Wedding Planning Glossary: A-Z

We’ve compiled an A-Z glossary of the terminology that you’re bound to hear before your nuptials.

By Maggie Mahoney

Your Wedding Planning Glossary: A-Z
Photo by Zola

As you may have already noticed by talking to vendors and/or wedding planners, weddings have their own special language, full of jargon and unfamiliar phrases. Luckily, you don’t have to be the expert on all things wedding—that’s what Zola is here for.

To help you navigate wedding conversations and feel confident in your ability to understand and use wedding terms, we’ve compiled an A-Z glossary of the terminology that you’re bound to hear before your nuptials. Check out the list below and be sure to share it with your partner so that you’ll both be speaking like seasoned pros in no time!

1. Altar

As a technical term, an altar refers to a table at the front of a place of worship. For example, an altar in a church is a table where wine and bread are consecrated during communion services. However, more generally, when it comes to weddings, the altar refers to the physical place where you and your SO stand during your exchange of vows, regardless of whether or not the wedding ceremony is religious.

2. Attendant

A wedding attendant, in a broad sense, is anyone who plays a role in the wedding, in other words, the wedding party. This means the maid of honor, flower girl, ring bearer, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and ushers. Make sure to choose important people in your life whom you trust and love to be wedding attendants.

3. Bustle

Do you want to move freely and dance the night away at your reception? A bustle, a clever tailoring trick where the train of your dress is tucked to make moving easier, will be your best friend. There are several different types of bustles, from the American bustle (where the train is visibly draped) to the French bustle (where the train is hidden). Bustles can be achieved in a variety of ways using buttons, ribbons, or loops.

4. Black Tie

Black tie is a type of dress code, and is something that couples should note on a wedding invitation for their guests’ benefit. Typically, men should dress in tuxedos, and women should dress in long evening gowns.

5. Blusher

Creating a demure appearance, a blusher is a smaller piece of a wedding veil worn over the bride’s face as she walks down the aisle, before she is presented to her partner. In ancient times, blushers were thought to protect against evil, but today they are a classic bridal accessory that commonly symbolizes modesty.

6. Charger

No, we’re not talking about the one for your phone. On the contrary, chargers at weddings denote larger plates that are used at the base of a place setting for plated courses to be placed atop of. Sometimes, these plates also replace placemats.

7. Canape

This term is sometimes said interchangeably with words such as appetizers or small plates. However, generally, canapes are crackers or pastries topped with savory contents.

8. Crinoline

If you want to feel like a princess on your wedding day with an extravagant ball gown, crinoline can help you achieve the look. This stiff piece of fabric can help the skirt of your wedding dress maintain its structure and puffy appearance.

9. Destination Wedding

Do you consider yourself a world traveler? What would be better than sharing the travel bug with your wedding guests for a destination wedding getaway. A destination wedding doesn’t need to be across the seas, but rather any location where you guests need to travel and stay overnight.

10. Day-of Coordinator

Following their namesake, a day-of coordinator is similar to a wedding planner; however, they are hired only for the actual wedding day (or wedding weekend) to make sure that everything runs smoothly. They tend to oversee vendor relations and timelines, as well as handle last-minute issues, if any should arise.

11. Escort Card

The wedding version of a place card, escort cards contain guests' names and their table assignments. Since they are often prominently displayed near the entrance of the reception, we recommend that you match your escort cards to your wedding theme and color scheme.

12. Elopement

Growing in popularity, especially during the pandemic, elopements are an intimate and cost-effective way to get married without a lot of the fuss. Elopements refer to marriages conducted in a more rushed or secretive manner, often with less guests.

13. First Look

Nothing compares to seeing your SO for the first time on your wedding day. First looks allow this moment to be private, planned, and commemorated. They often occur one-on-one with just the couple and a photographer.

14. Fondant

During wedding cake tasting you are bound to both eat and hear about this confection. Contrary to a soft buttercream, fondant is a firmer, more pliable substitute made with sugar and water.

15. Golden Hour

Looking to glow in your wedding photos? Your photographer will likely suggest shooting during this ethereal time of day, before sunset or prior to sunrise.

16. Guest Book

There is no better way to remember your special day than through the words of your loved ones. Guest books are sentimental keepsakes that log both the names of your wedding attendees and their warm wishes and messages for you and your SO. You’ll be reading (and re-reading) these for years to come.

17. Head Table

Seating charts can be tedious to create, but filling in a head table is easy, as you just need to gather yourself, your SO, your wedding party, and/or immediate family members. This seating choice allows all the major figures of the wedding to be prominent in the reception space.

18. Hen Night

This term is used more commonly in the UK; however, you probably know it as a bachelorette party. Hen night celebrations can get wild and are a wonderful opportunity to gather with your closest female friends before the wedding to let loose.

19. Hors D’oeuvres

Similar to canapes, hors d’oeuvres can be consumed in just a bite or two; however, despite their size, they pack a major punch and can leave you wanting more. Serve these small apps prior to dinner during the cocktail portion of your reception.

20. Invitation Suite

There’s more paper components to wedding planning than just saving the date. The wedding invitation suite includes all the pieces that come with a wedding invitation, which includes the response card, itinerary, reception card, and directions and accommodations information.

21. In-House Catering

Venues can take a lot of pressure off of you and your SO by providing a catering service with a chef and staff. This in-house catering allows for a cohesive booking and execution process.

22. Justice of the Peace

Get ready to say I do! Depending on your type of wedding, this term may or may not come into play. However, for context, a justice of the peace is a public officer appointed to perform a variety of tasks, such as hearing minor trials and performing marriages.

23. Kickback

In conversations with vendors, it is important for you to ask them to disclose potential kickbacks that they could be receiving. These refer to commissions on referrals that a vendor receives for getting a client to hire another vendor in their network.

24. Letterpress

Do you dream of fancy wedding invitations with a strong attention to detail? The manner in which you print your invitations matters. Letterpress is a common style of printing, especially for wedding invites, as it results in an extra textural element.

25. Mood Board

Mood boards will become your friend early in your wedding planning process, as they give you an idea of colors, fabrics, and objects that inspire you. Traditionally, mood boards are physical collages featuring images, swatches, and colors; however, there are many digital mood boards, like Pinterest, that you can also utilize. Be sure to show mood boards to your wedding planner and specific vendors to help them better visualize what you want in terms of color, theme, and vibe.

26. Marriage Certificate

Nothing feels more official than a marriage certificate. This significant piece of paper is a copy of your marriage license that has been certified after your legal marriage. It contains details such as your names, date, and location.

27. Nosegay

The bridal bouquet is the centerpiece of the wedding ceremony, but other floral elements shouldn’t be overlooked. Nosegays are often smaller handheld bouquets carried by bridesmaids. Although their contents may be similar to the bridal bouquet their size differentiates them.

28. Officiant

An officiant is anyone who performs the official duties at a legal wedding ceremony. As long as they are ordained, this person could be a justice of the peace, a legal official, or a friend.

29. Open Bar

Your guests will not be disappointed if you and your SO splurge on this part of your wedding reception. Implied by its namesake, an open bar is when drinks have been prepaid by the host, so that the bar is open (at no cost) for the guests’ enjoyment.

30. Place Card

Similar, but not to be confused with escort cards, place cards tell your guests specifically which seat at their table to sit in. Although not always used in favor of open table seating, place cards can be useful for formal events and to help ensure that a thoughtfully crafted seating chart doesn’t go to waste.

31. Palette

Whether you favor earthy tones such as browns and greens, warmer colors, or anything in between, your palette is your selection of colors for your wedding. Most palettes contain at least three colors and inform many wedding decisions, from the bridesmaid dresses to the table linens and flowers.

32. Prelude

Leading up to the processional during the wedding ceremony, the prelude is the music that is played while guests arrive and take their seats at the ceremony venue. Prelude music tends to be instrumental and slightly somber, but you and your partner can mix it up to suit your personal tastes and keep guests entertained during the build-up to the ceremony itself.

33. Room Flip

If you’re into DIY projects, you will love the transformations that occur during a room flip. These shifts signify when a room is completely altered between different stages of a wedding, for example, a switch between the ceremony and reception. Your event space may undergo a room flip if it’s a multi-purpose space that you are using for all parts of your wedding day.

34. Recessional

A recessional is the time following the official marriage ceremony when the bride and groom walk back down the aisle and out of the venue hand-in-hand while music plays. Take advantage of this opportunity for a grand exit with some funky tunes, and be sure to soak up every moment and have your photographer snap some photos.

35. Stag Party

Vegas anyone? You may not recognize the term at first, but the tradition itself is bound to jog your memory. A stag party, also known as a bachelor party, is a pre-wedding ritual that celebrates the groom and his last few nights as a single man. These parties are often composed of the groom’s closest friends, and they can last anywhere from one night to a weekend.

36. Sample Sale

Allowing for those with expensive taste to find great deals, wedding sample sales are clearance events where bridal shops sell their sample designer gowns. Prices are often heavily marked down, sometimes even over 50 percent off of the retail price. Sample gowns are dresses that have been used on the shop floor for brides to try on, and, thus, can range in sizes and price tags.

37. Shot List

If you’re planning on working with a wedding photographer, we recommend devising a shot list with your partner. A shot list is a catalog of the types of photos that you want the photographer to capture. For example, you may ask for a close up photo of you and your partner forehead to forehead at golden hour. You can be as detailed or as general as you want with this list.

38. Sweetheart Table

If a head table isn’t your style, you may want to opt for a sweetheart table, instead. This set-up is a private table for just the newlywed couple at the wedding reception. The table can be placed anywhere you’d like, but it’s commonly front and center in the reception space, so that it’s visible to all the guests.

39. Train

Nothing says drama like a long train on a voluminous wedding dress. Dress trains come in all shapes and sizes, but generally describe the back portion of the dress that trails behind the person wearing the article of clothing as they walk.

40. Trial

Over the course of your wedding planning, vetting your vendors is critical. Trials or practice runs for different services are an ideal way of assessing if a vendor is right for you and also ensuring that you get what you want on your special day. Hair and makeup trials are especially common for brides.

41. Trunk Show

Just as sample sales save you money on a wedding dress, trunk shows do the same, under slightly different conditions. Trunk shows present a wide variety of sample dress styles and varieties; however, they focus on one designer showcasing their work. This sale is perfect if you have a specific designer in mind who happens to be hosting a trunk show.

42. Uplighting

Your wedding reception is the perfect venue to create a cool ambiance. If you like the look of soft light that showcases people’s silhouettes, uplighting may come in handy. This trick refers to strategically placing individual light sources on the floor and pointing them up for a shadowed effect.

43. Usher

If your wedding party is getting full, but you want to include another friend or two in the ceremony, consider making them an usher. In this role, the usher guides or directs guests to their seats at the wedding ceremony. Although ushers are typically younger people, the job can be well suited for anyone who likes to greet people.

44. Veil

Worn on the bride’s head, the wedding veil is a classic accessory. Although not mandatory, many brides choose to wear veils to pay homage to wedding tradition. Veils come in a variety of different styles, from blushers that cover your face to veils that cascade down the back of the head without obstructing the face at all.

45. Videographer

Pictures commemorate your wedding in a beautiful way, but in today’s world, many couples are also opting to make a wedding video to remember their special day. Videographers are the professional (or amateur) cameraman behind creating video films. This often means that the person has expertise with filming and editing video into a succinct final cut.

46. Walk-Through

Planning ahead makes a wedding run smoothly. Walk-throughs are the last time that the couple visits the wedding reception venue with their wedding planner or reception vendor before the wedding. During this time, they ensure that everything looks in order within the space and that all last minute details are ironed out.

47. Waistcoat

Waistcoats are essentially formal vests for men that are worn with suits to add a classy and elevated touch.

48. (E)xit

When you picture the conclusion of a wedding, your mind may go to a couple riding off into the sunset in a sports car with the words “Just Married” written in a sign across the back. That level of drama is what you should strive to embody with your SO during your grand exit. So, consider guests tossing flower petals as they wave goodbye or a sparkler salute.

49. Yichud

Depending on your religious background, this term may not come into play; however, if you’re Jewish (or marrying someone who is), you may encounter the term yichud. Yichud comes from a Hebrew word that translates to together and signifies the moment at Jewish weddings, following the ceremony, when the couple shares a private and secluded moment away from the guests, the wedding party, and everyone else.

50. Zola

Zola is the perfect place to start for all things wedding. No matter the couple, the vision, or the wedding plan process, we can help you craft the special day that you’ve always dreamed of. With our customizable invites and paper, stunning wedding websites, simple registry building tools, venue and vendor lists, and educational resources, wedding planning has never been so seamless.

Now that you have a wedding glossary at your fingertips, go out and put it to use. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of vendors or wedding planners if you encounter unfamiliar terms. Remember, practice makes perfect with wedding terminology.

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