The Ultimate Wedding and Elopement Planning Dictionary
So you're engaged - woohoo! Time to start planning - are you going to elope or having a wedding or maybe a micro wedding? What style of bouquet do you want? Will your venue have a day of coordinator? Did you get your room block locked in yet? What style of photography do you want? If you've asked yourself any of these questions and found yourself Googling with increased frequency lately, then you've come to the right place. I'm here to give you a list of ALL the unusual wedding terms you will need to know that you probably don't already know, what they mean, and how they'll apply to your wedding planning journey - broken down by category. Because I love you!
I have a whole blog post that goes into a lot more detail about the nuances between elopements, micro weddings, and mini-monies that you can read here too.
A wedding or elopement that involves traveling to a location that is not local to your home. This could be drivable or something international and involves almost all guests needing to reserve overnight accommodations.
A unique celebration of marriage usually containing just the people getting married and maybe immediately family or a few witnesses. This is extremely personalized, and the possibilities for where and when to elope are endless as you don't need to consider anyone but yourselves.
An intimate wedding celebration usually containing 50 people or less.
An intimate ceremony-only wedding (and sometimes a small dinner) that usually implies a larger party at a later date.
An epic celebration of love and marriage with family and friends (typically more than 50 people) usually containing a ceremony and reception portion, at the very least.
A traditional Celtic ceremony that involves a binding together of the couples' hands with a rope or ribbon(s). You can see these in Pagan, Wiccan, or even many modern non-secular ceremonies today. This is where the term "tying the knot" comes from!
The person who pronounces you as married and runs the ceremony. This can be a religious figure such as a priest or rabbi, a solemnizer (usually granted by the state you're getting married in with a one-day license), or someone who has a license to wed in your state. *Note: in some states, like Colorado, you can self-solemnize your marriage - useful for elopements*
The processional is when you walk into the ceremony, typically down an aisle. The recessional is the opposite of this - when you exit the ceremony. This can include your officiant, important family members, wedding party, and the people getting married and is oftentimes set to music.
Promises made to one another during the ceremony to be upheld throughout your marriage. These can be a series of statements repeated after the officiant, readings to one another, or really anything you want them to be. AKA - your "I Dos"
Different venues have different names for this (personal attendant, designated attendant, butler, designated server), but they almost always mean the same thing - a server who is assigned to you for the entire length of your reception who will bring you food and drinks when you need them and sometimes will have other duties such as assisting in packing up decor at the end of the night. Essentially, they're there to take care of you and your VIP's needs throughout your wedding night.
A modern modern, elegant style of chair that is not collapsible. It typically has a removable seat cushion and is more square shaped in nature.
This is typically a one-hour long portion of your reception (sometimes 1.5 - 2 hours though). It is usually
These are the more structured moments of the wedding or even the more traditional moments including things like parent dances, cake cutting, toasts, bouquet toss, and so on. They are usually scheduled into your timeline. Many people who are getting married these days are forgoing these formalities or making them uniquely their own.
A table where the couple's wedding part sits all on one side of the table facing the rest of the guests. It usually doesn't involve significant others of the wedding party and is more traditional.
People often mistakenly call this the head table, but really this is the technical term for a table consisting of the couple, their wedding party, wedding party's significant others and sometimes parents as well. I like to picture a big old feast around the dinner table! These can get rather large but rather fun!
Offsite/ Onsite Catering
There is a huge difference between off and onsite catering, and not all off/onsite caterers are created equal. Offsite catering is catering done at a location that is not the venue for your event. It's typically cooked in a kitchen where the caterer is located, put into hot food storage boxes and trucked to your venue. Onsite catering is cooking that happens at your venue. Now this can either be with the venue's own catering staff and a fully operational kitchen, with a preferred caterer in an onsite kitchen or with a caterer that has to bring all of the equipment to the location and set up what's called a field kitchen, typically in a tent (these are most common at tented weddings or in non-traditional venues). Be sure to ask your caterer how they prepare your meals if food is an important part of your experience!
A higher-end fabric tent that typically is held up by wooden poles and has a thick, beautiful linen-like texture to it. This is especially beautiful for coastal, vineyard, and garden weddings adding a rustic touch.
A dinner table for two typically facing the guests. But in some parts of the US it's tradition to put the sweetheart table in a private room so that the couple can have a quiet dinner alone before chatting with guests.
There are so many important terms when it comes to food that it needed its own category beyond the reception.
Food served in large quantities usually at one or several large tables for guests to serve themselves. Sometimes this will also include carving stations or a few servers behind the food to give to guests. This allows for flexibility in guest choice of food, but it also can be more costly.
Food that is presented at each table in large dishes for sharing amongst those 6-12 other guests seated with them. Think Thanksgiving! Consideration: don't have large centerpieces to make room for big dishes of food at each table.
Usually present at cocktail hour where the food (usually presented in themes such as charcuterie, Mediterranean, Antipasto, etc) is spread across the table in a manner such that it takes up the whole or most of the table. This showcases an abundance of food all artfully presented and usually does not get replenished like a traditional station.
Hors D'Oeuvres/ Canapes
Small one to two bite foods that can be passed on trays by servers or presented on stationary displays during your cocktail hour. Think appetizers!
Late Night Snack
A food offering that comes out usually in the last hour to thirty minutes of your wedding and after your dessert. It's a little pick me up to soak up all that booze that's been consumed before leaving for the night. It satisfies those late night munchies! Ideas of this might include: burgers and fries, popcorn, breakfast sandwiches or a pizza truck. Consider also doing these as to-go options to send your guests with at the end of the night instead of favors!
A drink of choice that is featured to your guests, typically on a small bar menu, for the evening. Sometimes they will be seasonal offerings like a spiked apple cider or vodka lemonade, other times they are the couples' favorite drinks, or they might just look pretty and have a cute name like "The I Do Brew".
Those adorable string lights that you would typically see at a beer garden - the larger light bulbs that are spaced out along the strand.
A decorative plate that goes under all of your other plates and does not get cleared between courses. This plate is usually much larger than a standard dinner plate coming in around 13" in diameter. It is a great way to add a pop of color/ design flair to any guest table!
Those tiny little lights (usually LED) that are usually on a metal wire - great for filling in flowers, jars, and placing on accent tables for extra ambiance when candles aren't allowed.
Traditionally, this would be a physical book that all of your guests would sign and sometimes write words of advice or well-wishes. Now, it can be done as a board to sign, jenga pieces, a polaroid book, a date night idea jar, or anything else you can think of to have people write on.
The type of glass that has a weathered, distressed look to it and is usually in a metallic shimmered color such as copper, gold, or silver.
Tall, thin candles usually stuck into a candlestick or candelabra.
Small candles the size of a shot glass. These are slightly bigger than and last longer than tea lights.
Usually a set of buttons or loops and strings used to "tie up" the train of a wedding dress for the reception so that guests don't step on it all night long. This is created custom by your seamstress.
A dress that has a lace-up back - great for flexibility in sizing and allowing a more cinched in look for part of the day and a looser fit for eating and dancing.
Suit vs Tux
A tux traditionally has satin lapels and a satin trim down the sides of the pant legs whereas suits do not have either of these features. Classically, tuxes are worn with bowties and suspenders instead of long ties and belts, but there are so many interpretations of both nowadays that it's all up to personal preference and formality.
Also called an arch, this is a structure that stands behind the people being married and oftentimes containing a beautiful floral arrangement.
A very small arrangement of flowers and greens that gets pinned to the lapel/ upper side chest region of an outfit.
An arch-like structure but with four sides and fabric draped over the top for the couple to stand under. Traditional to the Jewish religion, this symbolizes the new home the couple will build together. These can also be adorned with flowers and greenery.
While I could easily make a list of every type of flower and greenery out there, this floral trend I thought deserved a spot on this list. This is the long, brownish, feathery beauties that you see in all the boho inspired weddings.
As a photographer myself, I think this is absolutely crucial when considering who you will choose to capture the moments of your day that you'll look back on forever.
This refers more to a working style than an editing style and means a more hands-off approach to photography meaning they capture the day as it happens. There are definite variations of this even though including an interactive approach that includes some posing and prompting for the more formal family and couple photos.
Think of these as the Vogue/ GQ images. Very much intentional in their mood, typically clean and crisp editing, and a very luxe feel with creative posing.
Light and Airy
These photos are very bright with an emphasis on higher exposure, lots of sunlight, use of flash to keep indoor photos from looking darker, and softly saturated colors. There is usually more of an emphasis on the subjects than the backgrounds in these photos, but not always.
Photos that lean darker with emphasis on shadows, creative use of lighting on subjects, and sometimes less flash. These also tend to have some slightly desaturated colors and contrast. Sometimes photographers with this style like to have more intimate and artistically posed photos in the mix as well.
True to Color
Exactly as it sounds - this style includes editing that brings out the colors as you saw them on your day - think about the colors that you would see coming out of a digital camera / cell phone but obviously with much higher quality!
Types of Planners
Day Of Coordinator
This type of planner usually meets with you a few times in the final months of your wedding to get all the details, but you'll usually have most everything locked in at this point. They will oversee your wedding/ elopement day flow, ensuring the timeline is followed and all vendors involved are in sync with one another. They sometimes also help with your rehearsal and other final planning details - it all depends on the planner.
There's also a vast range of what full planners offer, but generally, you hire one of these when you are just engaged or have only secured a few other vendors. They will help you with everything from design, timeline, securing vendors and reading contracts, rehearsal, day of event flow, and so much more.
Month of Coordinator
Similar to the Day of Coordinator, these planners come in later in the process but usually also help out with those finishing touches and keep you on track in the last few weeks leading up to your big day.
Venue Coordinator/ Event Coordinator
They also have a varying range of responsibilities. They don't do as much as planners do as they usually also have to oversee a staff of venue and/ or catering staff on the day of your event, but they can offer help securing rentals, give design and planning advice, and coordinate your timeline and event flow.
That sweet spot in time usually in the hour leading up to sunset where you'll get the most flattering light for photos and that stunning golden coloring - hence the name.
Oh Shit Kit
There are many variations of names for this, but basically it is a bag/ box full of essentials for any unexpected situation. Here is another blog with my exhaustive list of everything I recommend putting in your emergency bag.
A specific number of reserved hotel rooms, usually offered at a discounted rate, for your guests. You will need to call about 9 months to 1 year in advance to reserve these rooms, and they will typically let you add more as the block fills up. For this reason, on busier weekends, you might want to reserve rooms at more than one hotel in the area.
Save the Date
A prequel to the wedding/ elopement invitation typically sent 9 months to 1 year prior to the event meant literally so that your guests can "save the date". It usually only include the date of the wedding, the town the wedding will be in, and maybe a link to a room block if you have a lot of guests staying from out of town.
Wedding and/ or elopement professional that you hire for your day. These can include but are certainly not limited to; photographer, videographer, DJ, band, florist, hair stylist, makeup artist, calligrapher, caterer, venue, planner, coordinator, limo driver, officiant, etc.
In the end, I know that wedding and elopement planning can seem like an entirely new world, but wedding professionals like myself are here to help guide you through the process so make sure you find vendors that you love and trust, and the rest will fall into place. Remember, you're marrying your best friend after all!
Meaghan is the owner and lead photographer of Rhode Tripper Photography, a wedding and elopement photography company. She lives in Rhode Island, USA with her husband, Evan, and her rescue pup, Arya. You can frequently find her hitting up all the best foodie spots, barcades, and music venues around Providence, RI likely with her Fuji camera in tow.
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