Receiving Line Basics
Let’s start by setting the record straight: A receiving line isn’t required. However, the bride and groom do have to greet and thank every one of their guests for coming to their wedding. A receiving line really is the best way to be sure they don’t miss anyone, especially if the wedding is large (more than 75 people). A receiving line is also a great (and efficient) way to be sure all the guests have a chance to meet the couple’s parents and attendants. At a small wedding, it’s fine for the bride and groom to visit with each table – usually during the meal—to greet, thank, and chat with their guests.
The receiving line is held either at the ceremony site as people exit the service, followed by formal picture-taking, or as soon as the couple reaches the reception area, after the formal pictures. Ideally, the location permits guests to have refreshments while they wait for their turn, or allows the line to flow into the reception area.
Who’s In Line?
For some reason, groomsmen often panic about having to be in a receiving line. Relax, guys, you’re off the hook. Whoever is hosting the wedding is the first in the line. Traditionally, that’s the bride’s mother, followed by her father, the groom’s mother and father, the bride, the groom, the maid or matron of honor, and one or two bridesmaids (they can take turns and share the duty). But if Aunt Martha and Uncle Fred are hosting, Aunt Martha starts the line. Fathers aren’t required to stand in line; they can circulate, with the groomsmen, among the guests. However, if one father participates, the other should also. In a military wedding. it’s protocol for a groom in uniform to stand before his bride.