Receiving Lines


When people say that your wedding day will be over before you know it, they’re telling the truth. So then how can you make sure you and your now husband(!) get the chance to speak to each every guest before its all over? Queue the receiving line — the most formal way to do this.

Why Have One?

A receiving line is the best way to meet all of your guests and thank them for joining you to celebrate your big day. If you’re having more than 50 guests, it’s considered proper etiquette. The line also ensures that you get a minute to have a quick chat, hug and kiss and say “Wow you look amazing!” or “The ceremony was lovely.” (This will probably be repeated by every guest you meet) However, if you are relying on meeting your guests throughout the day, you may find yourself spending the whole party running in circles, avoiding guests that you have already spoken to, to say hello to people you haven’t greeted yet, and no doubt you’ll end up missing one of your guests.

When and Where?

Generally the receiving line is formed following the ceremony (after the bride and group walk back down the aisle) or at the beginning of the wedding breakfast. If you decide that you will be doing a receiving lie you must make sure that you caterers know otherwise you will end up with cold or burnt food! You will also need to take the guests into consideration- it’s certainly not a quick process… Guests will need space to queue from and also to go to. And whilst they are waiting in line or sitting waiting for all of the other guests to make their way through they will need entertaining. Alcohol, magicians, live singers or eye-spy cards go down a treat at this point. Fresh air is also crucial to avoid sweaty guests and swooning bridesmaids.

Who Stands in it?

Traditionally, the bride’s parents (as hosts) start the receiving line and are first to greet guests, followed by the bride and groom and then the groom’s parents. Many lines now also include the entire bridal party (if there’s room), and sometimes even grandparents . Today, however, with more couples contributing to or paying for their own weddings, the lines have blurred. The couple may wish to stand alone, especially if the majority of guests are their friends, or they may stand with just the mums while the dads circulate among and welcome the crowd during the cocktail hour.

Divorced & Remarried Parents

This may be one of the awkwarder situations you’ll encounter when planning the big day, and the solution often depends on the relationships between the parties. If your parents are divorced, they should not stand next to one another in line (even if they are sharing hosting duties) as this gives the impression that they are still a couple. Instead, place Mom on one side of you and the groom, then the groom’s parents, then Dad. If this arrangement doesn’t sit well, consider placing another family member or an honor attendant between them. And what about stepparents? Should you include them too? That depends on whether you have a good relationship with them? Is your mom/dad capable of sharing this duty with your stepmom/dad with civility and grace? You should strive to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible. If this arrangement gets the green light, simply have your father stand with his new wife, and your mother with her new husband. This way guests will understand the relationships.