These days when I talk to couples about their plans for the day and ask if they are planning a receiving line, more often than not I encounter a pair of blank, confused faces and the question, “What’s that?”
The receiving line is something of an old tradition these days. It was usually done before the Wedding Breakfast (the Wedding Meal) and would involve the Bride and Groom, and usually both sets of parents, standing outside the room where the meal was to be served and welcoming everyone in. Some people still choose to do this as they see it as a good opportunity to make sure they have greeted all their guests. But most couples these days are scraping the receiving line usually because they feel it is too formal and may take up too much time. I probably see a receiving line once out of every twenty weddings. I even struggled to find any images for this page.
Before deciding whether you are going to go with the option of a receiving line there are a few important things to consider:
- How many guests do you have? Some might opt for the receiving line because they have so many guests and it is a good chance to make sure everyone is greeted. But remember the more guest, the more time it will take. I have seen receiving line that have taken just 20 minutes. But I have seen others take over 45 minutes!
- Who will be in the receiving lane? Bride and Groom obviously. Parents are traditionally included? I have seen some that include rest of the wedding party (Bridesmaids and Groomsmen)? How many people are in the line will also effect how long the line takes.
- What time are you getting married? Or more specifically how long do you have between the end of the ceremony and the meal being served? Lets say you have just over an hour planned between the two. If you want group and Bride and Groom photos, we need to do these in that time. I average about 20 minutes on each. But I also like to remind coupes that you will also want this time to relax and enjoy your day. Spend some actual time with your guests. This part of the day tends to wiz by. Will you have time for all this and a receiving line on your day?
- Will you have time to visit every table after the meal? It’s not unusual to see the Bride and Groom moving from table to table in between food being served and after the meal. Many people find this less formal than a face to face welcoming.
For those that still want to go through with the receiving line but feel time may be a factor there is another option. And one I have seen to work very well. Even better infect. Why not form a welcoming line straight after the ceremony? The Bride and Groom always leave the ceremony first, usually followed by the parents, Bridesmaids, Groomsmen and then the guests. It’s so easy to find a suitable area and welcome your guest as they leave the church or as they make their way to the reception drinks at a venue. It actually makes great sense too. It’s early in the day. It’s usually the first opportunity the guests have to actually talk to the Bride. Everyone gets the chance to congratulate you after the ceremony. Rather than before the meal! Whenever I have seen this done out has not effected the flow of the day and often seems more relaxed. If your wanting to do some kind of receiving line, this is definitely a option worth thinking about.
There is one other reason I am not the biggest fan of receiving lines before the meal. Now I would never tell someone how to plan their special day. It’s one of the most important days of your life. And it should be everything you want it to be. But for couples that say, “we are not doing a receiving line before the meal,” I say great. That leaves us with a fantastic opportunity.
Once your guests are told it is time to sit for the meal, they are still going to take some time for them to be seated and the Bride and Groom to be announced to the room. Some guests will grab a drink on the way, they need to find their seat on the table plan, chat to family and friends. I have found this can still take about 20 minutes. This is the perfect time to get some romantic images of the Bride and Groom. It fills that part of the day whilst your guests are being seated. But the beauty of it is that your guests are occupied. I like my photos to look as natural as possible. Especially the Bride and Groom photos. And the last thing anyone needs at this moment is an audience. Imagine trying to look loving and natural whist your Aunties are looking over my shoulder saying how sweet you both look! This can make people feel nervous, sometimes in an almost stage fright type effect. This can then make couples hold back and lose those most intimate moments.
There are also many times when a Bride and Groom have thanked me at this point of the day. I would never take anyone away for too long. And we have to be ready in time for the meal of course. But for most it is the first time of the day they are away from the guests. 15/20 minutes to share with the person you have just committed your love and life to. A slow walk hand in hand through the gardens. Gazing into each others eyes under a tree. The Groom sweeping his Bride off her feet near a stairway. It’s bit of piece and quiet and a chance to enjoy each others company together for the first time as Mr & Mrs. You wont even know I was there.