How to Make a Wedding Day Timeline (That Will Actually Work)

Wondering where to start with your wedding day timeline? When you’re planning your own wedding and trying to figure out your day-of timeline, it can be overwhelming knowing just how to begin.

For DIY weddings particularly, the wedding day timeline is a road map for the entire day that includes lots of details – large and small. But like any task, the simplest way is to break it down into smaller chunks, and work your way through one step at a time.

As a wedding coordinator specializing in DIY weddings, I’ve helped lots of couples make their wedding day timeline, and here’s the exact approach I use each and every time. I know this works, and hope it helps you!

How to Make a Wedding Day Timeline

how to make a wedding timeline

STEP 1: Start with the ceremony time

Pick your ceremony time first because all other events revolve around the ceremony start time. The most common ceremony start times I see are 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., but you can choose any time that feels right for your wedding.

STEP 2: Estimate and assign times to all reception activities

From there, estimate and assign times to all the big things comes after the ceremony: cocktail hour, introductions, dinner, first dance, speeches, cake cutting, etc. Start with the cocktail hour, and work your way right through the reception to the last dance.  

STEP 3: Go backwards from the ceremony until you wake up in the morning

Next, work backwards from the ceremony figuring out what times you’ll need to start taking pictures, need to be dressed, need to finish hair and make up (if you’re doing those), need to start hair and make up, and all the way back to what time you need to eat breakfast and wake up.  

STEP 4: Fill in your timeline with the smaller details (hint…this is the crucial step!)

This is the most important part to ensure a smooth wedding day. Once you have the big items in place, you want to go back in and fill in all the smaller details of the wedding day. For example:

  • What time are the vendors supposed to arrive, and where are they supposed to go? If it's not on the timeline, no one is going to know if a vendor is late or where to direct vendors to when they arrive.
  • When should the bridesmaids have their bouquets? If it's not on the timeline, the bouquets may miss the pictures. (This happened at my own DIY wedding before I was a wedding coordinator, and we have lots of pictures without all those beautiful flowers we paid for – oops!)
  • If you’re DIY-ing some food like appetizers or dessert, when should those start being prepped and what time should they be put out? If the prep time isn’t included in your timeline, they may end up being ready to go out later than you would like.

As you add these smaller details to your wedding day timeline and likely make some adjustments, be sure to add times for these details as well and assign people to handle the various tasks. This way whoever is coordinating or acting as the point person for your wedding day knows all the tasks that are supposed to happen and who is handling them (not just the big events).

And voila – that’s it! At first it can seem like a lot, but once you get into it, things quickly start clicking into place. When the entire day is mapped out – small details and all – you’ll feel relief knowing you have a really strong plan in place for the day that will free you up to relax and enjoy it all.

Want to make sure your timeline covers  the important details on your wedding day?

Get a free series of emails guiding you through the process (including free DIY downloadable wedding planning checklists), at

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