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The traditional purpose of a receiving line is to allow the hostess (usually the mother of the bride) to welcome and greet the wedding guests.
Whether you have a receiving line comes down to personal preference
Whilst you would expect to see a receiving line at a formal wedding, they tend to be less common at informal weddings - instead it depends on the personal preference of the wedding party.
If you choose not to have a receiving line, you should make a point of visiting different tables during the meal so you can still personally greet and welcome your guests. The downside to this is you won't get to enjoy your wedding meal and will probably spend more time greeting guests - you may even forget to greet some guests or not have the opportunity.
When deciding whether to have a receiving line, you should consider the following:
- Number of guests. The more guests you have, the longer it will take to greet them all - especially if some want to say more than congratulations. You should set aside 30 seconds to greet each guest. Receiving lines are uncommon at weddings with more than 80 guests. Any more than that and guest will find themselves waiting in a queue or at their tables.
- Time of day. The later you get married, the less time you will have for all the other aspects of your wedding. Many venues will advise whether a receiving line is feasible or not to ensure that everything keeps to schedule.
- Who should greet. There are many variations of the traditional receiving line (see receiving line order). The more people you have in the receiving line, the longer it will take to greet all your guests.
- When to greet. There is no set time when you should have a receiving line. The three best times are:
- After the ceremony - The wedding party can greet the guests as they follow them out after the wedding ceremony. Most guests will be quite thirsty and will be keen to move along for a glass of champagne waiting for them at the end of the line.
- When they arrive at the reception - If the reception is at a different location guests can be greeted as they arrive. Greetings will remain brief as they are hurried on by other guests arriving behind them. This can be helped by someone directing them to drinks at the end of the line.
- Before the wedding breakfast - This option tends to incur the biggest hold up - particularly if people have had a few drinks beforehand. Caterers won't want to delay the food - so ushers should be on hand to keep the guests moving along the line.