How to Handle Your Receiving Line Like a Pro

The receiving line is a long-running tradition in which the couple and specific members of their families greet guests. It’s a simple way to transition the mood from ceremony to reception and make everyone feel comfortable and acknowledged. That being said there are some important rules to receiving.


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    Start the lineup. Experts have differing opinions about who partakes in the receiving line, but typically, it’s the mother of the bride, the bride, the groom and his mother (in that order depending on how formal you want to be). Often the fathers are nearby mingling with guests and making informal introductions. But, I think adding in the fathers, especially if they have a good amount of friends in attendance, is more than acceptable. Stepparents can be added in depending on your preference. Just try not to overwhelm your guests. It’s not about having the biggest NFL defensive line, here.
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    Keep it short and sweet. You should expect that it will take about 30-40 minutes for every 100 guests. That means about 20 seconds with each guest. Give a warm and genuine greeting and say the guest's name whenever you know it. Try, “Hi Bill and Pam. Thank you for sharing this day with us and being part of our wedding. You are wonderful friends. You know Keith.” And then usher them onward to your new husband. If you feel like you’re spending too much time with one person, let them know you’ll see them throughout the reception and catch up more then.
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    Introduce and initiate. It’s important as the bride or groom to make the introductions between your family and your guests. Say, “Hi Kathy! I’m so glad you could make it. This is Sam; you know my mom, Cindy; and this is Sam’s mother, Irene. This is Kathy, my college roommate. She flew in from Boston.” First names and relationship are the key points to get across. Ideally guests make it their responsibility to state their first name and how they know the bride and groom if not otherwise formally introduced.
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    Don’t guess the guests. The best way to avoid any embarrassing introduction moments is to study your guest list beforehand. Go through the attendees with your partner and look at pictures if possible. And, ask your parents to do the same. It will make the receiving line much more receivable.
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    Play the No-Name game. There are bound to be a few people whose names you forget or miss. The best way to handle this is to just not say their name. Say, “It’s great to see you again. Thank you for coming. Be sure to say hello to Ted; he’ll be excited to see you.” Or create a signal letting your Mom know you forgot a name so she jumps in with a cue: "Honey, aren't you excited Jim and Martha joined us to celebrate? What great neighbors they are!"
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    Enjoy the compliments. In many instances you won’t even get a chance to say anything because guests will be complimenting how you look, how nice the ceremony was and how great the reception space is. So, just graciously say thank you and express your appreciation for them being in attendance.
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    Keep the line moving. Of course your guests will be so excited to see you and want to chat for as long as possible. So, you really need to be the one moving the line along. You can both verbally and physically keep it going. While physically motioning them onto the next person in the receiving line and slowly turning back to the next person in line to see you, say, “Well, it’s great to see you and I look forward to talking more during the party.”

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Categories: Speaking | Weddings