What is a Receiving Line?

Bride, groom and parents exchanging wishes

A Receiving Line is a ceremonial act that takes place when the bride, the bride's attendants, and the host of the reception (typically the father of the bride) take the time to formally greet and welcome the attendees to the celebration, as well as receiving their congratulations and good wishes. 

As a matter or courtesy and etiquette, it is a great idea to consider forming a Receiving Line during your wedding celebration. A Receiving Line has often been one of the most overlooked and forgotten components of the wedding ceremony. Indeed, it has a long history rooted in both Christian and Jewish traditions. Holding a Receiving Line poses many benefits for both you and your guests. The biggest benefit of course is that it acts as an effective ice-breaker between all who attend, and all who participate in your wedding. This will be handy later when it comes time for interactive activities like the garter & bouquet toss, and the witnessing of the cutting of the cake. The Receiving Line may also be your only opportunity to spend personal one-on-one time with each attendee of your wedding. This is especially true if you plan on having 150 or more guests present. Keep your greetings short, courteous, and sincere and you will find several added benefits waiting at the other end of your wedding celebration.

One question that comes up often in relation to the Receiving Line deals with timing. I have often been asked when the best time is to form a Receiving Line, and the answer is simple. The ideal time to form a Receiving LIne comes immediately following the ceremony. In a Roman Catholic ceremony, the Receiving LIne can form after the father (priest) has taken his stance outside the threshold of the church parish to greet those that have attended. This will of course have to be okayed on an individual basis by the officiating father. The same holds true for Protestant ceremonies and the like. As an alternative; however, the Receiving LIne can also be formed immediately prior to the commencement of the wedding reception. It is a good idea to form the Receiving Line even if you plan on having the Master of Ceremonies, DJ, or band leader conduct a Formal Introduction because in each instance, both the Receiving Line and the Formal Introduction hold its own individual purpose and function [for more information on the Formal Introduction, read my article titled, "Formal Introductions"].

Finally, I have been asked who should be included in the Receiving Line? My answer to this has typically been the bride, her attendants, and the host of the wedding celebration / reception (typically the father of the bride).

Tips:

  1. Assign one of the groomsman / ushers to standby during the Receiving Line to provide support / assistance should it be needed by any member of the Receiving Line
  2. Make sure to have an stool and / or bottled water nearby and easily accessible should the parents of the bride or other member of Receiving LIne should need one.
  3. Keep clean wash cloth / towels nearby and accessible for bride or other member of Receiving Line should they need one, especially in cases where Receiving Line is to be held outdoors.
  4. In case of inclement weather, keep umbrella[s] nearby and easily accessible.
  5. Avoid placing parents of the bride together in Receiving Line if they are remarried, even if they get along well. Doing so may cause confusion amongst guests, and others may assume quite innocently that this couple is still married. Traditionally, it is the father of the bride that heads the Receiving Line. The father of the bride can be placed to the left of the newlyweds, followed by the parents of the groom, the Maid / Matron of honor, then mother of the bride and her spouse (if present). 
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