The In’s and Out’s of Wedding Receiving Lines

wedding-invitationsWhen you receive a wedding invitation, you have a role to play in an orchestrated event. Maybe you will help gather gifts afterward. Maybe you will usher crying children to a special place. Maybe you will queue through the receiving line to greet the newly married couple and their parents.

If you are planning a wedding, understanding that your guests also have a role to play gives the receiving line a more defined purpose. It’s an important formality to think twice about, although it doesn’t sit high on most couples’ list of priorities.

So we’ve compiled a quick list of common questions about planning the receiving line with help from experts and bloggers alike. Here are some common questions we wanted to address:

What are the guidelines for receiving lines these days?

  • Get ‘em in and out! No one wants to stand in line, and everyone wants to get to the party. Think through the best place for people to gather, and the number of greeters to keep things moving.

Can we consider dumping the receiving line tradition altogether?

  • You shouldn’t. Unless you have fewer than fifty guests, the receiving line stands as your best chance to greet every guest face to face. And, if you think you’ll have time to visit all tables, it likely means less time on the dance floor.

We don’t have a convenient location/We don’t have enough time for the receiving line. What can we do? Timing is almost more important than location: the receiving line should take place after the ceremony but before the reception begins.

  • Space constraints: Utilize the exit from your ceremony or the entrance to your reception, or an adjoining garden or room in either space. Make your location obvious to guests, or have someone stand nearby to direct people.
  • Time constraints: Keep receiving line greeters down to just yourselves and your parents, and graciously let chatty guests know the reception awaits them!

Who is supposed to participate?

  • Traditionally, the Mother-of-the-Bride stands with the couple, while the Father-of-the-Bride may also do so or greet guests and direct them towards the party.
  • Even with modern-day changes such as alternative family dynamics and couples paying their own way, traditional receiving line roles still stand. Add-ons (such as grandparents, grooms’ parent(s) or step-parents) may also join.

What order do reception line greeters stand in? Traditionally, no men nor children stand in the receiving line. But couples have the most flexibility with this. Do what feels right for you:

  • Mother of the Bride
  • Mother of the Groom
  • Bride
  • Groom
  • Maid of Honor
  • All of the bridesmaids

What exactly goes on during the receiving line?

  • The new couple receives hugs, kisses, and best wishes, and thanks guests them for coming.
  • Guests shake hands, offer introductions to attendants and family members, and move along.
  • Make introductions of your spouse and parents to guests who have not met either.
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