Is it Better to Give Then to Receive???

I started out as a proponent of receiving lines.  As a guest at a wedding a few years ago I was very disappointed that there was no receiving line.  I thought that was just plain rude!

Up until a few weeks (and weddings) ago I would always recommend a receiving line when asked. says that etiquette dictates that you should have a receiving line if you have over 50 guests. Emily Post mentions “if you have one” in some of her posts.

The main reason I changed my mind is because a receiving line can be very time consuming and sometimes time is not your friend.   The Association of Bridal Consultants Professional Development Program says to allocate 20 seconds per guest for a receiving line.   If you have 150 guests that’s 50 minutes.

My new mindset takes into consideration where the ceremony takes place vs where the reception will be held; how long of a break there is between the two;  and if the bride and groom will be seeing each other before the ceremony for pictures.  Even if you do a receiving line, not everyone will have made it to the ceremony, so the bride and groom may still feel obligated to visit each table. Whether you do a receiving line or not the bride and groom  should make every effort to greet each guest whether after the ceremony or during the reception.

IMHO I present the following scenarios for your consideration:

(1) If the bride and groom saw each other before the ceremony, and the wedding is off site from the reception, and there is more than 2 hours between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of cocktail hour and the venue is less then a 1/2 from the ceremony and there are less than 150 guests at the church – go for the receiving line.

(2) Given the same situation above but the bride and groom did not see each other before the ceremony a receiving line is still doable depending on how much you want to get done before cocktail hour starts (or finishes). Figure an hour for the receiving line, another 1/2 hour back inside the church for pictures, another 1/2 hour for the trip to the picturesque site for bride and groom portraits.  That’s 2 hours right there assuming that everyone is ready for their picture when called.  If it takes another 1/2 hour to get to the reception venue then you’ll probably have time to enjoy part of your cocktail hour with your guests.  If there is  less than 2 hours between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of cocktail hour a receiving line can still be done with the knowledge that the bride and groom probably won’t make cocktail hour at all.

(3)  If your ceremony and reception are at the same site and the conclusion of the ceremony is the signal to start cocktail hour then seriously consider not having a receiving line especially if the bride and groom did not see each other before the ceremony.  That hour will go by very quickly and the newlyweds will have no time to enjoy cocktail hour. They may even  delay introductions which will then cut into the time allotted for dinner and dancing.

(4)  Given scenarios 1 and 2.  If you have over 200 guests at the ceremony I’d vote a big “no” for the receiving line even if there’s more than 2 hours in between.  It would take the last people in line over an hour to get out of the church and that’s way too long for anyone to stand in line.

So answer this – Is it better to give (yourself a break and some extra time) then to receive (the well wishes of your guests when you’ll see them all in a few hours at the party)?  Can’t wait to hear what you think!