The Receiving Line

receiving lineIt has long since been the custom to have a receiving line at formal weddings and behind the tradition is to allow the Mother of the Bride (the hostess) to personally welcome the guests into the reception.  This is regardless of who is paying for the wedding.

Another reason is as newlyweds it is one of the ways you can introduce your parents to your friends and vice versa, in-laws to their new family and family friends to your new spouse. 

In a way, it can be a highly organised ice-breaker for those larger than average families as well as giving you both a great chance to thank your guests personally for coming to your wedding. 

Only Chance to Talk to You

Your receiving line could be the only time some of your guests get to speak to you and your parents during your reception for one reason or another, especially if the wedding is to be a large one.  A big chunk in saving time when you ‘make the rounds’ can be taken away by your receiving line and today’s etiquette dictates that a receiving line should be used for weddings with more than 50 guests.

An even further benefit of having a receiving line can be to say special thanks to those of your guests that have travelled from afar and may not have been added onto the best man’s list of cards he will be reading out.

Many brides have commented on how quick their wedding day has gone by and your reception is for your enjoyment as well as your guests! Instead of the normal ‘table hopping’ and thanking guests all night, you will have done this already on the receiving line and can hit that dance floor much sooner!

The Layout and Etiquette of the Receiving Line

The etiquettes of the receiving line are in the positions you place the wedding party. The following list is classed as the traditional way:

  • Bride’s Mother
  • Bride’s Father
  • Groom’s Mother
  • Groom’s Father
  • The Bride
  • The Groom
  • Maid of Honour
  • Best Man
  • Bridesmaids

In America there are no males apart from the groom that stand in the receiving line.  Children are also not in the line.

There is no reason for your best man or bridesmaids to be in the receiving line if you don’t want them to.  In fact, they could be given the task of making sure your guests are aware of where they are to go and they can also help in double checking that all is running smooth as it should be.

This in turns takes away the stress of you and your spouse having to worry about those of your guests that you have already spoken to in the line.

If you are having a small wedding and time allows you to, you could have your receiving line at the church doors while your guests are coming out.

If any of the parents are divorced and you still wish to have them in your receiving line it is probably best to keep them apart while standing next to any new spouses.  There are many ways you can deal with divorced parents.  You could choose to just have the mothers in the line or separate each parent with a bridesmaid or your maid of honour.  This will give a clear indication to everybody that they are no longer a couple.  Tip:  The Bridesmaid ‘buffer’ could also be used for step parents if you are intending to have them in the receiving line.

You can keep the receiving line flowing along by sticking to the bare minimum of brief greetings that warm and sincere. You can always catch up for longer conversations during your reception.

Since your mother and you the bride are the first in line, it is expected that relatives and friends of the groom’s side of the family will introduce themselves to each of you. As your relatives and friends proceed, you should introduce them to the groom and his mother.

How Long For the Guests to Go Through the Line

receiving line 2Depending on how many guests you are having attending your wedding you may want to work out approximately how long it will taken for them all to greet you and pass on their wishes. 

Remember you will always get great aunt Flossie or Grandma that will stand longer than others and show no signs of wanting to move along. 

As a rough guide, if you are having 200 guests you should allow a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour.  Take into account if you are having a sit down meal what time your venue wants you all to be seated.

Double check with the venue that you will have the room to hold a receiving line and make sure it is somewhere that people will not be bunched up or standing outside while waiting their turn.

Have drinks and/or hors d'oeuvres ready to be served to your guests once they have passed through the receiving line and while they mingle with each other it may be a good idea to have some soft music playing in the background.