A Complete Guide to Wedding Terminologies

Wedding planning is a fun but often exhausting time. From finding a venue to creating a guest list and picking out different floral arrangements, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the different wedding terminologies.

While you probably are familiar with words like “wedding dress” and “flower,” there are quite a few terms that are unique to the wedding industry. If you want to plan a smooth and successful wedding, it’s important to be at least somewhat familiar with the terms.

To help you out, we created this guide on common wedding terminologies that you’re likely to come across when planning a wedding with common American wedding traditions. To make it even easier, we put them in alphabetical order!


In a religious-related sense, the altar is the podium or structure that sits in the front of a house of worship. This is typically where the religious leader, like a pastor, leads a service by facing the church crowd.

For weddings, the altar is where you and your partner exchange vows while your family and friends watch from their seats. If you’re having a religious ceremony, this is often the same altar that the pastor or other religious leader uses.

You can even get creative on your wedding day by decorating the altar to fit the theme of your wedding. Remember that you’ll have lots of pictures taken here!


This is a term you’ll likely come across when shopping for your wedding dress. The appliqué is a small piece of fabric sewn into the dress’s base fabric. This creates a textured effect that lets you add a unique personal touch to your dress.

For instance, you could say, “I love you,” or your wedding date.

Black Tie Optional

If you receive a wedding invite that says “black tie optional,” it means that you can wear something that is slightly more casual than black tie. So men can get away with wearing a suit instead of a tuxedo (although a tuxedo is also good), and women can wear choose to wear long dresses like gowns or something a little more casual. But keep in mind that with black tie optional, it’s best to veer toward formal wear instead of being more casual.


Among the most important wedding terminologies to know is “bouquet.” This term refers to the beautiful flower arrangement that the bride carries as she walks down the aisle. When she meets her partner at the altar, she typically gives it to the maid of honor to hold until the newly married couple exits.


The boutonniére (or boutineer) is a small flower bud that a person wears in the buttonhole of their lapel. Typically, a groom wears this, choosing a color that matches the theme of the wedding. But anyone wearing a nice suit can spruce it up by adding a stylish and elegant boutineer.


Many brides love having a long, dramatic train at the end of their dress that creates a show-stopping look as they make their way down the aisle and meet their forever partner at the altar. If your dress has a long train, but you don’t want people stepping on it when you’re dancing at the reception, it’s important to know the term “bustle.”

The bustle is basically a creative way of tucking in the train of your wedding dress so you can move around more easily. Depending on your tailor or dress, it could be a simple strap, button, or ribbon. If your dress doesn’t come with one, you can typically add one pretty easily or ask your tailor to help you add one.


Another flower-related term, the corsage is a small floral arrangement that you wear on your wrist (your prom date probably gave you one). For weddings, the mothers and grandmothers of the happy couple typically wear them.


When it comes to running and organizing the big day, it helps to have a day-of-coordinator. This person helps make sure that everything runs smoothly on the day of your wedding by overseeing the setup, schedule, and other important events of the day. If you can’t afford to have a wedding planning, consider hiring a day-of-coordinator so you can focus on other important things — like getting married!

Flower Girl

Traditionally, the flower girl is a young girl that walks ahead of the maid of honor and bride, throwing flower petals down the aisle. As weddings have modernized over the years, so has the role of the flower girl.

For instance, some flower girls are actually male friends, grandmothers, or even groups of friends that help prepare the audience for the bride’s stunning entrance. Whether you want to stick to tradition or do something unique, this is something worth considering!

Marriage License

You can think of your wedding day as one big party, celebrating with all your closest family and friends. But if you don’t have a marriage license, your wedding day really is just a party.

The marriage license is the legal document that you and your partner must sign in order to legally marry in the state you reside in. You, your spouse, a witness, and the wedding officiant all sign the marriage license.

Keep in mind that every state has its own laws regarding the marriage license. So do your due diligence with research to make sure you have everything you need.

Wedding Program

If you’ve ever been to a large event like a graduation, you probably grabbed a piece of paper that listed out all the events of the day in the order that they were happening. This piece of paper is the program, and weddings have them too.

Although not required, a wedding program can help clarify to your guests what time everything will start and when, which makes for smoother transitions and better organization.

Want to learn about how to get married at city hall or learn more wedding terminologies? Contact us at City Hall Wedding!