Wedding Glossary - an A-Z list of wedding words and phrases


Bride holding bouquet of white flowers looking over her shoulder at camera
© Photographed by John Knight

There is a lot of wedding jargon that can overwhelming when you are beginning your wedding planning journey, so I’ve broken it down into a simple A-Z list for you… Altar This is this specific place where you and your partner will exchange your vows during the wedding ceremony.

Best Man/Woman A groom usually chooses a close friend or family member to be their Best Man/Woman; they traditionally organise the stag-do for the groom. Black Tie This is a type of dress code that may be included with the information on the wedding invitation. Traditionally, men would be expected to wear a tuxedo, and women could opt for either a cocktail dress or a long evening gown. Boutonniere / Buttonholes This is a small spray of flowers usually worn by men in the wedding party in their buttonhole. Bow Tie A bow tie can be worn as an alternative to the traditional neck-tie. Bouquet Traditionally, a bride will carry a bouquet of flowers, whilst her bridesmaids carry smaller, simpler bouquets. The bride also used to ‘throw’ the bouquet after the ceremony (see ‘Throwing the bouquet’), but they now often have a different, smaller bouquet specifically for ‘throwing’. Bridesmaids Bridesmaids are the bride’s closest friends and family members, who will usually walk down the aisle before/after her. Budget This is a how much money you have to spend on your wedding. Using a spreadsheet can help you keep track of all your outgoings, so that you do not over-spend. Buffet This is a type of catering where food is laid out on tables in order for guests to choose whatever they want to eat. It is an alternative to a traditional three course meal and is often used at evening receptions. Bustle Wedding dresses often have a bustle, which is a series of loops, buttons, and/or ribbons that are used to hold up the train and hold it in place behind the dress, making it easier for the bride to move. Depending on the style of the dress, the bustle may attach under the fabric or on top of the fabric of the dress. Buttercream This is a type of icing used on wedding cakes that is soft, sweet and creamy. Buttonholes / Boutonniere See ‘Boutonniere’. Calligraphy Calligraphy is a type of elegant handwriting that has become a popular art-form in its own right. It is often used for invitation sets, place cards and table plans. Canapes A canape is traditionally a small, bite-sized portion of food that is served during a drinks reception. Candle There are may different types of candle that you could use in your wedding. From tealights and votives, which are small, low candles; to taper candles, which stand tall on the tabletops in candle holders and candelabra; to pillar candles, which are wider and freestanding. Caterer The caterer is the supplier who provides the food for the wedding, be it in-house or an external supplier. Cathedral This can either be a venue where the wedding ceremony is held, or a reference to a particular length of a bride’s veil. Celebrant A celebrant is one type of person who can preside over your wedding ceremony. They can perform the ceremony wherever you choose (even somewhere that doesn’t not have a ceremony licence), and make it completely personal and unique to you, but it will be a non-legally binding ceremony. Centrepiece Decorations that are placed in the middle of the reception tables are called centrepieces. They are usually the main feature on the tables and could be flowers, candles, lanterns, trees, etc. Chapel A ‘chapel’, like ‘cathedral’, can be either a place where you can get married, or a length of a veil. Charger Plate A charger plate is a large, decorative plate that is the main focus of a place setting. Your meal on its plate will then be placed on the charger plate. Civil Ceremony This is a type of wedding that takes place at venue (a building or free-standing covered structure) or registry office that has been licensed. A civil ceremony will be presided over by a Registrar who can legally marry you and your fiance(e). Comb This is a hairpiece attached to your hair with teeth like a comb. Corsage A corsage is a single flower or small spray of flowers attached to the front of a woman’s outfit or tied around her wrist. Cummerbund A wide sash worn around the waist, on top of the shirt but underneath the jacket. Cutting the Cake This is where you and your new husband/wife stand together to cut your wedding cake and pose for photos. Decorations These include the centrepieces on the tables, the chair decor (covers/sashes), as well as other items including drapes on the walls, free-standing light-up ‘LOVE’ letters, balloons, twinkly lights, dancefloors and anything you can think of that you might use to decorate your wedding. Destination Wedding This is a wedding that takes places somewhere far away from the couple’s home, usually abroad. Dress Code This is the type of clothing expected to be worn by all guests. It is usually mentioned in the invitations, such as ‘smart/casual’, ‘smart’ or ‘black tie’. Drinks Reception This is the reception that takes place immediately after the ceremony. It is often the time when the wedding couple have their official photos taken, whilst guests mingle, have a drink and have canapes (if you choose to have them - see ‘Canapes’). Elopement This is a wedding that is traditionally held suddenly and in secret, away from the couple’s family and friends. More recently, in light of the COVID-19 epidemic, it has come to mean a very small wedding with very few guests attending. Engagement Photos Having an engagement photo session is a great opportunity for you to get to know your photographer and to relax in front of the camera, so that on your wedding day you’re much more natural for your official photos. Entertainment There are many different types of entertainment you could have at your wedding, from magicians and caricaturists to DJs and live music. Evening Reception This is usually the ‘party’ part of the wedding, after the wedding breakfast (see ‘Wedding Breakfast) when there is live music and dancing. Exchanging of Rings This is when the couple exchange their rings (see ‘Weddings Rings’) after saying their vows to each other during the wedding ceremony. Father of the Bride This is fairly obvious; and his main role is to walk with the bride down the aisle and ‘give her away’ to her fiance(e). Favours Favours are small, individual token gifts given to guests to say thank you for attending the wedding. They are usually left at each place setting at the wedding breakfast. Fiance/Fiancee This is the title given to someone that is engaged to be married; ‘fiance’ is usually used for a male and ‘fiancee’ is a female. First Look This is a private moment where you and your fiance(e) meet prior to the ceremony. If you are particularly nervous about walking down the aisle or seeing your partner in the ceremony, this can be a good opportunity to see each other without an audience! It also enables you to get some personal, intimate photos for you to surprise family and friends with afterwards. Florist A florist is the supplier who will create the flower arrangements for your wedding, such as the bouquets, boutonniere/buttonholes, corsages, and decorative flowers at your venue(s). Flowers These include the bouquets, boutonniere/buttonholes, corsages, and decorative displays at your wedding. Flower Girl A flower girl is usually a child who walks down the aisle first, either scattering petals on the floor, or carrying a small posy of flowers. Flower Wall If you want a feature or focal point at your wedding, a flower wall is ideal. They are big displays of artificial flowers and greenery (usually 3x3m in size), which can be beautiful backdrops for your ceremony, behind the top table or to one side for photos. Fondant This is one of the most popular types of icing on wedding cakes. It creates a smooth finish that helps to keep the cake fresh inside and it can also be used to make edible cake decorations. Formal This is a type of dress code, which usually means ‘dress to impress’. Ganache This is a cake filling made of cream and chocolate. Garlands These are long strands of flowers and/or greenery that are often hung up as decorations on railings, pillars, stairs, archways and doorways. They can also be used on tables as finishing touches of decor. Gift Registry These are much less common than they used to be, but couples sometimes choose to create a gift registry, which is a list of items they would like to receive from guests, in order to ensure all gifts are actually something they need and will use. Giving Notice In order to get married and have a civil ceremony, you will need to ‘give notice’ at your local register office at least 29 days before the wedding, to declare where and when you want to get married. To have a religious ceremony, a couple who need to have their ‘banns read’ (see ‘Having Banns Read’). Golden Hour This is something you will probably hear your photographer mention, and it refers to the time just before sunset when the light is soft and perfect for intimate shots of the couple. Guest List This is the list of everyone the couple would like to invite to their wedding, be it the ceremony and reception or the reception only. Having Banns Read If you would like to have a religious ceremony in a church, you will need to have your banns read on three consecutive Sundays in the church you would like to be married in. To have a civil ceremony, a couple who need to ‘give notice’ (see ‘Giving Notice’). Hen Night This is generally known as the bride’s last day/night out as a single, unmarried person. Traditionally it is a female-only event, sometimes lasting for one day full of activities, ending in a night out, and sometimes being a whole weekend away. Daytime activities could include afternoon tea, cocktail making, wine tasting, flower crown making, or a fun sporting activity, such as paddle-boarding; the evening activities could be a meal out, night-clubbing, dancing and party games. Honeymoon This is the holiday (usually abroad) that the newly-married couple take after the wedding. It is becoming more common for couples to have a ‘mini-moon' (see ‘Mini-moon’) after the wedding, and then go on the big honeymoon at a later date; this allows them more time to save up enough money for a big honeymoon. Humanist Ceremony This is conducted by a celebrant (see ‘Celebrant’), and is a non-religious ceremony that is much more relaxed and personal than a civil ceremony (see ‘Civil Ceremony’). There is no legal recognition of humanist ceremonies, so if you want to be legally married and have a humanist ceremony, you will need to have a civil ceremony, usually in a register office just prior to or just after the humanist ceremony. In-house Catering This is when the catering and drinks are provided by your venue and not an external supplier. Intimate Wedding An intimate wedding is one that has a particularly small guest list, with usually less than 50 people in total. Invitation Set The Invitation Set includes everything your guests need to know about your wedding. It would include a save the date, the official invitation, an RSVP card, as well as additional information such as menus, accommodation details or travel information. Lace This is the beautiful, delicate and detailed thread-work that is often used in wedding dresses. Maid/Matron of Honour (MOH) The role of Maid/Matron of Honour is traditionally given to the friend or family member that is closest to the bride. They would be responsible for organising the Hen Night, and helping the bride throughout the day of the wedding with whatever she needs (be it holding her bouquet or holding her dress out of the way when the bride needs a wee!). A ‘Maid’ is unmarried and a ‘Matron’ is married. Marriage Certificate This is the official documentation that you have to sign and keep, which is your ‘evidence’ of your wedding taking place. Mood Board This is the collection of ideas, colours, images and swatches that you have collected to help you plan your wedding. Pinterest is the ideal platform to start with, as there are so many ideas on there already to give you plenty of inspiration. Music Music is usually played as you walk up and down the aisle, during the drinks reception and during the evening reception. You could have prerecorded music or live music, depending on your preferences and your venue’s restrictions. Live music could include singers, string quartets, harpists, DJs or full bands. Officiant This is the official person appointed in civil ceremonies to conduct the marriage ceremony. On-the-day Coordinator If you are planning a DIY wedding, or using a dry hire venue, I strongly advise hiring an On-the-day Coordinator. They will make sure everything is set-up ready for you, oversee all the suppliers, and make sure that the timeline runs according to schedule so you can relax and focus on having a good time with your guests. Open Bar This is when all drinks (wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks…) are openly available to guests, with no bill for them to pay. Page Boy A Page Boy is traditionally a child who walks down the aisle behind the bride, and they carry her train. Photobooth Photobooths are becoming increasingly popular at weddings; they capture fun and entertaining photos of the guests, usually in the evening reception. Photographer A wedding photographer captures as much or as little of the day as you want, from the prep shots as you get ready in the morning, through to the departure shots at the end of the night. Piping This is a way of icing a wedding cake. Place Card These are individual cards with each guest’s name on, and they are placed at each person’s seat for the wedding breakfast. If you are having a more informal open table seating, then they will not be needed. Place Setting This refers to the crockery, cutlery and glassware each person has at the table. Plus One A Plus One is an additional invite given to a wedding guest for them to bring someone of their choice. This might be if the guest has a partner that you do not know or if they do not know anyone else attending the wedding. Pomander This is a round ball covered in flowers, that could be used in the wedding decor or given to members of your wedding party to carry. Post Box / Wishing Well This is where any cards or envelopes containing money (often given instead of gifts) are left by the guests. Procession At the beginning of the wedding ceremony, members of the wedding party walk down the aisle ahead of the bride/groom, with accompanying music playing. Recessional The Recessional is when the couple walk back down the aisle together after the ceremony. Registrar A Registrar can perform a legal civil ceremony at venues that have a ceremony licence. Religious Ceremony This type of ceremony will take place in a religious building (church, temple, synagogue or mosque) that holds a wedding license. It will be performed by a vicar, priest, minister or religious leader. Ring Bearer This is usually a child who carries the rings down the aisle and gives them to the couple during the exchanging of rings. RSVP This literally stands for ‘Répondez, s’il vous plaît!’ in French. This is the traditional way to ask your guests to let you know whether or not they will be attending your wedding. Save the Date These are normally sent out ahead of the official invitation, to make sure that your guests know when your wedding will be. This is particularly important if guests will need to make travel arrangements or take time off of work, as it will give them plenty of time to do so. Seating Plan A seating plan enables the couple to decide who should sit where, and who with, at their wedding. This is also useful for staff to be able to identify people with specific dietary requirements when serving food. Semi-formal This is another type of dress code; it generally means to make more effort with your clothing than normal. Speeches Traditionally, there are three speeches; one by the Father of the Bride, one by the groom/bride and one by the Best Man/Woman. They are usually done after the wedding breakfast (see ‘Wedding Breakfast’) but are increasingly being done during the drinks reception. Stag Do This is the groom’s last day/night out as a single, unmarried person. Traditionally it is a male-only event, sometimes lasting for one day full of activities, ending in a night out, and sometimes being a whole weekend away. Daytime activities could include go-karting, paint-balling, a brewery tour, or a fun sporting activity, such as paddle-boarding; the evening activities could be a meal out, night-clubbing, dancing or going to a casino. Sweet Tables/Carts Displays of sweets in different jars on a table or a cart for guests to help themselves to are becoming regular fixtures of weddings. Throwing the Bouquet The bride’s bouquet (or now it is often a separate, smaller ‘throwing bouquet’) is thrown by the bride to their single friends, and whoever catches it is said to be the next one to get married. Tiara This is usually a sparkly accessory worn on a bride’s head. Trial If you are employing a hair and/or make-up artist, it is likely that you will have a trial with them, so you can decide how you would like to look on the day. Train This is the length of the dress that trails on the ground behind the bride as she walks. Tulle Tulle is a delicate and fine material used in veils and wedding gowns, particularly in princess gowns to create a bigger ‘look’. Tuxedo This is a formal black evening jacket that is worn with a bow tie for extra special events. Usher Ushers direct and escort guests to their seats for the ceremony; they may also hand out ceremony programs if you are having them. Veil Veils can vary in length, material and detail, with some of them having crystals, pearls or lace on. Venue This is where your wedding takes place; your ceremony and reception may be at the same venue, or they could be at different venues. Videographer A videographer captures the day on film, and they add a special element alongside the photographer, giving you a video of your day to watch over and over. Vows These are the promises made by the couple during the wedding ceremony. In a civil or religious ceremony there will be traditional vows to say, but if you have a celebrant-led wedding you will be able to choose and write your own vows. Waistcoat Waistcoats can be worn with suits to create a more formal look. Wedding This is the legal wedding ceremony and reception afterwards. Wedding Breakfast The wedding breakfast is traditionally a three-course sit-down meal, held after the drinks reception (see ‘Drinks Reception’). Wedding Dress This is what you could wear to your wedding. Traditionally, they are white, floor-length dresses, but you could opt for any style, colour or pattern that you choose. Wedding Rings These are the rings you exchange with your fiance(e) during the ceremony, as a symbol of your eternal and everlasting love. They are usually worn on the third finger of the left hand. Wedding Planner A Wedding Planner is a professional person who can help you plan your wedding, and oversee it on the day to make sure it goes according to plan. They are particularly useful if you do not have much spare time to plan a wedding or if you find the whole thing overwhelming. Wedding Website You could use a Wedding Website to display all of the important information about your day for guests to access easily. Wishing Well See ‘Post Box / Wishing Well’. Witnesses You will need two people to act as ‘Witnesses’ who will be present at your wedding ceremony and sign the marriage certificate. Wreath This is a circle of flowers or greenery used in decor, as a centrepiece, or in the your hair as a hairpiece.

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