50 Wedding Planning Terms Every Engaged Couple Needs to Know

Say hello to your new wedding dictionary.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Jan 18, 2024

As you plan your big day, you'll be introduced to lots of wedding planning terms that may not be part of your everyday vocabulary. So to help you avoid any overwhelm and confusion, we've created an official wedding glossary with the assistance of Amy Nichols, Owner and luxury wedding planner of Amy Nichols Special Events, and Holly Gray, Owner, wedding planner and stage designer of Anything But Gray Events. With our essential list, you can spend less time worrying about what you don't know about weddings, and instead, dazzle everyone with your dictionary-level understanding of the process. (Psst. That leaves you with more time for cake tastings.)

Basic Wedding Terminology

These are some of the most essential wedding planning phrases and terms. Once you know these words, everything else on our wedding words list will feel like a piece of cake.

1. Appliqué

    noun | Hand or laser-cut pieces of fabric that are sewn onto a dress––that creates a textured look.

    2. Black Tie

      noun | A standard formal wedding dress code that typically applies to ceremonies that begin after 5 p.m. local time. Typically, a black-tie dress code requires a formal-length gown or tuxes for guests.

      3. Cocktail Attire

        noun | A form of attire for weddings and events that requires clothing, like knee-length dresses, elevated jumpsuits or a suit with a tie). This is less formal than a black tie dress code.

        4. Day-Of Coordinator

          noun | A designated pro who ensures everything goes according to plan on the wedding day. This is just one of the types of event planners you can book for your celebration.

          5. Elope

            verb | The act of secretly marrying. This decision is often perceived as a romantic gesture between spouses with very few (or no) witnesses.

            6. Fixed Expense

              noun | "Any line item in your budget that generally won't vary based on your guest count (such as photography or a DJ). Examples of non-fixed expenses include things such as catering, rentals and flowers––those costs will go up or down based on your final guest count," Nichols explains.

              7. Golden Hour

                noun | The time before sunset when natural lighting is deemed best for taking photos.

                8. In-House

                  adjective | "This refers to anything that's included with a venue. Such as in-house tables and chairs and in-house coordinator. Often venues will have 'in-house' chairs for a ceremony, but you can choose to upgrade your chairs," Nichols says.

                  Golden hour definition
                  Design: Tiana Crispino

                  9. Invitation Suite

                    noun | A grouping of invitation items that includes the formal invitation, an RSVP card and additional resources, such as accommodations, directions and wedding website information.

                    10. Joint Bach Party

                      noun | A bach party that combines the guest lists of both partners.

                      11. Rain Plan

                        noun | "This is your Plan B (or maybe even Plan C) if it rains on your wedding day. Your rain plan will typically only impact the parts of your wedding that are outdoors," Nichols tells us.

                        12. Registry

                          noun | A service provided by retailers and brands to help couples (and future parents) share their desired gifts with loved ones. This is a tool used to aggregate products, experiences and even charity funds.

                          13. Run Sheet

                            noun | A document that has a summary of the event, like the day-of schedule, vendor contacts and much more.

                            14. Sneak Peek

                              noun | "This is simply a selection of images for you to share during that post-wedding glow. It could be as few as 5-10 images, or even up to 100 images shared within a day to a week of the wedding––this isn't your full wedding gallery," Nichols explains.

                              15. Wedding FAQ Page

                                noun | An informational section on a couple's wedding website that allows guests to review frequently asked questions. This portion of the site can include answers to parking availability, dress code and itinerary details.

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                                16. Wedding Website

                                  noun | An all-in-one resource for guests for couples' wedding plans. This tool often includes key dates, local information, important links, their wedding registry, photos of the couple, their love story and much more.

                                  Run sheet definition
                                  Design: Tiana Crispino

                                  Decor Wedding Terminology

                                  When you're speaking with your wedding planner, venue staff and designer, you'll need to know the right wedding lingo so everyone is on the same page. This will help you create the wedding of your dreams.

                                  17. Charger

                                    noun | "This is larger than a dinner plate and is a component found under the plate that remains at the table throughout each course. While they aren't essential to a dinner service, they finish the look and design of a tablescape," Gray says.

                                    18. GOBO Lighting

                                      noun | An abbreviation of "go-between optic," which is a circular stencil placed over lighting to project designs on walls, ceilings and floors. "A GOBO is an object placed inside or in front of a light source to control the shape of the emitted light and its shadow," Gray explains.

                                      19. Nosegay

                                        noun | A small bouquet usually held by wedding party attendants.

                                        20. Room Flip

                                          verb | When a room is changed between different stages of an event, like decoration and seating transformations. "What this typically refers to is that a room used for one function (usually the ceremony) is then 'flipped' to be used for dinner after cocktail hour," Nichols tells us.

                                          Gobo lighting definition
                                          Design: Tiana Crispino

                                          Contract Wedding Terminology

                                          Understanding the wedding terminologies used in contracts will save you a lot of stress and confusion. Here are six vital words every to-be-wed should know.

                                          21. Attrition

                                            noun | "The amount of rooms a hotel will let you reduce from what's contracted. So if your hotel block has 20 rooms in it, and the block allows for 10% attrition, this means that you (the couple) are financially on the hook for the block to book to 90% (or 18 rooms)," Nichols explains.

                                            22. Certificate of Insurance

                                              noun | "The certificate proves your business or client is currently insured and up to date on their insurance services. This is required for all vendors and the engaged couple at a wedding venue," Gray says.

                                              23. Force Majeure

                                                noun | Translated from French, the word means "superior force" or an "act of God." The word is often a contract clause to address unforeseen events that may happen on the wedding day.

                                                24. Guarantee

                                                  noun | "This refers to the minimum number of guests you're committing to for hosting your wedding at a venue. A property may require you to have a guarantee of at least 100 guests. This means your guest count can exceed that, but if your guest count drops below it, you'd still financially be responsible for the costs of 100 people," Nichols clarifies.

                                                  25. Per-Person

                                                    noun | "This refers to your overall wedding budget on a per-person basis. For example, if your wedding budget is $100,000 and you have 100 guests, your per-person budget would be $1,000. Ask prospective planners what their clients typically spend on a per-person basis to know if they're a good fit for you," Nichols says.

                                                    26. Plus-Plus

                                                      noun | Service charges, taxes and gratuities added to a base price, which is usually written as "++."

                                                      room flip definition
                                                      Photo: Tiana Crispino

                                                      Catering Wedding Terminology

                                                      A lot of catering-related wedding terms and phrases are self-explanatory, but some need extra details. Here are some of the most wedding catering words everyone should know.

                                                      27. Canapé

                                                        noun | A small cracker, piece of bread or pastry that is typically topped with a savory food.

                                                        28. Fondant

                                                          noun | A soft and sugar-based dough that is moldable and gives a smooth finish to cakes, unlike frosting.

                                                          29. Groom's Cake

                                                            noun | "[This dessert] is a cool opportunity to have a non-traditional cake that can reflect the groom's interests. Some brides will plan a groom's cake as a surprise for their groom, and some couples choose to serve them at their rehearsal dinner as a fun dessert option," Nichols explains.

                                                            30. Hors d'Oeuvre

                                                              noun | A French word that translates to "outside of the work," it's a small, typically savory, appetizer that's served hot or cold at an event.

                                                              31. On-Consumption

                                                                noun | "On-consumption means 'what is consumed.' This is typically used when talking about beverage pricing. If a venue charges $50/bottle of wine, and your guests drink 30 bottles, your wine bill would be $1,500," Nichols breaks down for us.

                                                                32. Plated

                                                                  adjective | "A meal served to each guest at a table. An alternative would be buffet dinners, family style or food stations," Nichols says.

                                                                  Fondant definition
                                                                  Design: Tiana Crispino

                                                                  Rehearsal Dinner Wedding Terminology

                                                                  As a wedding planner with a theater and stage management background, Gray knows all about how to prepare before the big day. These are the top three words Gray thought you need to be aware of before the rehearsal dinner.

                                                                  33. Cue

                                                                    noun | To give someone a signal to do a certain action.

                                                                    34. Find Your Light

                                                                      idiom | "[When a person] steps into a physical light source. [For example, a couple needs to] 'find their light' as they step into the warmth of the spotlight on them so they can be seen by guests," Gray explains.

                                                                      35. Hit Your Mark

                                                                        idiom | "The precise placement of a person at a specific point on the stage or set at a particular moment. In a wedding, the word can reference the couple 'hitting their mark' as they enter the dance floor to center stage for their first dance," Gray says.

                                                                        Nosegay definition
                                                                        Design: Tiana Crispino

                                                                        Ceremony Wedding Terminology

                                                                        As your special day slowly approaches, you'll start to hear the following wedding slang come up again and again. Get ready for a quick lesson on ceremony wedding planning terms.

                                                                        36. Declaration of Intent

                                                                          noun | "The only element required for a wedding to go forward is the couple's declaration of intent, which is often the 'I do' or 'I will' portion of the ceremony. Along with the signed and witnessed marriage license, the DOI makes the wedding a legally binding event," Gray summarizes.

                                                                          37. First Look

                                                                            noun | "This refers to if a couple decides to see each other first for a special moment (which their photo and video team will capture) privately before the ceremony," Nichols says.

                                                                            38. Marriage License

                                                                              noun | This document grants a couple permission to legally wed with the officiant's signature (and often, a witness) and is an official document obtained from the registrar's office in the precinct where a couple plans to marry.

                                                                              39. Microwedding

                                                                                noun | A small wedding with a maximum of 50 guests.

                                                                                40. Processional

                                                                                  noun | "The family, wedding party and couple walking into the ceremony, most often down a center aisle, before the start of the wedding ceremony," Gray describes.

                                                                                  41. Receiving Line

                                                                                    noun | The group of people who stand in a line after the wedding ceremony or right before the reception at the venue's exit/entrance to greet guests. The newlyweds, their parents and other hosts are expected to be in this line.

                                                                                    42. Recessional

                                                                                      noun | The family, wedding party and couple walking out after the ceremony. This portion of the ceremony highlights newlyweds celebrating their union with guests, who often shower the couple with love.

                                                                                      Plus-plus definition
                                                                                      Design: Tiana Crispino

                                                                                      Reception Wedding Terminology

                                                                                      Give yourself a pat on the back because you've made it to the last eight words related to a wedding. Now, you can feel confident in all your wedding planning discussions.

                                                                                      43. Champagne Tower

                                                                                        noun | A pyramid-shaped structure that is comprised of cocktail glasses. Typically, champagne is poured at the top of the formation so it cascades into and fills each vessel.

                                                                                        44. Escort Card

                                                                                          noun | A small indicator that informs guests where they'll sit during the reception. This card can be a piece of paper, name tag or other item that displays a guest's name and table number.

                                                                                          45. Head Table

                                                                                            noun | A table where the newlyweds, wedding party and other VIPs sit during the reception.

                                                                                            46. Last Call

                                                                                              noun | The time guests are told the bar will close soon and to get their final drinks. This action can be done by a wedding DJ and helps guests know the reception is about to end.

                                                                                              47. Lounge Seating

                                                                                                noun | Chairs, couches, stools and more used for a relaxed social area at an event. At a wedding, one would usually find this type of seating at the cocktail hour or during the reception.

                                                                                                48. Open Bar

                                                                                                  noun | A type of bar at an event where the host pays for all the guests' drinks.

                                                                                                  49. Pipe and Drape

                                                                                                    noun | Aluminum or steel pipes and drapery that are used to separate spaces, act as a backdrop or hide unpleasing areas of a venue.

                                                                                                    50. Signature Cocktail

                                                                                                      noun | A drink that is the star of a couple's wedding cocktail menu. To-be-weds love personalizing the beverage with a unique name and/or ingredients.

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