Mother of the Bride: The A-Z of Wedding Terminology

Whether you are the Mother of the Bride, Maid of Honor or a wedding guest, this list will help you understand all those strange sounding wedding terms.
Photo of wedding cake with A-Z text, advice for Mother of the Bride and Maid of Honour

wedding cake

Weddings come with their own language, this is why we have created this list of wedding terms, to help you sound fluent whether you are the Mother of the Bride, Maid of Honour or a wedding guest.

Whether you are a mother of the bride to be or a frequent wedding guest, we are sure that you have experienced the complex language that comes with weddings before.

The feeling of when your mind goes blank and your cheeks slightly pink as you compliment the flowers, next you are asked as a series of complicated questions you don’t quite understand. 

Weddings are really an event like no other. They come with their own language, with phrases none of us has ever heard before and words that seem to have some entirely new meaning. 

bride and groom hugging and flowers

To help you navigate these types of conversations, and to glide through any upcoming wedding with the confidence of a seasoned pro, we’ve put together the ultimate A to Z of wedding terminology. 

We also have some great advice on how the Mother of the Bride can best support her daughter, and her ultimate checklist if you are still after some more pre-wedding info. 

In this glossary, you’ll find words and phrases you’re sure to hear over and over again until the special day is only a fond memory.

1. Altar

wedding set up for the ceremony with chairs walkway and altar

This is one of the terms that who’s definition has transformed slightly over the past few years.

The term traditionally refers to ‘the table in a Christian church at which the bread and wine are consecrated in communion services’ but when it comes to a modern wedding it can take a more general meaning. The altar is the physical spot vows are exchanged, no matter if the ceremony is religious. 

2. Appliqué

black and white photo of bride and groom dancing together

This is a term that you will hear a lot if you are talking to a bride about dress shopping. An Applique is ornamental needlework in which pieces of lace or other fabric are sewn onto the base fabric creating a textured, often 3D effect or otherwise.

3. Black Tie 

fancy wedding table setting

A black-tie dress code will always be written on the wedding invitation. A black-tie wedding will usually take place after 6 pm. Men should be dressed in a dinner jacket and women are welcome to wear either a formal cocktail dress or a long evening gown for the formal affair. For more information about dress codes click here

4. Black Tie Optional 

For this dress code, you should be thinking of something slightly more casual than black tie. Women are still able to wear long o short gowns and men have the option or wearing a suit, although a dinner jacket would still be appropriate.

Wondering what to wear to a specific dress code? Check out this article

5. Bouquet 

Bouquet of flowers wrapped in brown paper

These are bunches of flowers that are carried by the wedding party during the ceremony. Bouquets come in a range of sizes, from the smaller nosegays to much larger more natural shapes. Find some great ways of adding flowers to your Mother of the Bride outfit here

6. Boutonniere 

man in a suit with a white tie and flower

Men would traditionally wear boutonnieres on the left lapel, covering their heart. As a mother of the bride, you could opt for this over the corsage as it gives your arms a little more freedom. 

7. Bustle 

bride walking up steps in her dress

So, have you ever wondered how, exactly, a bride manages to dance and walk in her wedding dress for the whole evening? This is the job of the bustle. 

It is a tailoring trick that uses loops, buttons and ribbons to pull up the back of the skirt to make movement easier. There are many different styles, for the more hidden French to the more dramatic America options out there. 

8. Canapé

photo of canapes

A canape is a small, prepared and often decorative food that consists of a small piece of bread of puff pastry, or a cracker topped with some savoury food, held in the fingers and eaten in one bite.

9. Candle 

flowers and candle floating in water

So, when it comes to candles and weddings, there are really more options out there than we ever imagined. First, there are votive candles which are about an inch-and-a-half tall. They are often used to subtly add details to centrepieces. 

Next, we have taper candles, which are skinny candlesticks, that you would see in holders on tabletops. Finally, there are pillar candles, which stand alone, and are often seen inside lanterns or on tables.

10. Celebrant

 couple getting married

A vicar, a judge or the mother of the bride who got ordained online, the celebrant is the person who officiates the ceremony and has the power to marry the couple. 

11. Centre Piece  

table laid at wedding

The term centre piece refers to the floral arrangements on reception tables. ‘Unsurprisingly, they fill the ‘centre’ of the table, and set the tone of the night’s decor. While vessels and vases are typically filled with blooms, they don’t have to be. We love seeing couples experiment with fruit, greenery - or even just candlelight!’ 

12. Charger 

table set for a wedding meal with cake and flowers

So, in the wedding context, this term has no connection with your electrical devices. A charger is a large plate that is used for the base of a place setting. Plated courses are placed on top of this, think of it as a place matt

13. Chuppah 

wedding decoration

‘Jewish wedding ceremonies are performed beneath a chuppah. This structure consists of a cloth canopy and four poles. The four sides are helft open to represent hospitality to wedding guests. 

14. Cocktail hour

three glasses with wine and flowers in them

A chance to mix and mingle, sip and snack before sitting down for the meal. ‘It usually occurs after the ceremony, acting as a transition from a more serious and emotional moment to the party to come. A great cocktail hour has three things, refreshing drinks, flavorful food, and entertaining music.’

15. Corsage 

bride and mother with flowers in wist

Just as you would see at American high school proms, they are petite flora accessories that are worn on the wrist. The mother of the bride usually is given one to wear, that will have flowers from the bouquets in it. 

16. Day-Of Coordinator 

If a wedding planner isn’t in your budget, a Day-Of Coordinator is someone you can hire to make sure that the day runs smoothly, and will sort out anything that doesn’t quite go to plan. 

17. Desition wedding 

bride walking along the beach carrying her shoes

Ranging from a two-hour drive, or a long haul flight, a destination wedding really refers to anything that means your guests will stay in a hotel rather than being able to return to their homes at the end of the night. 

They are a great way to share one of your most loved foreign locations with wedding guests. The travel elements make them a great way to have an intimate experience with a smaller group of guests. 

18. Engagement Photos 

couple's enagment photos

Engagement photos have become more common, as they are now often being included in packages by wedding photographers. They are a great way to get to know your wedding photographer, get comfortable in front of the camera and make some memories you can treasure in the pictures. 

19. Escort Cards 

Escort Cards are very often confused with place cards (covered below). They are displayed in the entrance to the reception area and direct each guest to their assigned table. 

20. Escort Card Display

welcome board wedding

Rather than having individual cards, some couples chose to use on a large sign. Displaying names of guests either by table or alphabetical order.

21. Favour 

wedding party favour

These are thank you gifts for guests to take home with them at the end of the night. They can be whatever the couple would like, from a fan in hotter climates to charitable gifts in their name, to personalized truffle boxes. 

22. First Look 

bride looking at groom

For those who can’t wait for the ceremony to see their significant other, this is where first look comes in. It is a chance to show each other your outfits, and to squeeze in some photos to free up cocktail hour. 

23. Flower Girl 

flower girl

Along with page boys, these are the youngest members of the wedding party. They will often walk down the aisle before the bridesmaids, in dresses that are somewhat similar, holding a small bouquet of flowers.

24. Flower Wall 

For those who want some major statements for their weddings, flower walls are always a great option, being exactly what they sound like: walls of flowers. 

These dramatic installations of bloom and greenery are stunning backdrops for ceremonies, photos, or bands. 

25. Foundant 

wedding cake with flowers

A surgery icing that is used to give cakes a sleek and smooth exterior, which then can be pained with romantic designs, or used as a base for a cascade of flowers. 

A fondant ‘can be dyed, marbled, moulded, and sculpted to take your wedding cake to the next level. Fondant is edible, however many prefer to remove it before serving slices to guests as it can be very sweet and a little gummy.’ 

26. Garland 

flowers on wedding table

Garlands are strands of greenery and flowers that are used to dress up surfaces at weddings. They can lie on reception tables, draped on the bar, or string through chandeliers and whatever else you could imagine. 

27. Gobo Lighting 

Gobos are stencils that are placed on the front of lights to create patterns that are projected onto the walls and ceiling to create a more immersive feel for a wedding ceremony. 

28. Golden Hour 

couple kissing in goldern hour

Photographers refer to the time just before sunset as the golden hour. ‘During this time the light is soft and perfect for post-ceremony portraits.’ 

29. In- House Catering 

catered food

This means that the food and drink will be handled by the venue rather than an outside vendor. Some venues will require this so it is best to ask when first visiting them.

30. Head Table 

This is a larger VIP table where the newlyweds sit surrounded by either their wedding party of families. It is usually located right next to the dance floor and will have more elaborate decorations.

31. Installation 

lights hanging up as wedding decoration

Floral chandeliers, the flower walls and other impressive, eye-catching arrangements are all called installations.  

32. Invitation Suite 

letter pencil and leaves

This will tell you everything you need to know about the upcoming wedding. Along with the traditional wedding invitation and RSVP card, invitation suites often have maps, internet references and any additional information the guests may benefit from. 

33. Kickback 

Kickbacks, also called ‘referral commissions - are a sum of money a vendor receives in return for getting a client to hire another vendor.’ It is a good idea to ask your vendors about kickbacks to ensure you aren’t paying more to cover a commission. 

34. Letterpress 

This is one of the ‘most popular styles of printing used on wedding invitations, letterpress printing occurs when a plate with raised text (think a rubber stamp) is inked, and then pressed into the paper. 

35. MOH 

two women with their arms wrapped around each other

This stands for Maid or Matron of Honor. Maids of Honor can be a bride close friend or the Mother of the Bride herself. If you're a maid of honour you are responsible for planning the bachelorette party and the bridal shower. On the wedding day itself, you might wear a slightly different dress from the other bridesmaids or carry a different bouquet. 

Wondering how to find your perfect Maid of Honour dresses? Click here and to shop occasion wear click here

36. Mood Board 

creation of a mood board

Think Pinterest board, its a collection of images that you find to inspire and guide you to your own wedding aesthetic. You can share these with your planner and florist to help create the dream day. 

37. Open Bar 

three orange cocktails

This means that the wedding couple is offering a full bar to their guests. This is the most expensive way to serve alcohol at a wedding and if it is not in your budget, don't worry there are other amazing creative alternatives. 

38. Nosegay 

small bunches of flowers

This is a small bouquet of flowers. This can be carried by a junior bridesmaid of the mother of the bride. 

39. Palette 

colour palettes

This is the selection of colours chosen for your wedding day and will influence many distinctions you make during the planning process. ‘Most palettes feature at least three colours - the main colour, a neutral, and an accent - though you may also include a few different shades of each colour for depth (think blush, pink and fuchsia or French blue and navy.)’ 

40. Place Card 

place setting and card

These tell the guests where exactly they are sitting once they have arrived at their table. 

41. Place Setting 

wedding table laid with flower in goldern hour

This is the collections of plates and cutlery need for the dinner service. Find out more here! 

42. Plus One 

This is an additional invite for a wedding guest so they can bring a date, it isn’t uncommon to offer these to some guests and not others. For example, they are usually offered to married guests or those in an established relationship, or to a guest who may not know anyone. But these can vary on the budget of the couple. 

43. Procession 

procession of bridesmaids and groomsmen

Members of the bridal party walk down the aisle before the bride's grand entrance. 

44. Processional 

This refers to the music playing during the procession. 

45. Queen Anne neckline 

bride in queen anne neckline dress black and white photo

Anna Price Olson says it best: You’ve heard of strapless, V-neck, and off-the-shoulder, but what exactly is a Queen Anne neckline? This face-framing neckline is totally flattering and will give your wedding gown royal vibes. A dress with a Queen Anne neckline has a high back and sleeves (cap sleeves or full-length sleeves are most common), which cut away in the front to reveal a sweetheart neckline at the bust. It flaunts your collar bones while keeping your shoulders covered, a beautiful compromise for a bride who wants to show a little skin in a more modest setting. This neckline can also be achieved by wearing a bolero or jacket over a strapless gown with a sweetheart neckline.

46. Recessional 

bride and groom leaving wedding

This is the music that plays when the couple walks back down the aisle after the ceremony. 

47. Rehearsal Dinner 

table set for large dinner party

This usually takes place after the wedding rehearsal and typically involves the wedding party, some family members and some close friends. 

48. RSVP 

‘Répondez, s’il vous plaît! RSVP is a polite (and French) way to ask your guests to please let you know if they’ll be attending your wedding.’ and will usually be attached to the wedding invitation. 

49. Sample Sale 

wedding dresses hanging up in a line

This is a chance to get a wedding gown on the cheap, as salons clear some of their past stock.

50. Signature Cocktail 

cocktail and fruits

Couples can design their own cocktail for their special day and can be a great way of celebrating their happy occasion.

51. Save the Date 

photo of arm with pen, calendar and laptop

This is a chance to let your guests know the date before you send out your formal invitations.

52. Sweet Heart Table 

sweetheart table

This is a table just for the couple themselves.

53. Table Plate

wedding table

This refers to how the overall table looks when everything is put together, from centrepieces to place settings. 

54. Train 

bride in dress with train and flowers

This refers to the long skirt of a brides dress and is great for those brides who want to make a dramatic entrance. 

55. Trial 

woman having her hair styled

This is a chance for a bride to see how her planned hair and makeup will look on the day itself.

56. Usher 

ushers fixing each other's  suits with flowers

Usher can have a useful role during the ceremony, as they can help escort guests to their seats, explain which is the bride and grooms side and even hand out programmes. It is great to have them dressed to match the groomsmen. 

57. Veil 

mother of the bride putting veil on her daughter

A hair accessory to help the bride really make her feel special on her wedding day. They can really vary on length, weight and price, read more on veils here. 

58. Videographer 

video camera

A great addition to many weddings, a videographer will provide newlyweds and their families with a beautiful memory they can treasure forever. From speeches to dancing they can offer an overall vision of the day that photographs can quite match.

59. Walk-Through 

This is a prewedding tour of the vendor to make sure everything is right for you before the big day.

60. Wedding Planner 

This is an outside individual who will ‘orchestrate the wedding from start to finish. This pro handles pre-wedding planning (budgets! spreadsheets ! you name it!), as well as the installation and run of the show on the big day.’ 

61. (E) xit

couple at wedding in evening

When the wedding celebrations are finished a dramatic exit can be a great way to start off married life with a bang. 

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