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Defining Common Wedding Terms and Phrases

Wedding planning can be very stressful, but even more so when previously unheard of words and phrases are thrown at you left, right, and centre.

From shopping for your wedding dress to booking a venue, there is a lot of wedding terminology you are bound to hear when planning your big day.

To help avoid any confusion along the way, we’ll break down and define some of the most common wedding terms you may not know that will help you better navigate the wedding planning process.

Photography and Video

First Look

While traditionally, the groom/future spouse doesn’t get a glimpse of the bride until they’re walking down the aisle, nowadays, it’s incredibly common for the soon-to-be wedded couple to meet up before the I dos in what’s known as a “First Look.” This moment is typically captured by your photographer, who will likely ask you ahead of time whether or not you plan on doing a first look.

Golden Hour

Golden hour is the time of day just after the sun starts to set when the sun is low in the sky. This is most photographers’ favourite time to shoot because the couple will be basked in a gorgeous, golden glow.

Highlight Film

A highlight film is a video produced and edited together by your videographer that captures all the most important moments of your wedding in around 7 to 12 minutes.

Detail Shots

As you’re getting ready for your wedding, your photographer may ask for your bouquet, rings, accessories, etc. for what’s called detail shots. Detail shots are close-up photos of your bridal accessories.

Second Shooter

When booking a photographer, they may ask if you’d like to pay a bit extra for a second shooter. Some photographers may even have a second shooter for all the weddings they photograph.

A second shooter is a photographer that helps the main photographer capture special moments from different angles and snap shots that they may not be able to get on their own. This helps ensure more variety when it comes to your photos.

Ceremony

Processional and Recessional

We all know the term “walking down the aisle,” but you may not know that there is actually a formal name for this. When walking down the aisle to get married along with your bridal party, this is known as the “processional.” Many couples like to customize their processional music and choose different songs for different parts (i.e. one song for the bridesmaids, another for the bride, etc.)

The Recessional takes place after you’ve said ‘I do’ and signed all the paperwork, and you, your spouse, and bridal party walk back down the aisle towards your reception, or to take photos.

The Recessional is also typically set to music and is usually a more fun and upbeat tune.

Usher

Not all weddings have this, but for weddings with large guest counts, an usher can be incredibly helpful.

An usher is typically a close friend or family member that is responsible for directing guests to their proper seats during the ceremony. This is a great way to include a friend or family member in the ceremony that wasn’t chosen to be a part of the bridal party.

Officiant

Your officiant is the person presiding over the ceremony who can legally declare you and your spouse as officially married. The officiant will handle all legal aspects of the wedding, including obtaining and filing the proper paperwork, and will conduct a reading and direct the couple in saying their vows.

While traditionally, this has been a religious role conducted by a priest or minister, there are many non-denominational officiants available as well. In fact, in certain provinces, like Quebec, you can assign a friend or family member to act as your officiant. Unfortunately, though, this option is not available in Ontario.

Witnesses

Your witnesses are two people that act as the official legal witnesses to the marriage and sign the marriage licence during the ceremony. This role is typically performed by members of your bridal party.

Reception

Head Table

This is the table where the newly married couple sits during their reception. Often, this table is decorated and set up more elaborately than the guest tables and is the focal point of the reception.

Typically, the happy couple sits at the head table alone, but you can also include members of your bridal party as well.

Cocktail Hour

After the ceremony, as the happy couple take photos with their family and bridal party, guests will be ushered to the cocktail hour where they will have the chance to mingle, snack on hors d’oeuvres, and enjoy cocktails before the formal, sit down dinner and reception. You can even provide your guests with entertainment with lawn games, music, etc. Cocktail hour typically lasts for around 1 hour.

Favours

Favours are small gifts/trinkets given to your guests as a thank you for coming to your wedding. Favours are often monogrammed with the couple’s initials or wedding hashtag and can include:

  • Snacks and desserts
  • Lip balms
  • Candies
  • Key chains
  • Bottle openers
  • Soaps

Wedding Dresses

Sample Gowns

With most bridal shops, the gowns that are in the shop for brides to try on are known as “sample dresses.” In most cases, brides do not purchase and bring home a sample gown, as they are only there to try on. After deciding which sample gown you love the most, the bridal shop will order that gown from the designer, and it will be made in your size just for you.

Off the Rack

With some bridal shops, they do allow brides to purchase a sample gown “off the rack” and take it home with them. This practice is common with sample sales or bridal outlet shops.

Bustle

One of the most common wedding dress alterations is adding a bustle to your gown. A bustle is a hook, tie, or buttons added to your gown that enables you to secure a long train to the back the dress after the ceremony.

Planning

Day of Coordinator

A day of coordinator is similar to a wedding planner, except they only come in on the day of to help ensure the wedding runs smoothly, rather than planning and organizing the event itself. A coordinator handles the logistical side of things on your wedding day and helps keep guests and the chain of events organized before, during and after the ceremony and reception.

Save The Date

A Save the Date is like a pre-invitation. It lets your guests know ahead of time what your wedding date is so they can make arrangements. This Is particularly helpful for guests travelling from out of town.

The general rule of thumb is to send out Save the Dates at least 6 months before the wedding (8-12 months for destination weddings).

Rehearsal Dinner

Your rehearsal dinner takes place after your wedding rehearsal, typically the night before the wedding. This allows the soon-to-be married couple, their bridal party, and immediate family to get together one last time for a formal or informal celebration before the nuptials. Often, this is hosted at a restaurant by the couple’s parents.

Wedding Website

While not mandatory, many couples choose to create a website dedicated to their upcoming wedding. This is a great way to provide your guests with as much info about your wedding as possible leading up to the big day.

If you don’t have any experience with web design, there are many services that will create and host your website for you for free, such as The Knot. On your website, you can include your date, directions to your venue, local hotel accommodations, names of your bridal party, engagement photos, and even an RSVP function.

As you can see, there is so much involved in the wedding planning process that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We hope this guide was helpful and makes things a bit easier. After all, planning the most special day of your life should be exciting and fun rather than stressful and confusing.