Confused by all the wedding jargon you see online? Don’t worry, I’ve got you! I can totally relate to being newly engaged and having absolutely no clue what all the terms mean, so I’ve created Your Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Wedding Photography with all the important phrases and definitions to help you navigate the wedding world! Feel free to refer back to the guide as often as you need (you’ll be a wedding pro in no time!).

ADVENTURE SESSION – Type of engagement or couple’s session that usually lasts a full day or afternoon (rather than the usual 1-2 hour session). Adventure sessions may involve a day trip to another location and/or include some form of hiking or general adventure-related activity in addition to photography. Couples also have the option of wearing everyday attire or their wedding dress and suit, depending on preference.

BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS – Photography scheduled during the wedding day that is reserved for only the bride & groom. Often abbreviated as B&G portraits, it’s best to have these taken away from wedding guests to minimize distractions and create a more intimate setting for photography.

COCKTAIL HOUR – Scheduled right before the reception for guests to socialize while formals are being photographed. It is generally an hour long though sometimes only a half hour or so is needed, depending on venue and/or timeline restrictions. The bar is usually open during this time and hors d’oeuvres are often served, though the latter is not always required.

CEREMONY – The essential part of a wedding where the bride and groom are officially declared as a married couple by an authorized officiant who is legally allowed to perform weddings. A wedding ceremony can be non-denominational or religious, indoors or outdoors, and may include traditional or cultural customs.

COUPLE’S SESSION – A term used for sessions for couples, whether they are dating, engaged, or married. A couple’s session can be booked “just because” or to celebrate an engagement, anniversary, or any milestone in a couple’s relationship.

DESTINATION WEDDING – A type of wedding that’s planned in a location that differs in scenery, climate, or country from where the bride & groom currently lives. Destination weddings usually require some sort of travel, typically airfare, and lasts more than just the wedding day.

ENGAGEMENT SESSION – A type of session for couples to celebrate their engagement. Photographs taken during the engagement session are often used for “save the date” invitations to send to wedding guests, to display at the wedding reception, and/or to commemorate this important part of the couple’s lives together.

FAMILY FORMALS/FAMILY PORTRAITS – A scheduled portion of the wedding day to photograph family groupings. Family formals (also known as family portraits) are typically scheduled before the ceremony begins or immediately following and is generally the only time a photographer will follow a “shot list” to make sure all the groupings the bride & groom have requested are photographed. Although not required, family formals are recommended to be at the ceremony venue to minimize complications to the timeline. In addition to immediate family members, family formals may also include extended relatives and friends.

FIRST LOOK – A First Look is when a couple sees each other for the first time before the ceremony. Although optional, a First Look is often advantageous for couples as it allows for an intimate and private setting away from wedding guests before the ceremony. Variations of a First Look include the bride & groom meeting on opposite sides of a wall, a bride & her father (instead of bride & groom), or even a bride with her pet. A First Look also occurs for couples planning to have all of their formals taken before the ceremony.

FORMAL EXIT/SEND OFF – A Formal Exit (sometimes referred to as a “send off”) is generally scheduled for when the bride & groom plan to leave the reception, though it’s sometimes planned following the ceremony depending on culture or preference. A Formal Exit at the reception does not necessarily have to be after the last song, as sometimes the couple plans it earlier to have it documented before guests leave for the evening. Sparklers, confetti, or other celebratory items are often included as part of a Formal Exit.

FORMALS – Any portion of the wedding day that refers to scheduled time for “formal” photography such as bride & groom, wedding party, and family.

FULL DAY COVERAGE – Refers to the length of wedding day coverage for photography. Although the exact length of “full day” may differ depending on the photographer or timeline, it generally starts with the getting ready portion of the day to mid reception.

GETTING READY – Refers to coverage of the bride and/or groom being photographed while they are “getting ready” for the wedding day (whether together or in separate locations). For full day weddings, coverage often begins with the getting ready portion.

GRAND ENTRANCE – A Grand Entrance is scheduled at the beginning of the reception when the MC introduces the bride & groom “for the first time” as a married couple. Bridesmaids and groomsmen may also be introduced, depending on the reception program. Although optional, a Grand Entrance is a great way to kick off the reception.

HALF DAY COVERAGE – Refers to the length of wedding day coverage for photography. Although the exact length of “half day” may differ depending on the photographer or timeline, it generally includes the ceremony, family portraits, and bride & groom portraits at a minimum.

HOURLY COVERAGE – Hourly coverage refers to the option of booking a photographer at an “hourly” rate as opposed to booking coverage as part of a collection or package.

ONLINE GALLERY – An online gallery is where the images from the wedding day can be viewed or downloaded. It is favoured over other delivery methods such as a flash drive or CD as those can (and have) quickly become outdated as technology advances. An online gallery can also be shared with wedding guests or kept private depending on the couple’s preference.

PRINT RELEASE – A Print Release is permission given to clients to allow them personal “printing rights” to the images taken by the photographer. Although the exact terms in a Print Release may differ between photographers, it generally includes permission to clients to print, download, and/or use the digital images taken in perpetuity for personal use while the photographer retains copyright.

RECEIVING/RECEPTION LINE – A Receiving Line (also referred to a Reception Line) is either scheduled immediately following the ceremony or during cocktail hour for the wedding couple and their parents to exchange greetings and short conversations with wedding guests. Although holding a Receiving Line helps ensure that the couple can greet each guest they have invited, most couples opt to thank their guests more casually throughout the reception.

RECEPTION – The last event of the wedding day when the married couple can celebrate with their wedding guests. A reception program may include any of the following: dinner, speeches, games, cake cutting, bouquet/garter toss, and/or dancing. A couple may choose to keep their reception more traditional or modern, depending on culture and/or preference.

SAVE THE DATE – Refers to a phrase or invitation in which the engaged couple gives notice to their wedding guests to “save the date” of their wedding. Generally indicates that more details of the wedding will be sent at a later time, but at a minimum the guests should have enough notice to book the wedding date on their calendars.

SECOND PHOTOGRAPHER/SHOOTER – A second photographer (or second shooter) is hired by the main photographer to help document the wedding by providing an additional perspective. While optional, the second photographer should have the same level of expertise, gear, and experience as the main photographer.

SHOT LIST – A Shot List refers to a list of requested shots or poses by the bride and groom for their wedding day. Shot lists are discouraged by professional photographers as they take away from the candid documentary-style photography that is favoured for weddings. In most cases, the only time a Shot List is helpful is for family formals, in which family groupings may be more unique and personalized to the wedding couple.

SNEAK PEEKS – Sneak peeks are a collection of images the photographer may send to the bride & groom as a preview of their wedding images before the final gallery is ready.

TRAVEL FEE – A travel fee refers to fees that are related to expenses for the photographer due to traveling to the wedding. Depending on the exact location, travel fees may include mileage, flight, car rental/transportation, accommodations, and/or required licenses and permits for the location. Photographers may choose to charge the travel fee in addition to or as part of the wedding collection.

UNPLUGGED WEDDING – A type of ceremony in which the bride & groom ask wedding guests to turn off their devices to focus on the wedding technology and distraction free. Unplugged weddings are also helpful for photography as it minimizes the chances of a shot accidentally being ruined from flash off a guest’s camera or having guests be overly focused on “getting the shot” rather than enjoying themselves and being fully present.

VENDOR – A wedding vendor is any professional that is providing a service or product. Vendors may include photographers, videographers, planners, florists, hair and makeup artists, cake artists, DJs, performers, and/or catering.

VENUE – A wedding venue is the location where the ceremony and/or reception will be held. If the events are being held at separate locations, they may be distinguished as “ceremony venue” and “reception venue”. For guest invitations and contact with vendors, it is often helpful to indicate both the venue name and address to minimize miscommunication.

WEDDING DAY COVERAGE – Refers to the amount of photography coverage the couple has scheduled for their wedding day. While the wedding day timeline may encompass a wider range of events and appointments (such as early morning makeup or late night reception snacks), the wedding day coverage is often specific to photography only.

WEDDING PARTY PORTRAITS – Photography scheduled during the wedding day that is reserved for the bride and groom to be photographed with their “wedding party” (sometimes referred as “bridal party”). Groupings may include the entire wedding party, groom with groomsmen, bride with bridesmaids, bride with groomsmen, groom with bridesmaids, and each groomsman or bridesmaid with the bride and groom. Alternative titles may be required such as “bridesman”, “groomswoman”, “man of honour”, or “best woman” depending on who has been selected to be part of the wedding party.

WEEKDAY WEDDING – Refers to weddings that have been booked on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Sometimes a Friday may be considered a weekday, depending on the month and popularity of the date. Weekday weddings are becoming more popular, especially for elopements and smaller weddings, or for any couples who want to stray from traditional weddings.

WEEKEND WEDDING – Refers to weddings that have been booked on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Weekend weddings remain popular for most weddings and are the most booked dates depending on the time of year.

If you think I’ve missed any important phrases or you found this guide helpful, let me know! I’d love to hear from you!