How to Greet Everyone at a Large Wedding

It might seem overwhelming, but it's an etiquette must.

How to Greet Everyone at a Large Wedding

Photo: Amanda Sudimack for Artisan Events

greeting guests at large wedding, receiving line, going to each table at reception

For couples who will have over 200 guests at their wedding, the idea of greeting everyone can seem overwhelming and intimidating. However, it’s important to do so, in order to show appreciation for their attendance. The traditional way to do this is via a receiving line, which is usually done immediately after the ceremony with the mothers or parents of the newlyweds as part of the group. Some people consider it to be an outdated custom, but it is considered proper etiquette and most experts say you should not do without a receiving line if you have over 50 guests. If you are hosting the wedding as a couple, you can simply do the receiving line as a pair of newlyweds, but most people choose to have both sets of parents involved as well. It may take a long time, but the receiving line also gets all of your greetings out of the way and you are able to enjoy the reception freely. 

However, if you and your beloved feel the traditional receiving line isn’t for you – or just doesn’t fit the tone of the big day – there are alternative options that are still appropriate. It’s only a slight change, but receiving guests at cocktail hour allows everyone to enjoy drinks and appetizers while they wait. Similarly, as long as you take the majority of your photos before the wedding during a "first look," you can make a point to circle through all of the attendees during cocktail hour. Another method is to dismiss guests by row at the ceremony, saying hello to everybody as they exit. Though it’s important to note that this is not recommended for outdoor nuptials in unpleasant weather. Something that has become popular in recent years is for the newlyweds to go table by table during dinner or between courses, even having the photographer take a picture of everyone with the lovebirds. Of course, with large guest lists, this can be quite time consuming, so make sure that your reception is long enough that you won’t be missing out on dinner or dancing. If you have a buffet, you and your spouse can be the ones who go to each table to tell them it's time to get food, while chatting just beforehand.

Hosting a full wedding weekend gives you the chance to mingle with attendees at the welcome party and other events. A couple in our fall issue had a pre-ceremony cocktail hour where they served beverages and greeted guests. Another way to make everyone feel appreciated and included is by going between different groups on the dance floor. Although it doesn’t mean you can skip out on speaking with everyone individually, it’s still important that the newlyweds give a quick thank-you toast at the reception. 

Learn how to make the perfect guest list and make sure your attendees are comfortable

Photo by Amanda Sudimack for Artisan Events; Consulting by Hope Weis Consulting