A woman on her wedding day is usually described as a bride, even after the wedding ceremony, while being described as a wife is also appropriate after the wedding or after the honeymoon. Her partner is known as the bridegroom during the wedding, and within the marriage is called her husband.
In the older custom, still followed, e. g., by Roman Catholic ritual, the word bride actually means fiancée and applies up to the exchange of matrimonial consent (the actual marriage act); from then on, even while the rest of the very ceremony is ongoing, the woman is a wife, and no longer a bride, and the bridal couple is no longer referred to as such but as the newlywed couple.
“Wife” refers to the institutionalized relation to the other spouse, unlike mother, a term that puts a woman into the context of her children. In some societies, especially historically, a concubine was a woman who was in an ongoing, usually matrimonially oriented relationship with a man who could not be married to her, often because of a difference in social status.
The term wife is most commonly applied to a woman in a union sanctioned by law (including religious law), not to a woman in an informal cohabitation relationship, which may be known as a girlfriend, partner, cohabitant, significant other, concubine, mistress etc. However, a woman in a so-called common law marriage may describe herself as a common law wife, de facto wife, or simply a wife. Those seeking to advance gender neutrality may refer to both marriage partners as “spouses”, and many countries and societies are rewording their statute law by replacing “wife” and “husband” with “spouse”. A former wife whose spouse is deceased is a widow.