The ultimate modern wedding day question: Do you need to have a receiving line at a wedding? Modern wedding etiquette says no – but you can’t just take it out and replace it with nothing. Receiving lines are an opportunity to meet and greet your guests and for most of our parents, it was a mandatory wedding day event. Family dynamics can get tricky if you’re deciding not to have a receiving line, so let’s take a look at what they are, how to do them, and alternatives to receiving lines so that you can finally stop worrying if you need to have a receiving line at your wedding.
When do you have a receiving line?
Receiving lines are typically done as a way of welcoming guests to your reception. As an alternative, however, some couples will have a receiving line immediately following the ceremony. We often see this when couples are having a larger ceremony but a smaller reception and they still want an opportunity to greet all guests.
Who stands in the receiving line?
Tradition states that the couple, their parents, and any other VIP people (like grandparents) are in the receiving line to meet and greet while the wedding party members are at the end of the line managing the card box and bonbonniere table. Some wedding party members are also delegates the job of pouring and distributing shots or celebratory drinks to the guests.
Receiving lines don’t have to include the parents, though! Receiving lines can be just the couple if that dynamic works with your guest list. While most guests no longer do receiving lines, those that do are about a 50/50 split between it being everyone in the receiving line and just the couple in the receiving line.
How much time should be scheduled for a receiving line
Receiving lines should be budgeted for 20-30 seconds per guest. This sounds like a small amount but for a 150 person wedding that’s 60-75 minutes! Trust me, this time will fly by too!
A lot of folks will create their wedding day timeline and decide on a set amount of time for a receiving line without calculating whether or not that amount of time is reasonable. If you’re not scheduling your receiving line properly your guests will be stuck in a line for a long time, you’ll have to rush through the whole thing, and you may have to abruptly stop the receiving line so that you can get to your reception on time which will leave some guests high and dry without a personal hello.
If you’re going to opt for a receiving line, it really is imperative that you ensure there is enough time in your wedding day.
How can I get good photos of my receiving line?
Receiving lines are notoriously difficult to photograph because each person is facing a different direction so the photographer needs to move around to get faces, emotions and reactions from both the couple and the guests. If you’re opting to have a receiving line, it’s best to do it in an area that is wide open and not against a wall. If you’re going to stand against a wall it will be near impossible to get photos of your guests faces – only yours!
What is an alternative to a receiving line?
So do you need to have a receiving line at a wedding? Absolutely not – but you need some alternative to meet and greet your guests. If you’re opting out of a receiving line, the easiest thing to do is to ensure that you’re attending your cocktail hour. Attending your cocktail hour often means that you need to do a first look and take your photos earlier in the day. If that’s not an option for you, make sure that you take the time to go around to the tables during the reception and meet and greet all your guests. Try to do this earlier in the night as generally 20-25% of guests leave shortly after dessert is served and before the dance music starts.