This year, you may find it’s high time to brush up on your wedding vocabulary.
After all, after a multi-year pause in big events, weddings are back – and bigger than ever. After the surge of couples getting hitched in 2022 post-pandemic, the Wedding Report estimates that 2.24 million weddings are set to occur in 2023.
But fear not – whether you’re off to nuptials in Naples or a marriage in Mexico City, we have wedding vocabulary and other cultural tips to help you get the party started on the right foot.
Here are the top 10 words you need to talk about weddings in English:
This is the woman who is getting married. She usually wears a wedding dress, which some also call a wedding gown.
This is the man getting married. The groom often wears a tuxedo or a suit.
The bride usually asks a friend to be her Maid of Honour (chief bridesmaid). This is the person who assists the bride in the run-up to the wedding (with the hen night or helping the bride get ready) and during the wedding ceremony. If the Maid of Honour is married, she is called a Matron of Honour.
The role of a bridesmaid is to help the bride before, during and after the wedding. Bridesmaids are normally either friends or relatives of the bride, and usually help to carrying the bride’s dress.
A flower girl is usually a young relative of the bride or groom, who typically walks down the aisle before the bride scattering flower petals.
Just like the bride has her assistants, the groom does, too. The best man is a close friend or relative of the groom. He might not typically be involved in planning the wedding, but he will normally organise the stag night, give the best man’s speech, and sometimes will be responsible for holding on to the rings on the wedding day.
Similarly to the flower girl, a page boy is usually a young relative of the bride or groom. Traditionally, the page boys carry the bride’s dress. One of the page boys may also be a ring bearer, responsible for carrying the rings during the ceremony.
These are traditional promises exchanged between the couple during the wedding ceremony.
The wedding reception is a party usually held after the marriage ceremony. People celebrate with drinks, canapes and of course a slice of wedding cake!
During the wedding reception, various people make speeches and toasts to the newlywed couple. These can be made by the Maid of Honour, the best man, close family of the could and the bride and groom themselves.
And here are all the wedding vocabulary words that you might use when talking about a wedding in English:
Know your way around an English wedding, but need help navigating a Spanish wedding tucked away in the mountains, or on the beach in Barcelona? We’ve got you covered.
Here are the 26 key words that you might use when talking about a wedding in Spanish:
|Maid of Honour||Dama de honor|
|Matron of Honour||Madrina|
|Wedding ceremony||Ceremonia de matrimonio|
|Wedding vows||Votos matrimoniales|
|Wedding reception||Banquete de boda|
|Top table||Mesa presidencial|
|Engagement ring||Anillo de compromiso|
|Wedding ring||Alianza de boda|
|Wedding dress||Vestido de novia|
|Gift registry||Lista de boda|
|Guest book||Libro de invitados|
|Honeymoon||Luna de miel|
Jetting off to a castle in Tuscany for a friend’s nuptials? Here are the key words that you might use when talking about a wedding in Italian:
|Maid of honour||Damigella d’onore (non sposata)|
|Matron of honour||Damigella d’onore (sposata)|
|Best man||Testimone dello sposo|
|Flower girl||Paggetta / Damigella bambina|
|Wedding party||Gruppo composto da damigelle, testimoni ecc.|
|Wedding ceremony||Cerimonia di matrimonio|
|Wedding vows||Promesse di matrimonio|
|Wedding reception||Ricevimento di matrimonio|
|Top table||Tavolo degli sposi|
|Engagement ring||Anello di fidanzamento|
|Wedding ring||Fede nuziale|
|Wedding dress||Vestito da sposa|
|Elopement||Matrimonio intimo o una fuga d’amore per sposarsi|
|Gift registry||Lista di nozze|
|Guest book||Libro degli ospiti|
|Honeymoon||Luna di miele|
And finally, here are the key words that you might use when talking about a wedding in French:
|Maid of Honour||Témoin de la mariée|
|Matron of Honour||Demoiselle d’honneur (adulte)|
|Best man||Témoin du marié|
|Flower girl||Demoiselle d’honneur|
|Page boy||Garçon d’honneur|
|Wedding party||Fête de mariage|
|Wedding ceremony||Cérémonie de mariage|
|Hor d’œuvres||Hors d’œuvre|
|Wedding reception||Réception de mariage|
|Top table||Table d’honneur|
|Engagement ring||Bague de fiançailles|
|Wedding dress||Robe de mariée|
|Gift registry||Liste de mariage|
|Guest book||Livre d’or|
|Honeymoon||Voyage de noces|
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In English, we say that the bride needs “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue”, apparently from a traditional British rhyme that said that a bride, for good luck, should have:
and a [silver] sixpence in her shoe.
The earliest written record of this rhyme comes from 1876, when today’s most popular version of the rhyme (as seen above) showed up in a newspaper from Lancashire, England. However, that first written version said that the bride did so “according to ancient tradition”, so it’s safe to assume the idea was already in circulation by then.
Today, brides across the UK, US, Canada and beyond often follow this sweet superstition, borrowing jewelry from happily married friends and family members and ensuring they include something old in their wedding day outfit.
Heading to a wedding in Spain?
Don’t be shocked if the bride wears a black dress or elements of black lace. You see, a traditional Spanish wedding dress is black. This is in part because Catholic brides would wear black to show the seriousness of their vows – they say ‘til death do us part, after all – and in part just because, well, it’s tradition.
While many Spanish brides these days have taken on the popular custom of wearing a white wedding dress, it’s not uncommon to see nods to the traditional black dress or for brides to buck trends and go with the more traditional look.
Another wedding custom that’s common in Spain, Latin America and the Phillipines is larras matrimoniales, 13 gold coins blessed by a priest and given to the happy couple, presented in an ornate box, chest, basket or pouch.
This is a modern version of an ancient tradition with roots in ancient Rome, the Mozarabic Rite, and Frankish ceremonies, so there are many different interpretations of what it means. Some will say the 13 coins stand for Jesus and the twelve apostles, that it’s a remnant of the idea of a bride’s dowry, or that it’s simply a gift or a representation of the marriage itself. Whatever you believe, you’re likely to see 13 gold coins at weddings across the Spanish speaking world and in former Spanish colonies!
One of the best known and most popular Italian marriage traditions is the traditional Italian bomboniere. Small, fragrant bundles called bombonieres are given out, each a little wrap of fine fabric tied with a ribbon. These bundles contain five jordan almonds each. The five almonds symbolize five wishes from the guests for the newlyweds: wealth, happiness, fertility, good health, and long lives.
At French weddings, there really is no best man or Maid – or Matron – of Honor. As you can see above, they’re called témoins, which really means witnesses, and their job is exactly that.
It’s less gendered than a typical British or American wedding where a man has groomsmen and a bride has bridesmaids. Rather the couple is joined by a mix of men and women who witness their wedding – which is always performed by a mayor at a City Hall. All French weddings must have a legal ceremony. Many also choose to have a second, spiritual ceremony, but it is not necessary for them to be married in the eyes of the law.
You’re also less likely to see a tiered wedding cake at a French wedding – though, as with everything, wedding traditions globally are mixing and inspiring others, so never say never. However, the more traditional wedding dessert in France is the croquembouche, a towering pyramid of cream-stuffed and caramel-coated profiteroles.
With events resuming and travel is opening back up, it’s sure to be a wedding-filled few years, at home and abroad. Fortunately, you’ll be armed with the wedding vocabulary and information you need to feel at home at any English, French, Italian or Spanish wedding!
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