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Wedding Words Explained For Officiants and MCs

As a wedding officiant or master of ceremonies (MC), you will encounter many terms and phrases specific to wedding ceremonies and receptions. Knowing the meanings behind these wedding words will help you understand your role and deliver a smooth, meaningful event for the couple. 

See some of the most common wedding terms in action in our article Guide to Officiating Weddings.

Wedding Ceremony:

The wedding ceremony (also known as the marriage ceremony) is where the couple exchanges vows and are officially married by the officiant. This is typically the first part of the wedding day. The ceremony may have religious or non-religious elements depending on the couple’s beliefs. A Wedding Ceremony is run by a Wedding Officiant.

Wedding Reception:

The wedding reception follows the ceremony. This is a celebration where the newly married couple and their guests eat, drink, dance, mingle, and participate in traditions like first dances, toasts, cake cutting, and tossing the bouquet and garter. The reception has a more relaxed party atmosphere than the ceremony. A Wedding Reception is run by a Wedding MC or Wedding Master of Ceremonies.

Ceremony Location:

The ceremony location refers to the physical venue where the wedding ceremony takes place. Common ceremony locations include places of worship, outdoor spaces like beaches or gardens, and event venues like hotels, historic buildings, or banquet halls. As the officiant, you must know the location to prepare your delivery for factors like acoustics.

Wedding Words

Reception Venue:

The reception venue is where the wedding reception takes place after the ceremony. The venue is often, but only sometimes, at the same location as the ceremony. Popular reception venues include hotels, restaurants, country clubs, museums, historic buildings, and other event spaces. As the MC, you will need to know the layout and logistics of the venue for announcing key events and directing guests.

Wedding Officiant:

The wedding officiant (also known as the marriage celebrant, wedding celebrant, marriage officiant, ordained minister, minister of religion, civil celebrant, officiant, or celebrant) is the person who performs the wedding ceremony and legally marries the couple. Some common types of officiants include clergy members like priests, rabbis, imams, or pastors. Secular officiants include civil celebrants or military personnel.

As the officiant, you will create and lead the ceremony as the couple transitions from being engaged to marriage in the eyes of the law and/or faith. Key officiant duties include:

  • Processing paperwork.
  • Tailoring the ceremony script.
  • Conducting legal and symbolic rituals like the exchange of vows and rings.

Wedding MC:

The Wedding MC (or master of ceremonies, emcee, or host) keeps the reception events running smoothly. While the officiant handles the ceremony, the MC manages the reception timeline and logistics. Key duties include:

  • Making announcements.
  • Introducing wedding party members and speakers.
  • Directing guests.
  • Keeping energy and spirits high.
  • Announcing games, first dance, cake cut and bouquet toss.

A professional MC brings experience in event coordination, public speaking, and microphone techniques to create an engaging reception.

Wedding Reception

Civil Ceremony:

civil ceremony is a non-religious legal marriage performed by an  authorized officiant. No religious texts, rituals, or clergy are involved unless specified by the couple. Couples may choose a civil ceremony for various reasons like differing faiths, non-belief, or a preference for secular vows. Civil ceremonies are simple and focus on the legal union above all. The officiant will oversee paperwork and the exchange of vows and rings.

Wedding Vows:

The wedding vows are promises the couple makes to each other during the ceremony. Many modern couples now write personalized vows that express their unique love in their own words. As the officiant, you may guide writing meaningful vows and planning when/how to exchange them.


The processional is one ofd the most common wedding words and refers to the ceremonial entrance of the wedding party and the bride at the start of the ceremony. The processional order is usually; flower girls and page boys, the bridal party, then the bride and parents.


The recessional is the ceremonial exit of the newly married couple and wedding party after the ceremonies completion. The recessional music is typically upbeat as the bride and groom joyfully exit. Guests are invited to toss flower petals, seeds, bubbles, etc. at the couple as they pass.


An elopement is a wedding with only the couple and perhaps an officiant and two witnesses. No or few guests attend. Couples may choose to elope for privacy, lower costs, or convenience. Elopements are typically small, intimate ceremonies followed by personal celebrations like dinner or travel for two. The officiant handles paperwork and legalities so the marriage is valid.


Wedding rituals are symbolic activities the couple participates in to honour heritage, commitment or faith. Common rituals include lighting a unity candle, sand ceremony, pouring wine into a shared glass, gift exchanges, handfasting ceremony or quaich ceremony. As the officiant, you can suggest meaningful rituals to personalize the ceremony.

Wedding Vendors:

Wedding vendors refer to the professionals couples hire to provide wedding goods and services. Vendors include planners, caterers, florists, photographers, videographers, DJs/bands, rental companies, transportation providers, and more. The MC will interact with vendors to coordinate schedules and activities.

Handfasting Ceremony:

handfasting ceremony is a neo-pagan or Celtic ritual where the couple’s hands or wrists are tied together with a cord to symbolize their union. The cord is draped in various patterns before being removed at the end. Handfasting rituals can be incorporated into religious or secular ceremonies. You can perform a handfasting as the officiant if the couple requests this meaningful Celtic tradition.

Wedding Speech:

The wedding speech (or toast) is a short address honoring the couple. Traditionally, speeches are given by the parents of the bride and groom, the best man, maid of honor, and the couple. Speeches express well wishes, advice, and sentiments toward the newlyweds. As the MC, you may open and close the toast segment or assist nervous speech givers.

Reception Venue

The Asking: 

The Asking, also known as “the I dos,” is the part of the ceremony when the officiant asks the couple to declare their commitment to marrying each other. Responding “I do” affirms their free consent to be wed.

The Ring Ceremony:

Exchanging wedding rings is a key ritual. The officiant guides the couple through the ring ceremony – explaining the meaning, blessing rings, cueing exchanges, etc. There may be one ring (like the wedding band) or two (engagement and wedding). Rings seal the vows and represent endless love and commitment.

The Group Photo: 

At some point early in the reception or at the end of the ceremony, the officiant or MC in collaboration with the photographer will guide guests in taking a large group photo with the newlyweds. This captures the moment for guests and adds to the couple’s wedding album. It requires coordination to set formation and cue the shot. 

The Ceremony Script: 

The ceremony script is the officiant’s outline detailing the order of events, the couple’s story, rituals, readings, and other elements that compose the unique ceremony. Officiants must tailor scripts to the couple’s wishes and polish delivery for flawless ceremonies. 

The Wedding MC Script:

The Wedding MC Script is the Wedding Master of Ceremonies outline detailing the order of events, introduction, welcome, housekeeping, speeches, games and timing of all the reception activities. MC’s should tailor their script to create a personlized reception that runs on time and keeps guests entertained.

The Couple’s Questionnaire

Many officiants have couples complete a questionnaire to get to know them before crafting the ceremony. Questions cover their vision, relationship history, rituals, vows, and personal insights. This helps officiants incorporate meaningful personal touches. The MC may ask similar questions to enhance the reception.

The Run Sheet 

The wedding run sheet outlines the Ceremony Order of Events For Officiants and MC’s from start to finish. It includes activity timings, sequences, participant names, cues, and logistics. The run sheet is the MC’s primary tool for executing a smooth, on-time reception. Having a detailed run sheet allows clarity and ease of delivery.

Summary of Wedding Words Explained for Celebrants and MC’s

As you can see, there are many wedding terms and acronyms to learn as an officiant or MC. Knowing the meanings behind these common wedding words will improve your ability to deliver impressive ceremonies and receptions. With the proper knowledge and preparation, you can master all aspects of your essential role in creating the couple’s perfect day. You can also reference this extensive Guide to Celebrating for a deeper look at crafting personalized, meaningful wedding ceremonies. With the right knowledge, your words and guidance will make all the difference.

Special Thanks for Wedding Words Article

Photographer: Michael Boyle 
Celebrant: Marry Us Gary

Wedding Words Explained

Gary is dedicated to ensuring that wedding officiants and wedding emcees like you excel in creating unforgettable wedding experiences! With a passion for celebrations, he is an enthusiastic, down-to-earth, and fun Wedding Celebrant and Professional Wedding MC, operating in Australia.
Count on Gary to provide expert guidance and a relaxed approach to help you deliver remarkable ceremonies and receptions. His goal is to empower you to curate the best possible wedding day for couples, where every detail is thoughtfully arranged, and the party atmosphere is electrifying!