Receiving lines are an old tradition. They are a great way for the bride and groom, as well as their parents, to personally thank each guest for coming and sharing in the big day. But they also take up a large amount of time out of your day and can throw your schedule off track. Now I know that it is your day and you don’t have to have the entire thing scheduled to a tee but there usually is a timeline in place after a ceremony for photos, cocktail hour, introductions and all of the reception activities. This means you have vendors, specifically the photographer, D.J. and caterers, who have a timeline they are working with in order to be sure your day moves as smoothly as possible. When a schedule gets off track, it means each of these vendors has to make up for that time somewhere and it often means everything being pushed later or, in the case of the photographer, less opportunity to complete their specific task they are scheduled for….and, lose the available light, in a lot of evening situations.
In my experience, less than half of my clients do a receiving line. I’m not sure if the tradition just isn’t as important anymore or just that the bride and groom is eager to start their party. I think often times, the bride and groom decide to make their rounds to each of the guest’s tables after they eat their dinner to say hello and thank their guests. It is a nice alternative to everyone standing in line waiting to congratulate the couple and say hello. Alternatively, couples that do a receiving line often find it takes almost twice as long as they expect, mostly because their well-wishers are eager to talk to them and congratulate them. In some cases, relatives haven’t seen each other in years and so having a conversation is completely natural. No one wants to rush people out because they have a schedule to keep.
If you must do a receiving line, be sure to pad your schedule enough to allow for it. I would say you need at least 30 minutes of time. Consider that if you do not see your bride/groom before the ceremony that you usually need about an hour to capture all the necessary photos after and try not to let the receiving line overlap it too much. Overlapping means your photographer has less time and light to work with and often has to make the other vendors wait on them. Caterers have meals to serve and D.J.’s have introductions and activities to M.C. It’s always best to allow too much time than too little. Things can always be moved up in the schedule if things are finished early. This allows for a more relaxed day for everyone, including yourselves.
Just some things to think about!