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wedding receiving line

Wedding Receiving Line Etiquette and FAQ

Ask any married couple, and they will affirm that indeed, your wedding day passes by ever so quickly. So how can you ensure that you get to enjoy quality time with each of your guests before it is all over? Well, one solution is having a receiving line. 

A receiving line ensures that you get at least a little face time with each of your guests. However, a receiving line comes with some uncertainties: when exactly should you have one? Where should you set it up? Who usually stands in the line? How does everything all work out? 

Well, fret not. Here is our ultimate guide to wedding receiving line etiquette and best practices. Read on to find out all the details pertaining this crucial part of your wedding day!

What is a Wedding Receiving Line?

A wedding receiving line is a line of important guests, including the bride and groom, their parents, the wedding party, and other important family members. The receiving line “receives” guests, greeting them as they exit the wedding or enter the wedding reception.

Basically, the receiving line gives the newly-wed couple, together with their parents and other important guests, a chance to greet the guests and thank them for attending. It is also an opportunity for the guests to thank the couple for having invited them to their wedding ceremony.

As the hosts, it is your duty to introduce guests to either spouse or your parents in case they are not familiar with each other. Attendees on the other hand should introduce themselves to anyone in the receiving line that they have never met, while mentioning how they know the newlyweds and sending in their congratulatory messages. Of key importance to note is that conversations should be kept brief and straight to the point to keep the queue moving. 

Is a Receiving Line Necessary at a Wedding?

The receiving line is a classic tradition, but not all brides and grooms enjoy this tradition. A receiving line is not an absolute necessity if you don’t want to have one. Ultimately, it is up to the bride and groom whether or not to have a receiving line.

bride mingling

Is is necessary, however, to greet and thank all of your guests. A receiving line makes it easy to ensure that you get at least a moment of face time in with each of your guests. If you opt out of the receiving line, make sure that you talk to all of your guests and introduce yourself to anyone from your spouse’s side that you don’t already know.

Wedding Receiving Line Timing

Normally, with wedding receiving line timing, there are two available options. The first and most common one is right after the wedding ceremony. After the “I do’s”, the happy couple should walk down the aisle and stand next to the wedding venue’s exit. This way, you will have a chance to meet all your guests as they leave.

leaving church

This is a highly preferred choice, given that the guests are all gathered in one place. As such, it is easier for them to head out in one direction as they proceed to the reception.

The second alternative is having the receiving line as you head to the cocktail hour. Immediately after the wedding ceremony is over, head straight to the reception venue. Be sure to arrive there before your guests. As they make their way inside, you can then greet them.

The downside to this is that the guests will probably have to wait outside before they can have a chance of getting in. This option works best if you have a small guest list.

Where Should the Receiving Line Stand?

If your receiving line takes place directly after the wedding ceremony, you can stand outside of the ceremony venue. This may be outside of a church, banquet hall, or simply at the end of the aisle.

Before you can decide where to have the receiving line at your reception, it is important to put certain factors into consideration. The venue’s ventilation as well as space constraints are key focal points. You want to ensure that the guests move in a smooth procession without having to squeeze past one another or the line itself. You also need to have several options available, in case one does not work out.

Consider the lobby, the cocktail lounge, the dance floor, or even major doors. Ideally you should pick an area of minimal spacial constraint, where everyone can stand comfortably for the entire meet and greet session. 

Who Stands in the Wedding Receiving Line?

wedding family

The wedding receiving line typically consists of the bride and groom and their parents, but may also include the officiant, grandparents, siblings, and the wedding party.

Traditionally, the ceremony’s host leads the way, followed closely by the bride and groom, then lastly, the two sets of parents from both sides. This is not always the case; it is subject to change given various factors. If there is ample space, some wedding receiving lines even include the grandparents or siblings of the happy couple, and in some instances, the entire wedding party.

There is no right or wrong way to pick the members of your receiving line; it is all a matter of mutual understanding between the newly-weds, their parents, and any other relevant parties. Alternatively, the bride and groom can make up the entire receiving line.  

The order in which parents appear is also not set in stone. Both fathers can stand together on one side, while the mothers stand on the other. As an alternative, the receiving line can be in such a way that the bride’s parents start, followed by the bride herself, then the groom and his parents come next.   

What If My Parents are Divorced?

In case either the bride’s or groom’s parents are divorced, use your discretion to determine where they should stand in the receiving line. You do not want awkward moments in your wedding. As such, divorced parents should not stand next to each other if they are not in good terms.

Here, creativity is key. You can have the maid of honor, or any special guest stand between them. If they are re-married, including the step parents in the receiving line is dependent on the existing relationship between the couple and their step parents.

In Conclusion

Just as is the case with any wedding traditions, how you go about your receiving line is entirely up to you. There are no written rules that you have to abide by or even follow to the letter. Depending on your guest list’s size and the available space, you have the liberty to choose the best option that works for you.

If you are working with a list of less than 100 attendees for instance, you can opt to have formal portraits taken before the ceremony starts. You can then use the cocktail hour as your perfect meet and greet session. Alternatively, you could choose to go from table to table, making rounds during the reception.

A third option would be hosting a small welcome gathering before the big day; it could be a drinks session after the rehearsal dinner, or a cocktail party. This is a great chance to catch up with some far-away guests and friends that you’d otherwise miss at the reception. However you choose to do it, do not pressure yourself to meet some unwritten conventional rules pertaining wedding receiving line etiquette!

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