All weddings are different of course, but nevertheless they also have many things in common, so here is a look at some of the terms and definitions that are associated with them.
It can be useful to know in advance what you might expect, whether you will be attending as a guest, a family member (who may be footing some of the bill for these things), or even looking for ideas if you are a prospective bride or groom.
A wedding glossary can also be used as a precautionary measure as well, as if something goes wrong on such an important occasion; then blame will surely have to be placed somewhere, and if you find yourself not knowing what’s what – then that somewhere might just be you!
Ascot Tie – This is a wide type of necktie that is reserved for the most formal of daytime weddings and occasions. It is worn with a gray cutaway (morning) coat that is longer in the back than at the front and gray striped trousers.
Backpiece – This is an often highly decorated comb that sits on the back of a bride’s head and is used for attaching her veil.
Ballet – Also known as a waltz, this is a veil length that drops below the bride’s knees, but above her ankles.
Basket Weave – A type of decorative piping on the wedding cake which features interlinked horizontal and vertical lines of icing.
Best Man – The best man will have numerous duties, the most important of which is to keep the bride’s ring safe until it’s time for the vows, when he hands it to the groom for putting on her finger. His other duties include announcing speeches at the reception and making his own. He will also sign the marriage license, and make sure the groom gets to the wedding!
Biedermeier – A type of posy where the flowers are arranged in rings according to their color. (See Posies).
Blusher – A short, single layered veil that covers the bride’s face before the ceremony.
Bomboniere – This is an Italian word which is sometimes used to refer to wedding favors. (See Favors).
Boutonniere – This is a single flower or flower bud or a small group of flowers or buds; worn by the groom, best man, ushers and the male relatives of the bride and groom, on the left (over the heart) lapel of their jackets.
Bow Tie – The most popular choice of tie to wear with a tuxedo. May also be known as a ‘dickey bow.’
Bridal or Bride’s Bouquet – The bunch of flowers given by the groom to his bride.
Bridal Procession – Every girl’s chance to be a princess. Resplendent in her gown, and on her doting father’s arm, the accompanying entourage can be as lengthy as she wishes (venue and cost permitting).
Bridesmaids – These are the gals who are good friends with the bride, supporting her emotionally both before and on her big day. Although they pay for their own gowns, the bride should give them an idea as to what sort of styles and colours she expects them to wear, as some in this group may try to outshine the star of the show.
Buffet – A self service style of meal at a wedding reception, where the food and drinks are presented on a long table, or a series of tables, and the guests collect a plate and help themselves whenever they wish (queues permitting). A buffet is usually the most affordable option as considerably less waiters are needed (if any), but the costs can rise as less control over food portions can be exercised.
Buttercream – A soft and creamy icing that can be coloured, flavoured and used for decoration or filling for a wedding cake.
Calligraphy – This is an ornate highly stylized form of handwriting seen on expensive wedding invitations and other places.
Candle Lighters – These are children (hopefully responsible ones) who light candles at the altar when the bride’s mother (who is the official hostess of the ceremony) takes her seat. Sometimes these candle lighters are uniquely dressed.
Cascade – See Shower.
Cathedral – The longest of veils, this is three and a half yards in length.
Chapel – This is the name for a length of bridal veil that will reach the floor, extending two and a half yards from the headpiece.
Chief Bridesmaid – See Maid Of Honour.
Columns – See Pillars.
Comb – A bridal headpiece attached to her hair with teeth like a comb. May be as ornate as the bride wishes it to be.
Cornelli – A complicated decorative form of icing which resembles a lacework on the wedding cake.
Corsage – A single flower bloom or a small spray of blooms which are attached to a lace and pinned to either the front of a woman’s dress, or at her wrist. Orchids are among the most popular flower choices for corsages, and at weddings they are usually only worn by female relatives of the bride and groom.
Crown – One of the things a bride may choose to wear, it is a fully circular gemstone or bead adorned head piece that is larger than both a half crown and tiara. In Greek Orthodox Christian weddings; both the bride and groom have crowns placed on their head by the Koumbaro, who then swaps the crowns between the couple three times. (See Koumbaro)
Cummerbund – This is a broad sash worn around a man’s waist on top of his shirt but under the jacket. They are usually black, but may be any colour required.
Dais – This is a podium or platform raised from the floor. In wedding receptions, it is where the bride and groom are seated. The word is also used to indicate the flower display on the happy couple’s table, which often tumbles over the front.
Damask – This is a linen or fabric with raised patterns woven into it. Brocade is similar but of a heavier weight. The word is derived from Damascus, the capitol of Syria.
Dotted Swiss – A method of decorating the wedding cake which involves small random dots of icing.
Double Tier – A two layered veil. Usually, one layer will be longer than the other.
Dragees Round – These are the edible and brightly coloured balls of sugar seen on wedding cakes.
Elbow – A length of veil which reaches down to the bride’s elbows.
Embellishments – These are extra adornments either sewn or glued onto a bridal gown. The additions may include; embroidery, lace, glass or crystal beads, ribbons, bows, shiny plastic circular pieces called sequins, fringes, pearls, and others.
Euro Tie – Often worn with a spread collar, this is a long tie that is more formal than a regular necktie, but less so than an ascot. (See Ascot).
Father of the Bride – He used to pay for everything at a wedding but nowadays both families often share the costs. What has not changed is his duty of escorting his daughter down the aisle in her last few moments of being single.
Favours – These are small inexpensive gifts that may be given to all guests at a wedding as a thank you for their attendance, and also to serve as a souvenir.
Fiancé – This is the title of the groom or husband-to-be between the engagement and the wedding.
Fiancée – This is the title of the bride between her engagement to her betrothed and the wedding day.
Finger Tip – One of the most popular lengths of veil, which as the name suggests, extends to the fingertips.
Fish Bowl – A centrepiece in floral decorations where flowers are together in a, ornate or otherwise, low and broad glass bowl.
Flower Girls or Flower Children – These are small children (usually girls) that pave the way down the aisle for the bride by holding a pomander or scattering flower petals from a small basket. (See Pomander).
Flyaway – This is a many layered veil that will barely reach to the shoulder.
Fondant – This is a sweet icing made from sugar, syrup and gelatine that has supple qualities which enable a layer to be draped over the wedding cake like a fabric. It is then used as the base for other elaborate decorations and designs.
Formal – At a formal wedding, dress codes come into force, so don’t make a mistake guys, or your date will give you hell.
Fountain – This is the name of a veil style, where part is gathered up atop the bride’s head and the remainder set loose to fall around her face. A fountain veil will reach to either the shoulder or the elbow, depending on preference.
Ganache – This is a mixture of chocolate and cream, used either to fill or garnish a wedding cake.
Garlands – These are flower and / or green leaves twirled into ropes or loops that are often hung from the likes of doorways, stairs and railings. The word can be interchangeable with wreath, but properly this is always circular, and a garland need not be so. A garland may also be worn by the bride as a headpiece. (See Wreath).
Groom’s Cake – A smaller, second cake that may or may not be included in the wedding ceremony. If it is, then it is often served at the rehearsal dinner.
Gum Paste – This is a mixture of sugar, starch and gelatine. It’s what many of those realistic looking flowers, fruits and ribbons are made of on a wedding cake.
Half Crown – An ornate headpiece for the bride which lies between a crown and tiara in size and weight.
Hattabin – These are the male friends and family of the groom at a Moslem wedding.
Honor Attendants – These are the best man and the maid (or matron or man) of honour.
Hora – A dance at a Jewish wedding where the bride and groom are lifted high on chairs.
Huppah – A flower bedecked canopy that is an essential part of a Jewish wedding.
Ikebana – This is an extremely dramatic and artistic form of flower arranging that originated in Japan, but is now popular all over the world and often seen at weddings.
Imam Zamin – This is a good luck tradition after a Muslim wedding where the mother of the bride ties a coin that is wrapped in silk around her daughter’s arm.
Juliet Cap – This is a close fitting cap that is often decorated with precious stones sometimes worn as a bride’s headpiece.
Ketubah – In Jewish weddings, this is the wedding contract between the bride and groom. It is usually highly decorated and often framed and put on a wall in the couple’s home.
Koumbaro – This is the title of the best man in Eastern Orthodox Christian weddings. (See Crown).
Lace – A decorative mesh of interlaced thread-work which is plaited, knotted, looped and turned to make either simple or complicated patterns and raised work. There are many different styles of lace, which has a long history of romance, and in some form or other it is very often included on a wedding gown. Alencon, Chantilly, Spanish and Venise are just a few of the many lacework types available.
Latticework – An icing adornment on a wedding cake that zigzags.
Maid Of Honour – Known as the chief bridesmaid in some countries, she is the last bridesmaid to walk down the aisle before the bride herself. If the couple are exchanging wedding rings, then it is her duty to hold the ring destined for the groom, and hand it over to the bride at the right time, as the best man does in reverse. She will also hold onto the bouquets during the vows, and see that the bride’s dress is properly turned out.
Man Of Honour – Some brides prefer to have a male friend attending to the duties of the maid of honour. If so, this is his title.
Mantilla – This is a Spanish word literally meaning ‘little cloak.’ It is a lace or tulle shawl that the bride can wear around her head and shoulders.
Marzipan – Made of sugar, egg whites and almonds, this substance can be used as a base for icing, or to mold decorative forms such as flowers from, on the wedding cake.
Matron Of Honour – This is the proper title given where the maid of honor is herself married.
MOH – This abbreviation stands for maid / man / matron of honor. See respective entries.
Nosegay – See Posies.
Oasis – This is the name of a specialist hard foam used by florists in bouquet holders or vases. Holes are made in it for the flower stems to fit into, as an oasis (as its name suggests) will preserve water for a long time. This will naturally allow for fresher looking flowers at the wedding.
Officiant – This is the cleric or secular official that carries out the ceremony. For non religious weddings, he or she might be a justice of the peace, magistrate or even the Captain of a ship (when onboard).
Pageant Bouquet – See Presentation.
Pages or Page Boys – These are small children (usually boys) who follow the bride down the aisle carrying some of her train. They can also be known as train bearers. (See Train).
Pillars – These are the supports used to prop up the varying tiers of a multi-tiered wedding cake. They may be made from cardboard, plastic or wood. They are also known as columns.
Piping – This is a way of making shapes like bows, leaves, stars, flowers, or design patterns using icing. A pastry bag is filled with soft icing, then squeezed through a selection of different shaped tips onto the wedding cake, where it hardens. Royal icing is often used for this, as it can easily be coloured and is not strongly flavoured.
Pomander – This is a round ball completely covered by flower blooms. They are carried by flower girls in the bridal procession who hold them by a ribbon.
Posies – These are the small and roundly shaped flower bouquets that are tightly packed and also will include greenery, which can often be sweet smelling herbs. They are held together by a twine or sometimes a wire. A posy can also be known as a nosegay, as these are similar but generally a proper posy is slightly smaller.
Pouf – This is a piece of netting that is gathered up and attached to a headpiece or comb, to allow for extra height to the veil.
Presentation – This is an elegant bouquet of long stemmed flowers that the bride carries in her arms.
Qazi – This is the title of the cleric who holds a Muslim wedding ceremony.
Ring Bearer – This is a usually a small boy, sometimes a little girl, who walks down the aisle as part of the bridal procession carrying an ornamental cushion that has two rings tied to it. (Not the actual wedding rings).
Rukhsat – A ritual tradition in Muslim weddings where the father of the bride gives her hand in marriage to her groom, on the promise that he will look after her.
Semi-formal – At these weddings; a less restrictive choice of clothing applies, but you still can’t get away with much.
Shower – A spray of long stemmed flowers, often mixed with ivies that cascades downwards as the bride holds it in her hands.
Silk – This expensive, lustrous, and fine but strong natural thread is used for the most costly of wedding gowns. Many different weaves are available, which are used for different parts of the gown as they vary in density, suppleness, and sheen. Satin, Organza, Chiffon, Shantung, and Velvet are some examples.
Snood – A snood is an knitted net the bride may wear at the back of her head to enclose her hair.
Stroller Coat – This is a semiformal jacket coloured gray or black that resembles a tuxedo, but worn for daytime weddings.
Tails – This is an abbreviation for the tail coat worn for formal evening weddings.
Tiara – One of the headpiece options for the bride, a tiara is a thin jewelled semi-circular coronet with a higher front and sloping sides worn at the top of the head. Or if it is regular in height, then it may be worn at an angle.
Tiers – These are the numerous layers of a wedding cake, usually differing in size, they are supported in place by pillars. (See Pillars).
Topiary – This is the skilled art of clipping or trimming foliage or flower arrangements so that they take on the shapes of animals, lettering, numbers, or various but precise geometric forms.
Tossing Bouquet – A copy of the bride’s bouquet which she throws over her shoulder towards bridesmaids and other female guests after the wedding ceremony. Traditionally, whoever catches this bouquet will be the next to wed.
Train – This is a long (or extremely long) extension to a wedding gown or other dress that trails along the floor behind the wearer.
Train Bearers – See Pages or Page Boys.
Tulle – This is a fine mesh used for bridal veils, and sometimes in wedding gowns. Tulle is either made from nylon, silk or rayon (artificial silk).
Tux or Tuxedo – This is a formal or semi-formal men’s black evening jacket that may be either single-breasted (1-4 buttons) or double-breasted (2-6 buttons).
Vows – At the very heart of the wedding ceremony, the vows exchanged between the bride and groom are promises of future loyalty, love, trust and support. There are many different ways to word these sentiments, some couples prefer to write their own, use traditional vows, or combine the traditional with some extra tweaking of their own. Vows may either be spoken as a statement or in response to the officiant’s question, and may be the same said by both or individual to each.
Waistcoat (Vest) – For ultra-formal evening weddings, the gentlemen might wear a white tie and waistcoat.
Wali – These are representatives of the bride at a Muslim wedding.
Walima – This is the Muslim name for a wedding reception.
Waltz – See Ballet.
Wing Collar – This is the most formal type of collar, shirts with this are the standard choice for wearing with a tuxedo.
Wreath – A circle of flowers and / or leaves that is often decorated with ribbons and bows. Wreaths are generally used as a centrepiece of a decorated area, or are seen above doorways. A small wreath may also be worn by the bride atop her head, if she so wishes. It may also be referred to as a garland though there are differences. (See Garlands).
Yichud – This is a period of time in a Jewish wedding which occurs immediately after the ceremony. During this time the bride and groom are allowed to be alone together.
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