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Organizing Quick Wedding Reception Set Up

It’s almost wedding day! Everything’s planned and ready; now it’s time to execute the plan! You’ve got a venue. You’ve got volunteers. The only trouble is your venu space is only rented for the day of the wedding which means you have a few hours to set up for your dream wedding and reception. How do you communicate your vision to a group? How will you ever organize all these volunteers for quick wedding reception set up?

Why You Need This Quick Wedding Reception Set Up Strategy

Have you ever volunteered to help at an event only to find that no one knew the plan? Or someone gave you a task with only half the information you needed? You arrive, ready to work, and everyone is standing around. You start a project only to realize you need a pair of scissors. Where do you find those? Most likely, you wasted a lot of time either trying to figure things out yourself or trying to figure out who to ask for directions.

And I get it. It’s hectic to plan a wedding! You think you have all the bases covered, but planning your strategy for a quick reception set up is easily neglected. You hope that everything will just work out.

But with a little advance planning, you really can make things run smoothly and efficiently for yourself and for your volunteers. That’s why this strategy for quick wedding reception set up is such a life saver. Or at least a a sanity saver.

Find volunteers

Let’s step back a minute. Maybe you haven’t thought about who is going to set up all these decorations. Who can you ask? Who do you trust to do a good job?

The good news is that if you prepare well, it won’t take rocket scientists (or interior decorators) to execute your instructions.

So go ahead and enlist the help of the bridal party! Even goof balls can be given simple tasks to keep them busy.

Out-of-town family visitors. Cousin Harriet never gets to see the family and since she’s in town, she may appreciate a chance to feel like an inside part of the action and mingle with her loved ones. However, be sensitive to people’s schedules. Consider whether or not it will be an inconvenience or a priviledge for these guests to be included. Be respectful of the limitations of elderly or infirmed. Try not to complicate travel plans for your guests. And they’ll need time to dress for the wedding too.

Good friends. If you’ve got some true-blue friends that love you enough to help out, it may be time to ask for a favor.

Map the reception area

Make sure you have a good knowledge of your space and how you’d like it laid out. We like to use graph paper to draw the room to scale. Then cut out more graph paper shapes for your tables and try a few layouts to find the best flow and function. This was really fun for us to play with different set up options.

Graph paper map of reception hall with tables laid out.

Seat close family and friends closest to the head table.

Create ample space for the dance floor. Only 1/3 to 1/2 of your guests will be dancing at one time, maybe less depending on your crowd. It’s usually recommended to give each couple about 3 square feet of dance space.

Decide where the food and the cake tables will be located. Make sure there is room for guests and servers to easily move around in these areas.

Seating Chart or Open Seating

How many tables and chairs you set up will depend partly on whether you have assigned seats or open seating. With a seating chart, you can set up for the exact number in attendance. But with open seating, you will need to allow extra chairs so guests can group themselves. recommends 1 extra table per 100 guests. Be sure to know in advance if you or your venue will be setting up tables and chairs.

Break Down Set Up into Individual Tasks

Create little work projects that can be easily communicated and distributed. What tasks can you give away that don’t need your direct supervision?

When it came to setting up for the latest family wedding, here is the list of tasks I had for volunteers

  • Head table
  • Reception tables
  • Seating Chart
  • Gift table
  • Cake table
  • Snack table
  • Games
  • Sound equipment
  • Wedding arch
  • Aisle decor and programs

Take Photos of Mockups

Set up your decor as you want it displayed and take pictures. For each of the tasks above, we had a clear vision in mind for the volunteers to complete. Before the event, we made mockup displays which we photographed in order to more easily share our vision with volunteers. Have these printed off. You can see how we created this seating chart in The Game Themed Wedding.

Mock up of seating chart draped in greenery.

Clearly Write Instructions for Each Task

On the day of, you will not have time to be giving verbal instructions for every single task! Instead it’s best to have clear, step-by-step written instructions for each of your projects. These instructions should be written on individual papers for each task so that they can be handed to appropriate volunteers along with the printed photograph. (Note on photo below: this picture doesn’t really go with this set of instructions, but you should get the idea.)

A photo and written instructions.

Package Needed Materials Together By Task

Create a separate box for each task. Make sure that each box contains all the decorations needed to set up the area as well as all tools and extra materials that will be needed. So separate tape or staplers or pins or signage for each box.

Each box should also contain the related printed photograph of the mockup. You can include the written instructions in each box or keep them together so that volunteers can choose one of the tasks from the collection of instructions. Or vice versa. You can pack the written instructions and retain the photographs to share with your group of volunteers.

Be sure to have a stash of extra supplies for the unexpected – more scissors, safety pins, straight pins and maybe even bandaids!

Clear Verbal Directions

Gather all your volunteers at the beginning of set up. Introduce the various tasks that will need to be completed and explain how to complete each one following the written instructions and the photo and using materials in each box. Then send out your minions to complete the work!

How did this work for you?

Even with careful planning, you might find that the work of others doesn’t quite measure up to the quality of what you would do. Be sure you predetermine how important these details are to you. Are you willing to part with your perfect standard in order to get the work done? Are there some tasks that you need to complete yourself in order to be satisfied with them? That’s totally okay. What’s important in the end is that the bride is helped and pleased. This planning method may not work for Bridezillas. But what wedding plan will, I wonder?

I’d love to hear if these quick wedding reception set up strategies were helpful to you! We had a lot of our volunteers comment on how smooth our set up was.

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