Common Practices: Wedding Night Clean Up

Wedding Guest Book Table - Pennant Banner - Neutral colors

Photo courtesy of Feather & Twine Photography


We’re starting a new collection of posts here called “Common Practices”.  Many of the wedding industry tendencies are not common knowledge, nor are they necessarily intuitive.  To help all engaged couples planning a wedding, we want to give you some more information about how things are typically done, who does them and what to think about when planning your special day.  To get started, we’re actually going to start at the end, the end of your big day that is.

At the end of your wedding day, when you have left to cheers from your guests and your guests have gone home, the wedding night clean up begins.  Some vendors refer to this as break down, some refer to it as striking the event.  Either way, it’s important to know what happens because you have items left behind that need to be taken care of.  What happens and who does it can depend entirely on your venue.  They set the rules on what can be stored and what needs to leave at the end of the night.  Here’s a list of all the items that need to be taken care of and what typically happens.


Wedding Family Frames - Rustic Personal Wedding Photos

Photo courtesy of AR Photography


  • Wedding Gifts – Typically your venue or wedding planner will move your gifts during the event to a secure location, whether it is the venue coordinator’s office or perhaps another event space, it will be away from any wandering eyes.  At the end of the event, these items will be loaded onto a cart or taken directly to the vehicle of who you designate as being responsible for these items.  Usually this is a parent of the newlyweds.  Make sure you tell whoever you designate ahead of time so they know to stay til the end of the night.  The venue coordinator or your planner should know who this is so they make sure it all goes home with the right person, not just someone who volunteered.
  • Personal items – This includes your toasting flutes, your cake knife and server, guest book and any decor you brought to the event.  If you have any DIY projects you brought, such as a candy buffet you or your planner set up, these need to be removed.  Sometimes a venue will store these items for you to be picked up the following week, but this is not normally the case.  Usually they are sent home with the same person designated to take home the gifts.


Wedding Catering - Wedding Appetizers - Sweetheart Table

Photo courtesy of Jessica Shae Photography


  • Food & Drink – If your wedding is at a full service venue (meaning a venue that also supplies catering and staff), they will most likely pack a box of food for the newlyweds to take with them.  All other food is thrown out due to sitting out for so long (especially on a buffet).  It is an insurance requirement at most venues that they are not allowed to send “left overs” home with anyone.  If someone were to take the food home and not properly store it, resulting in food poisoning, the venue does not want to be responsible.  If you are working with a caterer, they may have their own policies.  Make sure you ask about this when hiring them.  If you brought in your own alcohol, you will need to take home what is left over.  This can be quite a bit, so make sure that whoever you designate to stay and take this home at the end of the night has a large vehicle, just in case.  Typically, your caterer and/or planner will not transport left over alcohol.
  • Cake – Your venue or caterer will box up your left over cake to take home, but most of the time they do not provide the boxes for this.  Make sure you bakery will leave boxes, and if not, bring some of your own.  Also, check with you bakery to see if any equipment, such as a stand, needs to be returned.  Some planners will return cake stands for you, but again, check with them and see who needs to be responsible for this.


Wedding Popcorn Buffet - Wedding Specialty Favors

Photo courtesy of Kylie Crump Photography


  • Floral decor / centerpieces – Most florists are charging you just a rental on their vases and other decor (such as candles, etc.).  This means that at the end of the night, all the containers your beautiful floral are in must be returned to the florist.  Typically, the florist will make arrangements with the venue to pick up these items the next day, but more and more venues are requiring the florist to pick up items that night.  You must find out what your venue requires and communicate this to the florist as they will not call and check this for you all the time.  You also might see an extra fee from the florist because of this, so double-check with them!  As for the floral itself, you paid for this and can take whatever you would like home, but without the container.  Some clients choose to pay for the containers for part of the centerpieces so they can take them home as they are.  Some make arrangements to return the vases to the florist themselves at a later time, and others will just leave the floral behind.  (Always ask your florist when receiving proposals if the containers/vases are included as a rental or purchase.)  If the florist included the containers in your contract, you can give centerpieces away to your guests.  Just remember, if a guests is from out of town, they probably cannot transport the item home, especially if they are traveling by air.


Sign In Table - Burgundy and Gold Wedding

Photo courtesy of Amy Karp Photography


  • Linens, Rentals and other Decor – Most rental companies prefer to pick up their rental items the Monday following your event.  If they are required to pick up that night, you will more than likely be charged an additional fee, so check with your venue!  The staff at your venue, if full service, will pack away all the rentals and linens for the rental company to pick up. However, if you are not at a full service venue, your caterer may help with only the items they handled, such as glassware, dishes, and flatware.  With any rental items, designate someone responsible for checking the items for damage and counting.  You will be charged for damaged items or missing items, so you always want to make sure someone is checking to make sure it is all there and not misplaced.


Navy Wedding Personal Details - Wine Wedding

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yarbro Photography


  • Trash – Most venues handle all waste disposal.  However, while unusual, some venues do not have dumpsters and require all waste to be removed at the end of the night by either the caterer or yourself.  Venues will be up front about this need, so make sure you address it with them and your caterer.  Caterers sometimes charge an extra fee for this.  There are waste disposal companies that can be hired to bring containers to your event and take care of them throughout the night.  Some even recycle all the waste, so it’s a great way to be green!  They are usually inexpensive, so compare them to what your caterer charges.
  • Other break down –  All other vendors will need to break down their equipment and take it with them that evening.  For example, a DJ or band will not leave their equipment over night.  However, if you rented a stage or lighting, this will be broken down based on the rental companies needs.  Any other entertainment, such as a photo booth or cigar roller, will also break down that evening and remove everything from the venue.


Wedding Shoes & Wedding Hankerchief

Photo courtesy of Ryan O’Dowd Photography


Your wedding planner should stay until the end of your event and follow up with all the vendors to make sure this break down happens according to your plan.  They typically help with making sure all of your items (as listed above) are sent home with the right person, the rentals are all accounted for and packed away for pick up, the florist picks up all their containers (and none were taken home by a guest who didn’t know any better), and to check if there are and damages you will be responsible for.  This all factors into that “peace of mind” when hiring a planner to help with your wedding day, whether full service or as a day of wedding planner. We hope this helps you to understand what to plan for at the end of your wedding night!


If you have questions specific to your wedding please contact us! If you are interested in what family members and bridal party traditionally help with visit our blog about Wedding Day Helpers.

One Response

  1. Mario Mungin
    | Reply

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