Should You Have a Receiving Line After Your Ceremony?

At Hitch, we love a modern bride. We’re all about clean lines, modern trends and breaking the traditional rules when needed.

But when it comes to receiving lines, we tend to be just a bit old fashioned. We recommend that you try to include this tradition in your wedding festivities.

Why keep this tradition?

  • It’s polite! It’s classy! The “older crowd” really appreciates it.
  • If you’re having a large wedding, it’s going to be nearly impossible to greet each guest without having a receiving line.
  • It’s useful if the bride or groom needs to meet neighbors, family and friends. For example, if he’s from a different state, the receiving line is a perfect time for him to introduce your father to his neighbor, or for you to introduce your high school track coach to your husband.
  • You want to spend your reception dancing! Otherwise, count on spending most of the evening chatting with guests if you don’t have a receiving line.

What about my divorced and/or remarried parents?

Don’t let a divorce keep you from having a receiving line. The wedding etiquette experts at EmilyPost.com have a solution for everything! If you have a sticky situation to handle, there’s actual protocol for handling these situations. Whew!

If you need more help, contact us directly and we will help you work out the order of your receiving line person by person.

In what order do people stand in a wedding receiving line?

  1. Bride’s parents
  2. Bride
  3. Groom
  4. Groom’s parents
  5. Optional: Your maid of honor, best man, grandparents, etc. (Anyone who’s warm greeting towards guests means a lot to you)

When and where does this take place?

Oh boy, you have options here! There are literally dozen of ways that you can conduct the receiving line. Here are a few of the ones we see most frequently.

  • In the back of the church, immediately following the reception. (This is the most traditional route.)
  • Bride and groom dismiss people row by row from the church, immediately following the ceremony. (This is a bit non-traditional because only the bride and groom greet the guests, not the parents, etc..)
  • At the reception, prior to guests receiving their food. (This can be a good option if you are serving food buffet style. You can greet and then your guests can get their food.)
  • One bride and groom had mini cakes made of all different flavors and used them as the centerpieces. Then, they went around to each table to cut and serve the first slice to reveal the flavor and greet all the guests seated at that table. Guests even began to trade for different flavors. It was a really fun idea!
  • This article from TheKnot.com also has additional ideas.

How long will it take?

We suggest you plan for about 30 minutes per 100 guests.

  • 100 guest = 30 – 45 minutes
  • 200 guests = 45 – 60 minutes
  • 250 guests = 60 – 90 minutes (While this may seem like a long amount of time, don’t worry! People tend to move faster when they know there are lots of people still waiting. Also, planning enough time will keep the stress low for you.)

Exception to the Rule

Of course, with etiquette, there is always an exception to the rule. What if your heart is set on a very causal affair? We absolutely understand that!

Midwestern bride Sara Beth Smith felt this way about her wedding. Their reception was held at her husband’s family’s barn with about 150 people in attendance. Rather than stilettos, the bride and her bridesmaids donned their cowgirl boots. Think rustic, country and casual (and check out our Pinterest board if that’s the style your hoping for)!

Sara Beth explained, “I know some people can have a hard time ‘making the rounds’, but it worked well for us. We had an extremely chill reception with bean bags, games for the kids and fire pits set up. I opted out of some of those formal traditions to foster a causal atmosphere so we would be comfortable mingling with people there.”

If you’re dreaming of a casual wedding day and reception, you might consider skipping the receiving line tradition, but we suggest these ideas to make the process easier.

  • Set up your reception as Sara Beth did for a causal, interactive atmosphere that will enable you to be able to talk with everyone. Skip the super loud band!
  • Designate a cocktail hour before the meal. This time can give you a chance to mingle and greet guests informally.
  • Don’t try to skip the receiving line if your guest list is bigger than 200!

We can help!

As usual, we are here to help. Each wedding, each family and each reception is unique. Planning the wedding day schedule is one of the toughest parts of wedding planning. Set up a consultation with us today and we can help make this process easier for you!

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