There are so many decisions to make when you’re planning your wedding, and it can be very difficult to make them if you don’t understand the language used in the wedding industry. 

It can be frustrating and confusing communicating with potential suppliers if you can’t find the words to describe what you’re looking for, and equally difficult when you don’t understand what is being explained to you.

As wedding suppliers, sometimes we forget that the terminology we use in our proposals or quotes, isn’t used in every day conversations, so don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand what something means.

This glossary of wedding terms and phrases I’ve put together, will help you understand some common terms we use, that you might come across during your wedding planning experience:

Aisle Runner – Long piece of fabric positioned in the centre or main aisle of the wedding ceremony for you to walk on.

All-inclusive Wedding Package – Offered by some venues, all-inclusive packages typically include ceremony room hire, canapes and one drink per guest for the drinks reception, 3 course sit down meal with sparkling wine for the toast, evening reception room hire, in house DJ, cold evening buffet. Make sure you check with the venue as to what is actually included, different venues might offer different options or may not offer this is as a package.

Baffle Screen – Used for marquee weddings, a staggered screen placed at the entrance of the catering tent, where it joins the main marquee. It’s used to prevent guests having a direct view of the catering kitchen area.

BEO (or Function Sheet) – A BEO, or Banquet Event Order is an agreement from your venue that includes details on any audio/visual, food and beverage and venue setup (tables, chairs, linens) the venue will be providing. It also outlines the costs, staffing requirements and taxes/VAT.

Buffet Style – Informal dinner service where guests choose what they want to eat from a selection of different options laid out.

Bustle – When the brides train is secured with buttons/hooks under (sometimes over) the skirt to avoid it dragging on the floor. This is usually done for the reception or first dance.

Buttonhole / Boutonniere – A small spray of flowers, or bud pinned to the lapel of a jacket, typically worn by a groom, groomsmen, father-of-the-bride, and/or father-of-the-groom.

Wooden box of buttonholes and wedding corsages in blush and pink

Cake Cutting – Wedding tradition where the couple cut into the cake together and share a small bite which symbolises commitment.

Canape – Typically small piece of bread or pastry with a savoury topping, served during the drinks reception.

Cash Bar – A bar where guests pay for their own drinks.

Ceremony Rehearsal – Run through of the wedding ceremony with all those involved in the wedding (couple, best man, bridesmaids etc). This usually happens the day before the wedding.

Chargers / Charger Plates – Large, decorative plates that are placed underneath a dinner plate. They add colour, depth, and/or dimension to place settings. As they are decorative only, they come in a variety of materials ranging from glass to plastic.

Civil Ceremony – A civil ceremony is a legally binding marriage ceremony without any religious context, performed by a registrar.

Celebrant – An officiant who will lead your ceremony but isn’t allowed to perform a legal ceremony.

Clear Down/Load Out/Tear Down/Take Down/Strike – To take down equipment such as a stage or dancefloor, and clear away items such as tables, chairs, flowers and décor for example, that have been set up for your wedding. Depending on the time you need to leave your venue/marquee site, this happens immediately after your wedding has finished or the next day, depending on what you have agreed with your venue/marquee site.

Contingency Plan – A back up plan for all or part of your wedding day, such as a provision for wet weather.

Corkage (or corkage fee) – A fee paid to your venue or caterer, usually per bottle, when you supply your own alcohol. These fees typically cover the cost of services such as opening, pouring, and serving, as well as the use of glassware.

Wedding couple cutting 3 tier wedding cake with flowers

Draping – Lengths of fabric that are draped from the ceilings or down walls and are often used to decorate marquee spaces. They can also be used as décor for indoor spaces/venues.

Drinks Reception / Cocktail Hour – Takes place straight after the ceremony, usually lasts an hour and a half. Guests can mingle and enjoy a drink and canapes while photographs are taken.

Dry Bar – A bar hired without staff, equipment or drinks.

Dry Hire Venue – A venue you hire that doesn’t provide anything other than use of the space – you’ll need to hire in chairs, tables, cutlery, linens, dancefloor, staging and so on. Examples of dry hire venues are marquees, tipis, and some indoor spaces operate on a dry hire basis too.

Emergency Bridal Kit – Provided by your Wedding Planner, contents include items such as deodorant, plasters, tissues, sewing kit etc for the couple to utilise on their wedding day in case of emergencies.

Escort Cards – Usually displayed near the entrance to the wedding reception, each card has the guest’s name and table number/table name of where they will be seated for the meal. Escort cards are an alternative to a table plan, showing guests where they will be seated.

Exclusive Use – Hire of an entire venue, it’s facilities and staff exclusively for your use for a predetermined period of time. No other events will take place during that period.

Wedding space with ceiling draping

Favours – Small tokens of thanks for wedding guests, these are often edible. Historically these were 5 sugared almonds representing health, happiness, wealth, fertility and long life.

First Dance – The first dance shared between the couple, and typically opens the dance floor for guests to begin dancing.

First Look – When a couple see each other for the first time before the wedding ceremony. It’s an opportunity for a private moment between the couple before they say ‘I do’, and is a beautiful moment your photographer can capture.

Flat Lay – A photo shot directly from above (a bird’s eye view) of an array of carefully arranged objects, such as wedding stationery and accessories.

Floor Plan – A bird’s eye view of how each space for the wedding should be set up.

Floral Installation – A large floral arrangement such as a hanging flower arrangement, a large pedestal, a flower arch or flower wall.

Food Station – Style of dinner service consisting of multiple buffets set up at stations throughout the wedding reception. Food stations allow wedding guests to mingle with others and sample a variety of menu items.

Get-In/Load In – Refers to the specified time for your suppliers to arrive and access your venue/s for any set up before guests arrive.

Gobo – A piece of acrylic or metal that is placed in front of a spotlight to project a message or pattern, such as a monogram onto walls, ceilings and floors.

Golden Hour – The hour before sunset when the light has a golden hue, an ideal time for couple portraits.

Guy Ropes – The ropes used to secure a traditional marquee.

In-House Caterer – Caterers based at the venue; it is sometimes a condition of booking that you need to use the venue caterers in order to use the venue.

Bride and groom dancing by wedding reception table with flowers

Master of Ceremonies (or Toastmaster) – A person appointed to direct proceedings throughout the wedding reception. They will announce the entrance of the couple into the wedding reception and initiate applause, introduce the speakers during the speeches and often announce the cutting of the cake.

Menu Tasting – Offered by most venues and caterers for the couple to sample different dishes in order to decide on their wedding menu. Some venues and caterers charge an additional fee for this.

Monogram – The combined first initials of the couple into a logo that can be used on wedding stationery and gobos.

Non-exclusive Use – Allows you private use of your chosen function space only, other events could be taking place in other areas of the venue, so you don’t have the venue all to yourself.

On-the-day Stationery – Stationery that is used on the day of your wedding, such as Welcome Sign, Order of Service / Ceremony Programmes, menus, place cards, table plan and so on.

Open Bar / Hosted Bar – Bar serving your choice of alcohol (which you pay for) such as beer, wine, spirits and so on, at no charge to your guests.

Blue and white wedding table at Morden Hall with flower centrepieces and blue waterglasses

Pipe & Drape – Adjustable light-weight aluminium tubing that provides a support frame for draping panels. Often used to divide, hide, and / or decorate a space temporarily.

Place Cards – Small cards with the name of the individual guest that is placed at their place setting for the reception.

Place Setting – The individual place setting for each person at the table that includes cutlery, crockery and glassware.

Plated Dinner / Sit Down Dinner – A formal dinner service that usually involves 2 or more courses, served by waiting staff to guests at their assigned seat and table.

Poseur Table – Tall, round cocktail tables that guests can stand at /gather around, mostly used during drinks receptions and evening receptions.

Processional – The music played for the entrance of the bride and bridal party into the ceremony.

Reception – Takes place after the Ceremony and celebrates the couple being officially married.

Recessional – The music that plays as the ceremony ends and the newly-weds and bridal party walk out to.

Registrar – Registrars conduct legally binding marriage and civil partnership ceremonies. They are employed by the local authority and can conduct ceremonies in Register Offices or any building / space that is licenced for civil weddings.

Room Block – A group of bedrooms set aside and exclusively reserved for your guests. Some hotels may require a minimum number of rooms to hold a room block.

Room Reveal – The first time the wedding couple see the wedding reception space, with all the tables and details set, before your guests arrive to take their seats.

Bride and groom just married with flowers in ceremony

Save The Date – Announcement cards that are sent out, usually up to 12 months in advance of your wedding, to notify guests of your wedding date. These are sent out before the actual wedding invitations.

Shot List – A list of the formal photos you’d like your photographer to take, this is provided ahead of the wedding day to your photographer.

Signature Cocktail – A featured cocktail personal to the couple – they can be created to represent a theme, colour or mix of the couples’ favourite drink.

Stationery Suite – All your designed paper goods for the wedding, usually includes save-the-date, invitation, outer and inner envelopes, RSVP response card, and on-the-day stationery such as wedding program/order of service, menus, place cards, table plan.

Sweetheart Table – A smaller table for the reception that solely seats the newlyweds, while the rest of the bridal party and immediate family are seated elsewhere.

Signature wedding cocktail in tall glass

Tablescape – The whole design for your wedding table. This includes linens, place settings, florals, centrepieces, candles, and so on.

Table Numbers / Names – Indicates where guests are to sit for the reception dinner and corresponds with their escort card or the table plan.

Table Plan – An overview of each table to show guests where they will be sitting for the reception dinner.

Timeline – A document used by wedding suppliers to make sure every detail for your wedding is accounted for. A wedding day timeline usually includes the time and location of all events happening that day and is produced by your Wedding Planner (if you are using one).

Tray Service – Drinks and / or canapes served by wait staff to guests, usually during the drinks reception.

Trussing / Lighting Truss – The poles/structure used to hold lighting – they are used to hang and support lighting such as festoon lights.

Turnaround – If you are using the same space at your venue for the ceremony and reception, the venue will require time to change the room around and reset it to fit your requirements. This is known as turnaround.

Uplighters – Set around the perimeter of a room, they are small lights that are placed on the floor with their beam projecting upwards, they can be set to any colour.

Vendor – Another word for a supplier.

Venue/Wedding Co-ordinator – A venue or wedding co-ordinator works for the venue, as opposed to an independent Wedding Planner hired by a couple. They’ll act as a liaison between you and the venue operations team, which means they’ll show you the venue, help co-ordinate any services offered on-site and be your point of contact in the lead up to your wedding.

Wedding Breakfast – Not actually breakfast, it’s the traditional name for your first meal as a married couple.

Pink wedding tablescape with gold cutlery and bud vases

Download this handy guide as a PDF here.

To find out how I can support you during your wedding planning, discover my services here.

Image credits: Shelby Ellis Photography | Sophie May Photography | Pinky Promise Photography | Summers Photography | Neli Prahova Photography