As you know we are a new outdoor / garden wedding venue. This was our first full year. I white knuckled each and every wedding reception that we hosted. It was like being a first time parent. Every little think was vastly important to us. I also listened intently to what everyone said.
What I realized was that no one knows how long it really takes to pull a wedding ceremony together but most importantly the wedding reception. I had brides and or their family and friends show up on the wedding day and think that everything would be done in an hour or so. And some brides had so much stuff that it would have taken an army a full day to decorate.
So what I suggest is that that you get seriously organized. Have boxes that are cleanly marked with where they go and what's inside.
Have someone in charge. Select a person that will not offend the people that are there to help. They shouldn't be to bossy but need to be assertive to get the job done.
Tell the person that's in charge and the helpers when to arrive. If you know that someone is always late tell them to arrive 30 minutes sooner then everyone else.
Assign jobs to each person. That way when they arrive they aren't standing around wondering what to do and where the items are located to do their job.
Give them back up jobs so that when they finish they can move onto the next task. Take advantage of people that are willing to help. Don't be shy asking for help either. You can always hire professionals to do the job too.
Conduct a dry run on things. For instance, set up a table and see how long that takes. Then you will know how much time to allow for each job. I had one bride that arrived with massive amounts of decorations. Some were incredibly labor intensive. Such as she brought 8 light curtains. When the boxes were opened they were horribly tangled . It took 2 people, 3 hours to untangle and to hang them.
If you are going to bring massive amounts of decorations prioritize what is most important. That way if time runs out you at least know that was most crucial to you was done.
Allow more time then you would ever think that it would take to do each job. Its better to be finished with time to spare then to have your guests walking into the reception and things are not done.
Make sure that you know what the RULES are for decorating at the wedding venue that you select. We tell people all the time that they cannot give the flower girls fake flowers to throw. And we find them doing it any way. We also had people glue their decorations onto the back of our chairs and the glue would never come off. We are very clear about what's allowed but many times the couples don't follow the rules.
You will lose your deposit if you do things that damage the venues property. If if there is someone special that you want to do make sure that you clear it with the venue. And get it in writing that they are allowing something special or unusual. Its important to get things in writing. That way all parties are protected and on the same page. Its always better to be safe rather than sorry !