Wedding Planning Terms You Need to Know

Weddings have a language of their own and sitting down with your wedding vendors can leave you wondering what in the world they were talking about. Words have new meanings and phrases that you’ve never heard before can make these conversations challenging. To help you navigate these discussions like a pro, I’ve put together a list of the most common wedding planning terms you’re sure to hear throughout the planning process. From attire styles to design terms and everything in between, knowing these basic wedding planning terms will make conversations with your vendors much easier!

winery inspired wedding tablescape idea
Photo by Barrie Anne Photography

Wedding Planning Terminology

Banquet Event Order (BEO) – A document put together by your caterer or venue outlining the details of your event.

Black Tie – Formal attire for affairs that typically begin after 6:00 PM. It’s customary for women to wear a formal cocktail dress or long evening gown. Men should wear a tuxedo.

Black Tie Optional – Very similar to black tie, except that men have the option to wear a suit or a tux. A tuxedo is still appropriate though and women can wear a short or long gown.

Bustle – A tailoring trick that tucks up the train of your dress to allow you to move more freely at your reception. Loops, buttons, and strings are commonly used to hold the fabric in place.

Canapé – Puff pastry or a cracker topped with something savory. This term is used interchangeably with appetizers, small bites and hors d’oeuvres.

Charger – This large plate is the base for your place setting. It’s placed under the dinner plate and brings color, texture, or pattern to the table.

server holding a tray of canapes for weding guests during cocktail hour
Photo by Rebekah Viola Photography

Cocktail Attire – Slightly less formal than black tie and black tie optional. Women should wear a cocktail dress or suit and men would wear a suit and tie.

Color Palette – A range of colors you’ll be using for your wedding day. These colors influence elements like your flowers, invitations, and linens. A color palette includes a main color, an accent color, and a neutral. You may also end up using shades of those colors, especially when it comes to your flowers.

Day of Wedding Coordinator – They can also call themselves month of coordinators or simply wedding coordinators. Every coordinator handles the coordination process differently, but their focus is on logistics. For example, I refer to myself as a wedding coordinator and my job is to coordinate and execute the details to ensure the pieces of your wedding day come together seamlessly.

Duchess Satin – Sometimes referred to as “silk satin” this is a high-thread count fabric that’s shiny on one side.

Ecru – Is a French word and means “raw” or unbleached. It’s a traditional natural beige color for wedding invitations.

Embossing – The process of creating a raised image or design for elements like a monogram or date on invitations, programs, menus, and thank you notes.

vintage style wedding invitation suite
Photo by Barrie Anne Photography

Engraving – Ideal for the most formal affairs, it’s the traditional form of invitation printing. Text is etched onto a plate coated with ink and wiped clean to only ink the indentations. Paper is pressed against the plate and produces raised text.

Escort Cards – Is a wedding planning term often confused with place cards. An escort card is used when you’re assigning guests to a specific table. These are displayed at cocktail hour or in the entrance to the reception room.

Escort Card Display – This large statement sign is used in place of individual escort cards. This single sign directs guests to their assigned table. Names can either be arranged in alphabetical order or by table number.

First Look – A moment that occurs before the ceremony where the two of you reveal your wedding day looks and enjoy some private time before your walk down the aisle. It allows you to take your couples’ portraits and wedding party photos ahead of time so you can savor cocktail hour with your guests.

First Touch – Unlike the First Look where you see each other in full, the wedding planning term “first touch” refers to the bride and groom touching hands only. It’s the perfect time to talk to one another, pray together, and get a few of the butterflies out before you process down the aisle.

Fondant – A mixture of sugar and water that’s mixed together, cooked, and cooled.

formal exit with sparklers for bride and groom at Moulin in Philadelphia
Photo by Barrie Anne Photography

Formal Exit – An orchestrated way to signify the end of the wedding celebration and the official start to married life. Guests send of the bride and grooming with things like bubbles, sparklers, confetti, ribbon wands, and fireworks.

Full Service Wedding Planner – A wedding professional who works with you from start to finish to design your dream wedding day. They help create a design concept, manage your wedding budget, assist with venue and vendor selection, select décor and details, keep track of your guest RSVPs and invitations, and execute it all on your wedding day.

Gobo Lighting – Stencils placed in front of lights to create patterns projected on the walls and floor.

Handle Wrap – Fabric or ribbon wrapped around the stems of your bridal bouquet.

Installation – Statement making design element like a floral chandelier, floral wall or cascading wall arrangement designed to catch your guests’ eye.

Letterpress – A printing technique that presses inked blocks or plates of raised type into the paper to achieve a grooved texture.

modern black, white and gold wedding tablescape with bright flowers
Photo by Ashley Gerrity Photography

Place Cards – A printed card with the guest’s name on it that indicates the exact seat they will be sitting in.

Place Setting – Pieces a single diner uses at the table. It typically includes a napkin, salad and dinner forks, a dessert fork, charger, dinner plate, bread and butter plate with a butter spreader, salad and dinner knives, a soup spoon, water glass, and at least one wine glass.

Marriage License – The state’s official document that allows you to be legally married. Your officiant will file the marriage license and then you’ll receive a marriage certificate.

RSVP Card – Also known as the reply card, it means Répondez, s’il vous plaît! This card is mailed with your invitation for guests to return back to you stating whether or not they’ll be attending, how many guests will be attending, and their entrée selection if required. In more modern weddings, couples can choose to have guests submit this information online via their wedding website.

Serif – In typography, this is a short line attached to the end of the character’s main strokes.

Sans Serif – A typeface in which characters are without serifs.

signature cocktail menu for fall wedding at Old Mill Rose Valley
Photo by Jessica Manns Photography

Signature Cocktail – An original cocktail or unique cocktail name created by the bride and groom for the wedding.

Stationery Suite – All the pieces of stationery that tell your guests the who, what, where, and when details of your wedding. A suite includes your save the date, invitation, RSVP card, reception card, and general information card. The general information card may feature your wedding website, a map or weekend itinerary. Day of details like your programs, menus, escort cards or place cards, and gift tags are also considered a part of your invitation suite.

Tablescape – Describes the overall look and feel of the table and its surroundings. From the flowers to the candles, plates, and flatware it encompasses each element of your table design.

Usher – A man or men selected by the couple to help direct and escort guests to their seats before the ceremony. They let guests know which side is the brides, which is the grooms, and can distribute programs. Their attire can match the groomsmen or coordinate, but boutonnieres for them are a must!

Vellum – Heavy transparent paper used as an overlay on pieces like your invitation, programs, menus, escort cards, and favors.

Venue Coordinator – An employee of your reception venue that acts as a liaison between the bride, groom, your wedding planner, and the venue operations team. The venue coordinator‘s main focus is overseeing the building as a whole and delivering your contracted services.

36 wedding planning terms every couple should know

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wedding planning terminology every couple should know
wedding planning terminology you need know

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Hello, I’m Jenna!


Welcome to the JTE blog, where I share my favorite weddings and insider tips to make your wedding day simply swoon-worthy. Grab a cup of coffee (cream and sugar for me, please) and enjoy a virtual peek into my color-coded planning binder.

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