Ways to Greet Guests Besides the Receiving Line

The classic tradition has grown less popular in recent years.

Find out how to greet your guests at your wedding if you won't be having a traditional receiving line.

Photo: Mark Steines

For decades, tradition dictated that after a wedding ceremony, the newlyweds and their parents should greet the guests via the receiving line. If you aren’t familiar with the practice, it’s when attendees in single file greet the host of the event. Usually it’s a quick salutation accompanied by well wishes and a handshake or hug.

The custom has fallen out of fashion over the years for a variety of reasons. For starters, the receiving line is most common for church ceremonies, or any other nuptials where the vow exchange is held at a different venue than the reception. Though these occasions still occur, they are less common than they were 50 years ago. Receiving lines are particularly utilized in church weddings because the whole congregation may be open to witness the ceremony, while only close friends and family are invited to the reception. Without a receiving line in these instances, the happy couple may not have the opportunity to greet everyone. 

black and white photo offering drinks at pre-ceremony cocktail hour

Photo by Kent Drake Photography

Another reason the tradition is less popular is simply because it is seen as old fashioned. However, the biggest issue most people have with it is that it takes a long time. Regardless, it is imperative to take the time to greet all of your guests on the big day. Though some of the methods will still take time to get through, depending on the amount of attendees, perhaps the following modern alternatives to the receiving line will be more your style. 

- Stopping by each reception table. This way you’re at least able to greet a group of people at once, rather than one at a time. You can even have your photographer follow along so you get a picture with everyone. The downside is that this can cut into your reception time, particularly your chance to eat dinner. 

- Making time for cocktail hour. Newlyweds typically use this time to get pictures taken, but if you do the bulk of them before the ceremony, you will be able to greet people by casually mingling through cocktail hour. You can even stand at the entrance of the reception and say hi as they walk in, or take advice from the couple pictured above who actually served drinks to their loved ones!

- Hosting a welcome party. One major benefit of the wedding-weekend trend is the greater amount of opportunities to spend time with all of your nearest and dearest who have traveled to celebrate your special day. 

For more ideas and tips, discover the pros and cons of a church ceremony and how to organize your bridal party