The wedding is at 2pm on Saturday. They wanted me to come in around 12pm to set up the cake. I will be stacking the cake, putting on ribbon and a small bead border around the bottom of each cake (3 tiers). I want to get there around 10-11am to give myself more time to get things put together and a cushion just in case something happens. They don't care either way. I don't want to get there to early and the cake just sits there for 4 hours though. It's hot; it's going to be very hot that day, in the 100's possibly. Is 4 hours to early to set it up? It will be inside an air conditioned church reception hall but as we all well know that doesn't guaranty it will be cool in there.
I would say be there for 11:30 am.That should give you enough time!! By the time you set up completely it will be about 1pm so that is only an hour away from the reception!!
You could shoot for 11:00, but I think 2 hours will give you plenty of time. You'll be surprised at how fast set up can go. I think it takes me about 20 minutes now to set up the cake and finish piping the border on.
My rule of thumb is to be at the reception site at least 2 hours prior to the wedding time. I want to give myself enough time for assembling, doing any needed final decorating, and cleaning up after myself. For your specific case, I'd say to be there by 11:00.
If you're new at this.........give yourself plenty of time. Rushing will only cause potential errors/catastrophies! I also do wedding photography and I see cakes set up long before the two hours your considering. I'm always able to photograph the cake when I get there....which is two hours prior to the ceremony. These gals are setting up at least 3-4 hours before. Just a FYI! Good luck~