What Is a Receiving Line at a Wedding? Best Planning Tips

If you are hosting a larger wedding, you may want to set aside some time to create a receiving line on your wedding day. But what is a receiving line at a wedding? And why should you have one?

A receiving line is a moment in your day when you get to greet all of your guests, say a proper hello, and thank them for coming. Your guests will simply line up and take turns saying hello to you before moving on. 

Here we discuss everything you need to know about a receiving line to help you decide whether or not to have one…

what is a receiving line at a wedding

Why Is Having a Receiving Line a Good Idea?

Having just had my wedding of 110 guests, let me assure you that 110 is a huge number of people! Even simply saying hello to everyone felt daunting. By the time we sat down to dinner, there were still good friends that I hadn’t even greeted yet, which was not a great feeling.

But if I had had a receiving line, I would at least have officially said “hi” to all of my guests and had an opportunity for a quick chat. So I urge you to consider it if you are hosting a lot of people at your wedding.

A receiving line also means that you won’t be ducking in and out of conversations (like I was) because you just saw an old friend that you hadn’t said hello to yet. It means that you won’t miss out on anyone!

Although it may feel quite formal, and seem like another thing that you have to schedule into your wedding day agenda, it is actually an efficient way to greet all of your guests.

When and Where Should We Schedule the Receiving Line?

If you’ve decided to have a receiving line, a good time to plan it is immediately after the ceremony. The day is just getting started; people may not have even had time to see each other yet, so this feels like a natural time to do it. 

Once you have walked down the aisle as a married couple, you can both stand by the exit of your ceremony space so all of your guests will walk past you as they leave.

It’s dependent on your venue, but this is probably the easiest and most common way to do it, as all your guests are in one place and they will be on the move regardless, most likely to the drinks reception.

The only issue with this is that it is going to take quite a while for the guests at the back of the line to exit the ceremony venue. They probably won’t have refreshments at this time, and it could be a fairly lengthy wait for them to greet the bride and groom. 

So another option is to plan your receiving line on the way to your drinks reception. You can then greet everyone as they come into the area. Again, for those slowpokes at the rear, there may be a bit of a wait.

Both of these options run the risk of creating a bottleneck – but just remember that everyone will be in good spirits, and likely catching up with each other, so a bit of waiting shouldn’t be a big deal.

When deciding where to have the line, think about the space carefully and consider where your guests will be most comfortable standing. A beautiful view will always help. As will a glass of champagne. Some couples use the area that will later become the dance floor because there is more space.

I advise speaking to your venue contact about exactly where they have held receiving lines before and what will work best for your numbers.

What Happens When Guests Walk through the Receiving Line?

It’s very simple really… the receiving line is an opportunity for the bride and groom, alongside their parents and sometimes the wedding party, to say hello to each guest and thank them for attending. It’s a chance for a hug and a kiss on the cheek – it’s especially great for those guests that you haven’t seen in a while.

Guests should therefore hug or shake hands with the couple, offer their heartfelt congratulations, maybe comment on the ceremony or the bridal gown, and then keep moving.

If there are guests that you haven’t even met yet, your cousin’s new girlfriend for example, then this is the chance to formally meet them.

A word of advice though… keep the conversations short! No matter how much you want to catch up with your besties, you must keep these individual greetings as short as possible to keep that line moving!

Should Guests Stand in a Particular Order?

Aside from the bride and groom, the receiving line will most likely include the parents of the couple.

Traditionally the parents of the bride would be first in line, then the newlyweds, then the parents of the groom.

Some couples also choose to include the maid of honor, the bridesmaids, and the best men, who should stand after the parents of the groom.

This is up to you. If your parents would find this in any way uncomfortable (like mine would have done!) then you can make it just you two doing the greeting.

Remember, the more bodies you have in the receiving line, the longer it will take for each guest to get to you!

Are There Any Alternative Options to a Receiving Line?

Some couples may find a receiving line too formal and traditional for their wedding day. Here are some other suggestions to ensure you get to greet all your guests, although they take place a little later in the day.

Some couples choose the wedding reception when everyone is seated at their tables to say their hellos. They make the rounds to each table, talking to their guests in smaller more manageable groups.

Think about the layout of your tables before deciding on this – it wouldn’t have worked at my wedding because guests were sat on long tables, and one was too close to a wall to get behind. Not ideal! Also, if you go for this option, please make sure you eat!

Another great way to formally greet your guests is to host a welcome gathering before your big day, this could perhaps involve drinks after the rehearsal dinner. Or maybe a cocktail hour the night before if you are having a destination wedding.

Not all weddings will suit this extra event, but it’s a great way to catch up with people, giving you more time on your actual wedding day. 

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