from their everyday transactions.  It may also be helpful to use one method of payment for all wedding related transactions.  A credit card will allow you to rack up some reward points for use on your honeymoon! *DISCLAIMER: Plan to pay your complete credit card balance off every single month! You do not want to start your marriage off in crazy debt, just trust me on this one.

Additional Budget Resources

Tips for Your Wedding Budget

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Imperfection

Imperfection Quote by Marilyn Monroe

We’re not perfect.  Our house isn’t perfect.  This blog definitely isn’t perfect.  Nothing is perfect.  But, we try our best to be better in every way, every single day.  Overt time persistence and patience bring you a smidgen closer to perfect than imperfect.  Nick and I don’t go around saying this Marilyn Monroe quote or posting it on our walls, but it pretty much defines how we approach our lives.  We embrace imperfection, turn left when everyone else is turning right and do what we want without regard for how crazy it seems to others.  Of course we’re disappointed when a project doesn’t go the way we want, but that’s what makes life interesting!

Imperfect Boiler
Due to a faulty part that couldn’t be replaced, we were putting water in and taking water out of this beast 3 to 4 times a day for 4 months. Talk about an imperfect way to heat your house!

Accepting temporary imperfection allows you to do things right the first time. Temporary fixes don’t actually solving the problem so they should be avoided if at all possible.  Just think, it is what it is for now because I am waiting until I have the time and money to replace/repair it correctly.   We went through our first winter months with a Sears and Roebuck boiler {the boiler is the thing that allegedly keeps your house warm}.  Ours was badly outdated and in desperate need of parts, but it was too old to even order the parts.  I refused to just go with the first heating and cooling solutions that came up because I knew I wasn’t able to make an educated decision.  Often times, skilled laborers are very good at their job, but they may not be so great at caring for your home on a larger scale, or your bank account for that matter!  When embarking on a major project, do your own research by studying your home, consulting multiple experts and utilizing a multitude of resources.  Being able to deal with an imperfect situation will allow you time to complete your project right the first time.

Scaffolding up at an imperfect time
Due to water damage, all four corners of the main house needed to be repointed. {Scrape out old mortar, replace with new…hire someone to do this!}

As you well know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Although, sometimes I wish it was so that I could justify my desire to have every facet of my life perfect at any given time…but, what’s the challenge in that, right?  What’s challenging is putting your desire to have the perfect house RIGHT NOW aside to accommodate your budget and the inevitable delays associated with construction.  Never, EVER rush a contractor to finish a job.  You will pay the price in the long run.  Make sure you hire good people who are also skilled, agree upon a completion date in advance and monitor project milestones along the way to keep the process on track.  (This tip goes back to educating yourself on the project…do your own research!)  Be sure to anticipate unforeseen issues and know that some things like drying times or weather are out of your control….for example, you may have scaffolding up during an event because it’s rained every day since the beginning of time and your guys can’t get the mortar to dry while repointing the brick…yes, that happened.  Check out this link from the NPS Preservation Briefs to learn a little more about the process, it’s pretty interesting!

The main part of the house was completed in 1856 and there have been renovations from every era; some good and some not so good.  The paint has chips, the plaster has cracks and some sort of invisible bug is eating on all our bushes.  But, that’s ok, if everything was perfect wouldn’t life be so boring?!    Once we decided to turn Warrenwood into a venue, we had to accept imperfection.  Of course we want to offer all of our customers the “perfect venue,” but we can’t.  When we set out on this endeavor our goal was and still is to preserve and share this beautiful property with others. Preservation takes time; it’s a labor of love.  By accepting imperfection, our preservation efforts have been more rewarding than we ever thought possible both visually and emotionally.

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The Wedding Dress

Most little girls dream of their wedding day.  They imagine the flowers, rings and of course their white dress with lace and frills, train and veil.  Well, not me.  I guess somewhere between playing in the mud and fishing in the pond I forgot to daydream about it.  So, when I went wedding dress shopping I had no clue what I was looking for or how the process worked.  Here is a bit of what I learned.

When to Shop

Start shopping for your dress as soon as possible.  You may find your dress at your very first appointment or you may need to go to several places.  Be sure to leave time for both scenarios.  Depending on the designer/brand, your dress can take several months to come in.  So I suggest shopping at least 6+ months out so you don’t limit your options.  Alterations can take months too depending on what needs to be done.  The dress is a great item to mark off your to do list early.  However, don’t panic if you’re running short on time, just be sure to tell your consultant exactly what your timeline is.

Also, avoid shopping on the weekends if at all possible.  You will get more attention and time from your bridal consultant if the store isn’t crowded.  With fewer brides in the store most, if not all, the dresses will be out so you don’t miss anything.  You will also have more privacy.  I’m telling you ladies, those bridal salons can get crazy…it’s really hard to concentrate, trust me.

Where to Shop

Bridal Consultant
All smiles after Kim picked the perfect dress for me!

The Reading Bridal District in Cincinnati is the place to go if you want lots of options in a condensed area.  There are 44 different wedding related businesses within a two mile radius.  My sister and I found our dresses at Bridal and Formal in the Reading Bridal District.  Their bridal consultants are fantastic and they have a huge selection of dresses.  If you would prefer a more local option just be sure to check their website and call ahead be sure they carry the brands and styles of interest to you.

 

If you are looking for something inexpensive you have several options.

  • Most bridal stores will have dresses that can be purchased at a discount “off the rack”, meaning they are sample dresses that you can take home that day.  This is perfect if you are on a tight timeline and are near the sample size.  Keep in mind, these dresses are usually stretched, a bit damaged and in need of a good cleaning, but totally usable!
  • J.Crew and BHLDN have some more affordable options alongside their higher end dresses.
  • Tradesy and OnceWed are online marketplaces where you can purchase a gently used dress directly from the bride who wore it.  Nearly Newlywed is similar; offering new, sample, used and preowned designer wedding dresses.
  • Wedding dress rentals are a growing trend.  A New York TImes article titled “The Dress Is Temporary, the Memories Forever” discusses several different companies in the industry including Borrowing Magnolia and Rent the Runway.
  • You can go for a non-traditional dress to save money too.  Try a short dress, non-traditional fabric or even a color other than white or ivory.

How to Shop

  • In the veils and belt room of Bridal & Formal
    In the veils and belt room of Bridal & Formal

    Have fun!  Don’t stress!

  • Wear flesh tone undergarments.  You don’t want to be distracted by your leopard print skivvies showing through your beautiful dress!  And even though you may not actually wear a strapless bra under your dress on the big day, wear it to your appointment so that your bra straps aren’t distracting from the look of your dress.
  • Be clear about your budget.  Is your limit just a suggestion or do you want to be strict?  Does your dress budget include the cost of alterations and shipping?  Don’t forget your accessories!
  • Share information and images about your wedding with your bridal consultant so she/he can get a feel for your style.  It is helpful to bring in images of dresses you like.  But, be sure to keep an open mind.
  • Ask for photos to be taken of you in dresses you are seriously considering.  Sometimes dresses don’t photograph how they appear in person. (Disclaimer: Some bridal salons don’t allow pictures so be sure to ask first.)
  • Try to articulate what you do and don’t like about dresses as you try them on.  This helps guide your consultant to exactly what you want.
  • Keep your entourage to a minimum.  I know it’s hard not to include everyone, but the more people you bring, the more opinions you have and really the only opinion that matters is yours!

There is a dress out there for you no matter your size, budget or style.  Be patient and have fun!

Don't forget to make sure the back of your wedding dress looks good too!
Think about how you will have your dress bustled for your reception. You can’t forget to make sure the back of your wedding dress looks good too!