Larry James' CelebrateIntimateWeddings BLOG

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Receiving Line – “NOT!”

Filed under: Receiving Line,Receptions — Larry James @ 8:00 am

The receiving line is an outdated tradition that has generally fallen by the wayside in favor of having the bride and groom visit each table, visiting with guests and posing for photos after they have had your meal at the reception. The bride and groom always get served first, so they should have lots of time for table-hopping and a quick hello after they have enjoyed the culinary delights of your wedding dinner. Have the photographer take photos of you with each table.

TIP: Do your table-hopping as a couple – together! Stay by each others side. This is a time when guests will want to take photos of the newly weds. Remember that ultimately the goal is to make guests traveling from afar feel personally welcomed by both of you.

vintageweddingreceivinglineThe purpose behind the tradition of the receiving line is to allow the hostess – usually the Mother of the Bride, regardless of who is paying for the wedding – to personally welcome the guests into the reception. Traditionally, the bride’s parents – as hosts – head the receiving line and are first to greet guests, followed by the bride and groom and then the groom’s parents. Many lines we’ve seen also include the entire bridal party (if there’s room), and sometimes even grandparents. The couple may wish to stand alone.

Large guest lists and big bridal parties can make for very long and time consuming receiving lines. The receiving line is still used by some where the guest list is very small – no more than 25. Most of my weddings are at resorts and are outside and are usually near sunset. Standing in line and waiting for 100 or more guests to offer their congratulations takes time. If you will be having your photographer take some photos featuring the beautiful Arizona sunset, dump the formality of the receiving line.

When there is no receiving line I usually make this brief announcement immediately following the ceremony after the bride, groom and bridal party walk out:

“Ladies and Gentlemen. The bride and groom request that you offer your congratulations at the reception so pictures of the wedding party can stay on schedule. In the meantime, please help yourself to hors d’oeuvres and something cold to drink. Please allow the parents to go before me. Let the celebration begin!”

bridegetshugAllowing the parents to exit before I do has them follow the bride and groom and the wedding party and not get caught up in the crowd as the guests exit. That way they can be the first to congratulate the bride and groom and remain close for photos after the wedding.

Speaking from a guest’s perspective, there’s nothing more awkward than waiting in line to say some forced greeting to the bride and groom. Since people do not usually enjoy standing in line for a long period of time, if you have a large wedding and anticipate a significant wait in line for the guests, consideration should be given to the comfort of your wedding guests – especially if your wedding is outdoors in the Greater Phoenix area.

Some brides and grooms are choosing to see each other before the wedding so that can take the majority of their photos before the wedding so they can join their guests at the cocktail hour for a meet-and-greet opportunity instead of a formal receiving line.

There is a cool Chinese custom that has the bride and groom go from table to table at the reception to have a toast with every table. You could have an assistant standby to pour the champagne or apple cider for non-drinkers.

Here is another alternative: A Receiving Photo. At the reception the bride and groom take center stage on the dance floor. The MC calls each table up, telling them to bring their empty champagne glasses with them. The men are instructed to stand on Grooms side, women on Brides side. When in place, 1/2 turn, raise glass, smile and offer “Cheers” to Bride and Groom as the photographer takes the photo. You will have a keepsake photo of all the guests. The first table may take a couple of minutes to get in place, however the subsequent tables will see how it’s done and this should not take too long at all.

Another alternative for a receiving line is to have the bride and groom walk around the reception with a basket of wedding favors and personally hand them to each guest. Be sure to assign someone to carry the favors for the bride and groom.

Photo Credits: Upper Left:June and Art (A charming blog for vintage romantics documenting a courtship in the 40s/early 50s)
Right: Christophe Wedding Photo

Copyright © 2012 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s “romantic” Wedding Website. Larry James is an award winning, non-denominational wedding officiant and performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! Every wedding ceremony is customized to your complete satisfaction. Call to check availability: 480-998-9411 or 800-725-9223. Pre-maritial relationship coaching is available and not required. You will find more than 470 pages of Wedding ideas, tips (90 tips and growing), ceremonies, and more at: Something NEW about weddings is posted every 4th day on this Wedding BLOG. Check Larry’s availability.

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