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Wedding Terminology & How it Relates to Key Moments in Photography


Time and again, we keep coming across new words in our day-to-day life. For some, we don’t have a care in the world, while there are plenty of others that keep looming over our heads until we figure out what they mean. And when it comes to weddings, we sure dig out the online resources to understand the exact meaning of something that’s totally a new term for us. Fair enough! After all, it’s your once-in-a-lifetime event, and to miss on anything crucial to it is the last thing you would want! Ahead, we have picked a few wedding-related terms that might be in your lexicon if you are planning your wedding. Keep scrolling if you are interested in knowing what they mean and what role they play in wedding photography.


We can’t imagine a wedding ceremony without an altar! A bride walking down the aisle stops at a usually elevated structure (or place) to meet her groom where they both declare their love and commitment for each other in presence of an officiant and their friends and family on the wedding day. This raised structure or spot is known as an altar. No doubt, this term came from a house of worship! Centuries ago we only knew one kind of altar and that was a raised structure or table set in the front of a house of worship where people placed sacrifices on which also played the key role in tying the knot of two people in love in front of God when weddings were a church thing... a religious thing. But, with changing times, wedding trends changed too, and soon they dared to come out of churches (not completely though!) and temples and made their way to contemporary, non-traditional venues featuring fancy flexible ceremony spots that were a reincarnation of ancient altars and not limited to just a table decked out with some candles and flowers.


Whether the ceremony is religious or otherwise, an altar is way more than just a ceremony spot. Converting the lovers into spouses, it’s a key point in any wedding. It allows couples to express the style of their wedding. Reflecting faiths and cultures, as well as personal and sometimes whimsical tastes of couples, altars include everything from candles, sand, stones, planters, seeds, crystals, and special icons of gods and angels, to a replica of King Arthur's Excalibur and a fairy wand, to photos of relatives or places that are relevant to the couple. Not only that, an altar provides your pro wedding photographers with ample room to spin their creative hats. It’s a treasure chest of photo ops for wedding photographers, from capturing the groom eagerly waiting at the altar to the exchange of vows to the first kiss as newlyweds, every meaningful and significant moment takes place here. Readings, rituals as well as vows are often held here as well. No wonder, altar placement, preparation, and decor is an incredibly important element of wedding planning. So it only makes sense that this spot is hands down gorgeous in an unforgettable way! It has an arch that symbolizes the home where the newly formed family will live. A couple has to walk through the arch which signifies that the bride and groom start a new phase of their life.


Black Tie & White Tie
This term typically refers to a formal dress code- tuxedos or dinner jackets (a modern one sans the tails though) paired with really nice shoes and black neckties or bow-ties (of course!) for men and floor-length gowns or cocktail dresses in rich fabric and tone complete with glamorous accessories for women, worn for very formal social occasions. There are no requirements on color or silhouette though. Women may also don sophisticated pantsuits. But men must wear a tux. A black bow tie, black vest or cummerbund, and patent leather shoes are also suggested. For summer weddings, a white dinner jacket and black tuxedo trousers are also allowable. And when the term is followed by the word wedding it simply indicates a formal, traditional ceremony and reception. The host couple intimates their guests about their black-tie wedding in their wedding invites in double-quotes (probably). In the wedding world, while black tie, as a rule, signifies an evening affair where the men and women both are supposed to be dressed in formal attire as mentioned above, white tie is the most formal of all wedding dress codes.


The White House kind of evenings calls for a white-tie dress code. The gentlemen rock long-tail tuxedos and the women cut a dash in full-length ball gowns (no exceptions!). If only you catch a break by attending one of these magnificent affairs, you may pair your dress with jewelry, heels, and an elegant clutch. Men are required to complete their ensemble with a formal white shirt, white vest and bow tie, white or gray gloves, and formal footwear (derby shoes or oxfords). From a photography point of view, the exquisite black-tie wedding details picture great in appealing frames! Not only do they provide perfect wedding photography opportunities but also remain timeless!


Cocktail Hour
Don’t confuse the term with modern ‘happy hour’ which was modeled after the cocktail hour only. Cocktail hour is a more refined pleasure! Enjoyed between the ceremony and dinner, it is the beginning of the reception portion of the wedding when the guests, along with the bride and groom, unwind, chit-chat, dance, give speeches, and raise toasts while relishing their favorite drink - (beer, wine, signature drinks) and light appetizers. No wonder, for almost everyone, it’s the most favorite part of the day and most couples choose to extend their cocktail hour beyond the traditional 60-minute allotment. 


Transforming your wedding from a somber ceremony to an all-out soirée, cocktail hour is a time to connect with one another. And you would want to have photos of your loved ones basking in the joy of your union. The efforts and thoughts you put into bar and food station decor deserve to be remembered forever, it’s time to flaunt and capture those details too. If you have hired professional wedding photographers like George Street Photo & Video, these cocktail hour moments are sure to live on between the folds of your wedding photo book for eons to come! From ladies wearing their special dresses and jewelry to men in spiffy suits, everyone is in full feather and happy. Therefore, it is the amazing and perfect time for a wedding photographer to take candid shots of all the guests (more alive than formals ones). Plus, you will go from guest to guest to have a few words, and pro wedding photographers love capturing the true reaction of people. They will congratulate you on your ceremony and your reception, asking you to show your wedding ring and engagement ring. The cocktail hour calls for speeches from besties and family and thus lends an awesome opportunity to catch laughter and tears. Allow the photographer to freeze all the lovely speeches and the moment when you are thanking your guests as a couple for being part of your love story. While your lead photographer is busy capturing your bouquet toss ritual out on the lawn, your second photographer would be seizing a wide-angle look of your cocktail hour set-up, close-ups of each detail you carefully put into your day plus any signature cocktails, even trays of bite-sized food circulating.


Escort Card/Place Cards
You definitely want your guests to sit in the seats you oh-so-thoughtfully selected for your sit-down or buffet receptions in a traditional venue and that’s where escort cards and place cards come into play (You can forgo the idea if it’s an informal backyard-style wedding though!). Both the card types perform the same function of directing where each guest will be seated at a wedding reception, but with differing levels of formality. Giving a little freedom to choose their seats, while escort cards direct guests to a table rather than a seat in an informal way and are displayed at the entrance to the reception area. More specific and formal than escort cards, place cards designate the guests to their particular seats at the table and are traditionally placed at each table to denote each guest's seat. There is one more term that derives from escort cards - escort card display, which is opted by those couples who want to do this task in one go. It’s a large sign (or display) with table assignments against the names of invitees arranged either by table or in alphabetical order. 


Do you know escort cards or a seating chart or an escort card display, besides answering the logistics-related questions of your guests, can create a great first impression too? And are photo-worthy as well! Couples these days leave no chance to showcase their creativity and fun-loving personality when it comes to wedding details, big or little. And escort cards or displays are no exception! Incorporate ideas that are unique like origami-inspired escort cards, floral or fruity escort cards, and double-duty escort cards acting as wedding favors. Don’t get us started on the endless ways the escort cards can elevate wedding aesthetics while navigating the guests in an unforgettable way! From escorts cards fixed into vibrant paper cranes or boats to oranges pinned with leaf-shaped escort cards (Ah, so full of vitamin “SEE”) to seed packets tucked into pockets reading the table assignment, every unique idea is worth capturing in beautiful shots that complete the wedding album!


First Look
“Until your sweetheart sees you all dolled up in that gorgeous wedding dress, your bridal look is incomplete!” The wedding day look in which you put in a tremendous amount of hard work from the day they popped the question till the morning of your big day. Thanks to the modern tradition of first look that makes all your efforts worthwhile! One of the most memorable events of the day, ‘tis the milestone intimate moment when the bride and groom see each other all dressed up to the nines for the big day prior to the ceremony. For a brief moment, all the jitters and anticipation vanishes and the couple enjoys an emotional connection that they’ll cherish forever and a day. No doubt, it’s a lovely sentimental tradition to enjoy some alone time with each other away from the eyes of friends and family, but not every bride is in for it for a variety of reasons. There are also couples who like to honor the tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony begins and brides have their first look with their parents, siblings, or friends instead. No matter, whom a bride shares her first look moment, much like the first look with her groom, the first look pictures are sure to calm down the pre-wedding nerves and result in awe-inspiring photos she'll always treasure.


Whether you wish to have your first look or not, it’s completely your call, but we must say it is the perfect opportunity for you and your partner to shower some much-valued compliments on one another. You can tell each other how beautiful you look. You will love to embrace and share a private moment together when no guests would be taking pictures from their iPhones. The first look becomes an additional special part of your day. Plus, this one-on-one meeting helps you both pacify the butterflies in your stomach before the ceremony. Being in the photography industry, we are always in favor of the decision to have a first look because we love showcasing the emotional connection between the bride and groom through magical first look photos! This one-on-one photo session between the bride and groom offers the wedding photographers to capture swoon-worthy couple portraits in the best of emotional frames. What better opportunity to capture that gleam in your partner’s eyes the moment they see you the first time! 


Golden Hour
As pretty as the term sounds, it’s the prettiest time of day producing the best light for photography. The simplest definition of the golden hour is - it is the short span of time right after sunrise and again right before sunset when the surroundings are filled with a captivating golden (pinkish, orangish, velvety, reddish, or a mix of warm colors) hue making everything from scenic landscapes to people more beautiful to capture in the camera. Because the sun hangs low on the horizon the light diffuses and becomes directional creating long and soft shadows, which gives dimension to the photographs. You can utilize that subtle dimensional light to achieve artistic effects that aren’t possible at any other time of day. Make time to pose for striking photos with your seraphic new spouse at the golden hour, and we are sure you will not regret it!


While the sun going down indicates you to call it a day, it also calls you out to bask in the golden hues of its diffused rays and strike poses with your favorite people for hands-down gorgeous wedding pictures. There's something so magical about sunrise and sunset that makes golden hour the best thing since sliced bread! Luckily, it happens every day, that too twice! Who doesn’t love to pose against the setting sun and under the ombre skies for breathtaking golden hour couple portraits? Dazzling, warm golden hour light is ideal and idyllic for all types of photography, from portrait to landscape. Capturing sunset shots of newlyweds is our forte, from frame-worthy silhouettes of a kissing couple to intimate poses that can pull at anyone's heartstrings. Switch from cliché to classic wedding poses as your photographer clicks away and captures the true essence of the golden hour. Get lifted by your BAE in the air for flattering golden hour portraits and let your creative wedding photographer make the best of front lighting, backlighting, flare, and rim/edge lighting photo ops lent by the ravishing red sun! 


Invitation Suite
Really, a suite? Yes, not just a piece of paper screaming the whereabouts of one’s big day. There is SO much more to it! A wedding invitation suite involves a bunch of paper goods like the invitation itself, the reply card (aka RSVP), the details or map card, the envelope, and the stamps - all key elements of communicating the details of the host couple’s wedding day to their guests. Imagine the invitation card as the star of the show and the other pieces as the supporting actors. While a typically 5"x7" invitation lists all the must-know details of your wedding day like your names, the date, the time, the location, and the dress code (optional), the RSVP piece of the invitation suite asks the guests whether they will be there to celebrate your big day or not. Anything you think your guests should know should go on the details/reception/map card like your wedding website, any directions or parking information for the venue, city map and any wedding relevant locations, the location of the reception if different from the ceremony, hotel room block information, and welcome party details. Then comes the envelope that houses all the pages of your invitation suite and is the first impression! It can be as alluring as the elements inside or even more. Think wax seals, envelope liners, fancy ribbons, and beads to put a lasting impression on your guests. And now comes the last-but-not-least one, stamps (or postage), often overlooked tho! It comes into the picture when the invitation suite is ready to be posted. All you need to do is head down to the post office and get your invitation suite weighed to see what postage you'll actually need. You may pick out of the variety of options available (from hearts to flowers) with them to fetch the one that's suited for your wedding. Give your wedding photographer the freedom to get creative and capture the beginning of your big day that you will cherish for a lifetime!


Don’t forget to take a copy of it along with you to the venue on the big day. The efforts, time and money, you have invested in making your invitation suite stand out sure deserve a place in your wedding album! Plus, it is always a great idea to provide your photographer with some accessories for the shoot so that you can amp up the fabric of your love story by tucking the pretty details in the right spots while weaving it.


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