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Wedding Terminology - A Master Guide to Learning Wedding Industry Lingo

New wedding terminology can be a hurdle for couples starting their wedding planning. It can feel like you need to be an industry pro just to understand what’s being discussed! Learning the lingo helps you communicate clearly to your venues, vendors, guests, and party members to make sure everyone knows exactly what you want on your big day. But where do you even start? 

Hi, we’re Olio. We’re a flexible, historic event space with an industrial-chic vibe, located in Peabody, MA, just north of Boston. I’m Sarah, the owner and proprietor of Olio, and I also coordinate weddings through my other business, Without a Hitch. I’ve worked on hundreds of weddings over the last decade. With all that experience under my belt, I’ve heard nearly every piece of wedding jargon there is. And I want to help you learn it all too, so your wedding can go as smoothly as possible.  

So, without further ado, here’s our comprehensive guide to wedding terminology! 


Design/Decor Wedding Terminology 

Married couple sitting at table surrounded by spooky alternative wedding decor
Photo by Kirsten Capron at Olio

Alternative Wedding – This is any wedding that’s a bit nontraditional. Perhaps a different colored dress, a funky theme, or changing the typical events to fit the couple’s tastes. 

Bonbonniere – These are more commonly known as wedding favors.  A simple, small gift from the hosts to the guests as thanks for attending, usually incorporated into the decor and theme. 

Candles – We all know what candles are, but there are different types. You can have pillar candles, which stand without a holder; taper candles, which taper at the top; tealight candles, which are small, thin, cheap candles in small cups; or votive candles, which are petite inch-long candles. 

Centerpiece – Decorative display pieces in the middle of your dining and serving tables. 

Charger – No, not a phone charger. This is a large, decorative plate used as a base setting for dinnerware during formal dinners. 

Chuppah – A cloth canopy with four poles used in Jewish ceremonies. The ceremonies are performed under the chuppah, and the four sides are left open to signify hospitality and openness. 

Gobo Lighting – A lighting technique that uses a stencil to project specific designs and shapes onto a surface to enhance a wedding’s theme. 

Installation – A catch-all term for any large art piece constructed for your wedding, whether it be floral, lighting, or some themed structure. 

Mood Board – A collection of photos that create an idea or aesthetic for what you want your wedding to look like, usually made on Canva or Pinterest. 

Palette - A set of colors you want to use for your wedding decor. 

Place Setting- A full set of dishware and cutlery arranged for a single guest at a meal. 

Sweetheart Table – A small table where the couple will sit to eat together. This is in contrast to a head table or family/friends table, where the couple sits with others.

Tablescape – The arrangement of decor on any given table. 

Uplighting – Lighting on the venue's perimeter that shines lights upwards at the walls and ceiling. Good for illuminating large installations. 

Welcome Bag – A bag of small gifts arranged and given to out-of-town guests who have traveled far, usually delivered to their hotel rooms. 

Logistical Wedding Terminology 

A large wedding party all posing and lounging for a fun photo, industrial chic venue space
Photo by Michaela Hession Photo at Olio

Full Planning - This describes wedding planning and coordination packages tailored for couples seeking a full-time professional to manage every detail of their wedding journey. Services encompass vendor coordination, scheduling, marriage license handling, RSVP tracking, timeline creation, overseeing the wedding day, and more. 

Hard Stop – The time when all events must end and guests must be off the venue’s premises. 

In-House – Services offered by a venue’s own vendors, such as in-house floral arrangements or in-house catering.  Ask us about our in-house lighting options! 💡

Partial Planning – Often, this refers to month-of, day-of, or project-specific coordination for couples who enjoy most of the planning but need professional coordination for specific things as the day approaches. 

Rain Plan – Your plan for moving an outdoor event if rain is to disrupt the event. (We highly recommend an indoor venue for this very reason!) 

Room Block – The act of holding several hotel rooms for out-of-town guests, usually at a bundled or discounted rate. 

Runsheet aka a Run of Show or a Cue to Cue or a Detailed Timeline – A minute-by-minute outline of the day-of process, usually created with your planner or day-of coordinator. 

Unplugged Ceremony – This means that your ceremony should be technology-free, without phones or cameras. This clears the aisles for professional photos, so make sure to indicate the ceremony is unplugged with a sign or announcement

Venue Staff – The venue worker who will be onsite to help the event run smoothly from the perspective of the property and make sure folks follow the rules. This is not the same as a planner or coordinator.

Venue Walkthrough – An appointment to walk through a venue, ask any questions, and determine whether it works for your wedding. 

Vendor Meal – Additional meals that will be arranged via the caterer for the vendor workers who will be at the event themselves. Check your individual vendor contracts to see if this is required.

Wedding Coordinator – This can either refer to a wedding planner or, more commonly, a month-of or day-of coordinator that helps everything go smoothly towards the end of the planning process or on the big day itself. 

Wedsite – A fun term used for the wedding website, often paired with a wedding hashtag. Used for wedding info and updates. 

Food/Drink Wedding Terminology 

Lobster dinner being served with corn in a buffet/feasting style dinner at a wedding
Photo by Chubbs Photography at Olio

Al Fresco – A term meaning “in the open air”, usually used to refer to outdoor dining 

Cocktail Hour – A period of time, not necessarily an hour, between the ceremony and reception where guests are served drinks and hors d’oeuvres, most often used for the couple to take additional photos.

Corking Fee – The amount of money charged per bottle of alcohol. This refers to when you provide your own alcohol, and it’s important to discuss corking fees with your caterers and bartenders. 

Canapé - A small pastry or bread piece, usually topped with something savory, served during cocktail hour as an hors d’oeuvre. 

Crudité - A platter of veggies and dip served during cocktail hour or during the reception. 

Duet Plate – A plate that allows for a small portion of more than one protein option on a single plate (ie surf and turf), as opposed to larger portions of only one protein option. 

Dummy Cake – A fake cake or cake layer made of cardboard or Styrofoam. These can be used in many ways to save on cake costs. They can hold several smaller cupcakes, be placed on a sheet cake to make it seem bigger, fill in spaces between layers, and more. 

F&B Minimum - The base fee that the client must pay to book a caterer or a venue. This can make hosting a smaller or alcohol-free wedding challenging. Hint: this is why choosing a venue where you can choose your own caterer is key! Our catering list does not have minimum fees.

Grazing Table – Similar to a crudité, but much broader. Essentially a platter of any appetizers you want to set out for your guests to snack on during the cocktail hour or reception.  

Naked Cake – A minimalistic cake with no outer layer of frosting or decoration to show off the filling. 

Tasting – A service often offered by reliable caterers where they allow the potential clients to test their food by doing a taste test. It’s an important part of choosing a menu for most couples. 

Signature cocktail – A drink or set of drinks the couple decides on to represent them as a couple, served as a special wedding day featured beverage or mocktail. 

Music Wedding Terminology 

Indian married couple, traditional wedding clothes, man spinning bride, industrial chic wedding venue
Photo by PTaufiq Photography

Prelude – The music that plays as people are being seated for the ceremony. Usually very soft and gentle music that starts about 30 minutes before the ceremony invitation time.

Processional – The music that plays when the walking party walks down the aisle. 

Recessional – The more upbeat music that plays after the ceremony as the couple leaves back down the aisle. 

Floral Wedding Terminology 

Long tables filled with colorful flowers and candles
Photo by Lindsay Hite

Boutonnière - A single flower or other plant worn traditionally on a lapel. 

Corsage – A small arrangement of flowers worn on the wrist or on a dress. Traditionally worn by special wedding guests such as mothers and grandmothers of the couple. 

Bouquet – Typically used in reference to the wedding bouquet, a bundle of flowers held by the wedding party. 

Filler – Smaller clusters of flowers that fill in texture and volume to your bouquet, added on top of your main flowers. 

Garland – Any chain or loop of floral material, often used as a piece of wall or table decor. Greenery has been the most popular garland for the last few years.

Flower Wall – Any backdrop with flowers covering it, whether it be fully covered or draped in flowers.

Wedding Attire Terminology 

A groom dipping his bride in their beautiful wedding clothes, fairy lights overhead
Photo by Lena Mirisola

Appliqué - Decorative needlework done on dresses with beads, glitter, lace, etc., used to add artwork to a wedding gown. 

Black Tie – The most formal dress code there is. Typically consisting of tuxedos and full-length gowns and associated with a very formal wedding (multi-course plated meal with wine pairings, evening reception, hosted transportation, and a band).

Black Tie Optional: A dress code like black tie but less strict. Still formal, but it allows for non-tuxedo suits and cocktail dresses, allowing for more personality to shine through. 

Bridal Dresser – A professional who helps a bride get dressed on her wedding day, assisting with any complicated outfit problems or last-minute alterations or touchups.

Bustle – A form of gathering and securing the long train of a dress with hooks, loops, or pins so the wearer can be more active (and dance!).

Convertible Dress – A dress that can be easily converted in a way that allows for freer movement, making quick changes for different events much easier. Usually has a detachable skirt, adjustable sleeves, etc. 

Cufflinks - Decorative device for fastening the sides of a shirt cuff together. 

Cummerbund – Broad waistband worn in place of a vest on a suit. 

Godets – A triangular piece of fabric inserted into a skirt to make it appear more flared and dramatic. 

Makeup Trial – The session where one tries on several different makeup looks with a professional makeup artist to find, tweak, and re-work what the final wedding look will be. 

Sample Sale – A clearing-out event that some wedding dress stores and boutiques will have when they need to clear out some inventory space. Perfect for a budget-conscious dress shopper. 

Trunk Show – A show where the designer shows off their latest line of work, often at a discounted rate. A bit pricier than a sample sale, but also a great opportunity to see pieces that stores will not sell. 

Wedding Terminology – People 

Bride and groom on outdoor steps for portraits on wedding day
Abigail Jean Photography

Attendants or Wedding Party – Anybody who has a specific role to play in the wedding. Best man, flower girl, page boy, usher, etc. They are called this because they have a job to “attend” to in the wedding. This is also a preferred non-gendered term used in place of bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Honor Attendants – These are the closest and most important attendants to the couple, traditionally the maid-of-honor and the best man. 

Hybrid Photographer – A photographer who does both digital and print photography. 

Junior Bridesmaid – A bridesmaid who is a bit younger than a typical bridesmaid, usually ages 8-16. 

Justice of the Peace – A person who has the power to perform civil marriages. There are hundreds of Justices of the Peace in Massachusetts, which is a Governor-appointed role. Typically used as a secular alternative to a religious officiant.

Master of Ceremonies (MC) – The person who introduces the married couple and introduces every speaker. This role is most often played by the DJ or a member of the band, but could also be done by a friend or family member.

Officiant - The person officiating the wedding, whether that be a religious figure, a justice of the peace, an ordained family member, etc. 

Processional – This term can be used to describe the walking of a wedding party down the aisle at the start of the ceremony; it can also be used to describe the party themselves as they walk down the aisle. 

Receiving Line – This refers to when the guests line up to be welcomed by and speak to the newly married couple, most often at the end of a ceremony.

Second Shooter – A backup or secondary photographer. 

Wedding Terminology – Details 

A themed wedding seating chart with seating placements on vinyl records
Photo by Scott Woodman

BEO – A “Banquet Event Order” is a form that goes through every detail of an event, including menu, final costs, space design, etc. It will either come from your venue coordinator or your caterer/bartender. 

Escort Card – If you’re having a seating arrangement where people are assigned to tables but not specific seats, escort cards tell each person their assigned table. 

Flatlay – A photo shot from above. In wedding terminology, it usually refers to a photo of a well-crafted piece of decor, such as stationery or a floral arrangement. 

Guest Books – A large book that guests can sign and write messages to the newlyweds, as a keepsake for the newly married couple. 

Invitation Suite – A term referring to the set of all the various pieces of an invitation, such as the invitation itself, the response card, the stationery, etc. 

Letterpress – One of the most popular printing techniques for wedding invitations, made by inking text onto a raised plate, like a stamp, and pressing down into the stationery to give the text a deep impression in the stationery. 

Micro Wedding – A very small wedding, usually with 50 guests or less, made popular during the pandemic. Different from a minimony in that it doesn’t plan for a bigger wedding at a later date. 

Place Card – The more formal alternative to escort cards, place cards are located at the table and tell guests the specific seat they are provided with rather than just their table. 

Vellum - A translucent type of paper used in many stylized wedding invitations. 

Wedding Event Terminology 

A married Jewish couple holding up their signed Ketubah
Photo by Stephanie Berenson

Ceremony – The actual ceremony where the couple exchanges vows and is wed. 

Reception – The time after the ceremony and cocktail hour where dinner is served, speeches are given, and often there’s dancing. 

First Look – This is the moment some couples choose to have where they see each other in their wedding attire for the first time before the ceremony. This moment is usually captured by the wedding photographer or videographer and may include private vows, exchanges of gifts, or additional family photos.

First Touch – An alternative to the first look, the first touch is when the couple is separated by a door and holds hands for a moment before the ceremony but does not see each other.

Send-Off (Or Exit) - This is when the couple leaves the reception, essentially signifying the end of the reception. The guests will often line up and cheer them on with bubbles, flowers, or other party favors. Traditionally, the couple leaves for the honeymoon, but modern couples often opt for a different timeline. 


And that’s it! We tried our best to only include terms that were super essential or lesser known, and it’s still quite the long list! We hope this list helped you in planning your dream wedding. If you still have any questions, feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear from you. 



Sarah Narcus 

Owner, Olio 



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