Should You Have a Receiving Line?

receiving line
Photo by Arte De Vie

Q: Receiving lines seem so outdated to me, but are they still the best way to make sure you greet every guest? – Amber

A: If you’ve ever been in a wedding receiving line, you know there’s something painfully awkward about them. It seems like such an unnatural way to greet people, and if you’re having a large wedding, by the time you get to the last guest you’re exhausted…and the reception hasn’t even started yet!

While wedding receiving lines are DEFINITELY one of those wedding traditions you shouldn’t feel bad about skipping (we did!), I have to say that I can totally see why they’re worth considering, at least for a minute! Here’s the two main reasons why:

1. Guests Want Time With You

Even if it’s for a minute or two, guests want personal time with a couple at their wedding. I’ve been to weddings where I barely saw the bride and the groom, and it just feels wrong. Even though my husband and I made a point to go around and say “hello” and “thank you” to as many guests as we could, it was all such a blur I honestly don’t remember if there were people we neglected to talk to at all (if we did, I’m so sorry!). Which brings me to this…

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2. You’ll Have More Time to Have Fun at Your Reception…and Eat!

Sure, a receiving line is a tad outdated and, as we said, a bit awkward. BUT. Having one means you get the official schmoozing over with before the real fun starts. Having already said “Hi!” to every guest means you can now actually eat your dinner and socialize with people in a more natural way…like on the dance floor!

If you don’t have a receiving line, just make sure you take the time to talk to as many guests as possible. And, if you’re having a larger wedding, you MIGHT want to consider having a receiving line just because it’s the easiest option.

Trying to figure out when the best time for a receiving line is? They typically take place immediately after the ceremony, at your ceremony location before your photos (if not doing a First Look) or at your reception location after you’ve taken photos. It’s always a good idea to have them in a location where guests can easily go and get a drink after you’ve “received” them. One idea we really like is to arrive at the venue before your guests (if you’re having an off-site ceremony location), where you can then greet each guest as they arrive (and cocktail hour drinks can start being passed out).

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As far as WHO should stand in the receiving line, it usually starts off with the family that is hosting the wedding, which might look something like:

  1. Mother of the Bride
  2. Father of the Bride
  3. Groom’s Mother
  4. Groom’s Father*
  5. Bride
  6. Groom
  7. Maid of Honor
  8. Bridesmaid or two

*Note that etiquette says the fathers don’t have to be in the line, but if one is the other should be as well. It also seems like a weird, outdated etiquette rule if you ask me!

So, if you’re not having a wedding receiving line, what are some other alternatives?

Having a first look before your ceremony and using the cocktail hour to greet every guest is aways a good idea, especially if your wedding is under 125 guests. Otherwise you should work out a plan with your spouse ahead of time to make sure you go by every table to talk to guests. It’s a lot of work but definitely something that should be #1 on your priority list!

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