Understanding Wedding Terminology: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding Wedding Terminology: A Comprehensive Guide

Weddings are a beautiful celebration of love and commitment, but they also come with their own language that can be confusing for those not familiar with the intricacies of planning a wedding. Whether you're a bride, groom, or just someone attending a wedding, understanding the key terms can help you navigate the event with ease. Let's break down some common wedding terminology to help you feel like an insider:

*Altar: The front part of the ceremony space where the couple stands to exchange their vows. It can be a simple or elaborate setup, often decorated with flowers or an arch.

*Arbor: A wooden or metal framework often used as a backdrop for the wedding ceremony. It’s usually adorned with flowers, greenery, or fabric and serves as a beautiful focal point where the couple exchanges their vows.

*Bridal Party: This group includes the bride, groom, and their closest friends and family members who participate in the wedding ceremony. Key members include bridesmaids, groomsmen, the maid of honor, and the best man.

*Charger Plate: A large decorative plate that sits beneath the dinner plates during the reception. It’s not used for food but adds an elegant touch to the table setting.

*Civil Ceremony: A non-religious wedding ceremony conducted by a legal official such as a judge or a justice of the peace. It is often held at a courthouse or other secular location.

*Cocktail Hour: The time between the ceremony and the reception where guests are served drinks and hors d'oeuvres. It’s a chance for guests to mingle while the wedding party takes photos.

*Destination Wedding: A wedding held in a location away from the couple's hometown, often in a picturesque or exotic location. Guests usually travel and sometimes stay for several days.

*Elopement: A small, intimate wedding, often without guests, that typically takes place in a location special to the couple. It emphasizes privacy and simplicity.

*Escort Cards: Cards that direct guests to their assigned table at the reception, but do not specify a particular seat at the table.

*First Look: A private moment before the ceremony where the couple sees each other for the first time in their wedding attire. It allows for photos and helps calm nerves before the ceremony.

*Golden Hour: The last hour before sunset and the first hour after sunrise provide perfect lighting to capture stunning photos

*Head Table: A table at the reception where the bride, groom, and often the bridal party are seated. It is usually placed in a prominent location facing the guests.

*Officiant: The person who performs the wedding ceremony. This could be a religious figure like a priest or rabbi, or a secular official like a judge or justice of the peace.

*Open Bar: A bar where guests can enjoy drinks without having to pay. It’s a popular choice at weddings, offering a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as part of the reception festivities.

*Place Cards: Cards that indicate specific seating assignments for each guest at the reception.

*Processional: The formal entrance of the bridal party at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. It usually starts with the bridesmaids and groomsmen and ends with the bride walking down the aisle.

*Recessional: The departure of the couple and bridal party at the end of the ceremony. It’s often accompanied by upbeat music and celebratory gestures, marking the official conclusion of the ceremony.

*RSVP: An abbreviation for the French phrase "Répondez, s'il vous plaît," which means "Please respond." It’s a request for guests to confirm their attendance at the wedding.

*Save-the-Date: A pre-invitation sent out to announce the wedding date and location. It allows guests to mark their calendars before receiving the formal invitation.

*Tablescape: The arrangement of decorations, centerpieces, and place settings on a reception table. It sets the tone and style of the wedding reception.

*Tulle: A lightweight, net-like fabric commonly used for wedding dresses, veils, and decorations. Its delicate and airy texture makes it ideal for adding a romantic touch to the wedding décor.

*Vows: Promises exchanged by the couple during the ceremony. They can be traditional or personally written to reflect the couple’s unique relationship.

*Wedding Registry: A list of gifts that the couple has chosen from various stores. Guests can use the registry to purchase items the couple needs or wants for their new life together.

*Wedding Stationery: All the paper goods associated with the wedding, including invitations, save-the-dates, programs, and thank-you cards. High-quality stationery sets the tone for the wedding and provides guests with essential information.


Understanding wedding terminology can transform your wedding experience from daunting to delightful. With this guide, you’re well-equipped to navigate the world of weddings, whether you’re planning your own or attending someone else’s. Dive into the celebration with confidence and savor every moment of this beautiful journey!