A Receiving Line is an age old tradition that can be a very good idea, but is not mandatory. Since you and your groom will be so busy during your reception, this is a great way to meet and greet all of your guests, even if just for a few minutes. A receiving line is harder to come by in weddings these days. It has usually been replaced by cocktail hour, which is essentially the same concept, just a modern spin. The problem with replacing your receiving line with cocktail hour could be that you may have to take professional photos while your guests mingle without you, so a receiving line can be very beneficial. You’ve heard of it, but you’re not sure how it works. That’s okay, i’ve included the details below:
Place: The receiving line can be held at the ceremony site immediately following the ceremony or at the reception site just before the festivities begin. If you plan to have formal photographs taken of your family and attendants just after the ceremony, or if the reception site will take a bit of time to reach, you are probably better off holding the receiving line at the reception venue, where you should line up just outside of the event space.
Participants: The bride, the groom, and their mothers are the core members of the receiving line. The bride’s attendants may or may not participate; the same holds true to fathers (sometimes, especially with divorced parents, it is best if the dads mingle with the guests instead). Keep in mind that the more people standing in the receiving line, the longer it will take for the guests to make their way through.
Order: Obviously, the order in which the members of the receiving line stand varies according to who participates – as well as specific family situations. Generally, the hosts (again, fathers do not need to participate) are first, followed by the other set of parents (or both if the bride and groom are hosting), the the bride, the groom, and the brides attendants if you choose to include them. For example, if your parents are hosting, your mother should be first, then your father, the groom’s mother, the groom’s father, yourself, the groom, your maid of honor, and your bridesmaids. The setup described is a general one that could of course be modified according to your specific situation. If the bride’s parents are divorced and are remarried, and it has been decided that both couples will participate in the receiving line, the groom’s parents usually stand between them, with the hosts still first in line. If both the bride’s and groom’s parents are divorced and remarried and participating in the receiving line, the couples should alternate so that no one is standing next to former spouse and his/her partner. Keep in mind that the overall goal should be to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible.
Process: Each member of the receiving line should shake hands with each guest (or hug or kiss if they’re particularly close, or you’re italian ;)), exchange a few brief pleasantries (while you don’t want to rush anyone, this is not the time for in-depth conversations since it’s likely that a lot of people are waiting), and then introduce the guest to the next member of the receiving line as a courtesy.
Bouquet: You may set aside your bouquet for the receiving line or hold it in your left hand so that your right one is free to shake hands with guests. The same holds true for your bridesmaids, if they are participating in the receiving line.
Alternative: Many couples choose not to have a receiving line as it tends to be a time-consuming ritual for everyone involved — including your guests. Instead, you and your groom could make a brief visit to each table during the meal so that everyone gets to spend a little time with you. The hosts may do the same. Another alternative would be to take professional photos before the ceremony, so that you can mingle with your guests during cocktail hour.
Regardless, this is your day and tradition or not, it’s ultimately your choice. There’s no right or wrong answer. I hope this info was helpful!!