If you've ever been to a wedding, you've probably participated in a receiving line. You know. That crazy long line to greet the bride and groom on their special day directly after the ceremony so that you can pay them your respects and give them your well wishes. They're long, irritating, and mostly just annoying. I recently photographed a wedding where the receiving line carried on for over an hour and a half! Anyway, you've probably plotted various ways of ditching this long-time wedding tradition in hopes of not having one on your wedding day. Some of those plans may even involve invisibility cloaks and magic wands...
The truth is that receiving lines accomplish one HUGE item on the check list of wedding day activities: they allow you to greet all of your guests and spend a moment or two with each of them in one go. By having a receiving line, you're not interrupting your dinner, or your guests' dinner. You're not worried about missing someone important, and all those who want to greet you get a chance to do so. Plus, it gives me as a photographer a chance to capture you with each of your guests, rather than getting those boring table shots later on.
The key to having a successful receiving line is to keep people moving. Phrases such as, "I can't wait to speak with you more later!" and "Why don't we set a lunch date after I get home from my honeymoon so we can visit more?" let those guests who want to stand there and chat know that you need to be moving on from them. Most people understand that they should only take a moment or two with you because there are lots of other people waiting to greet you as well.
So, who should stand in the receiving line with you and your new spouse? Well, all of your parents for starters. If there is a step-parent, I say go ahead and include them as well- just be sure to line up in a thoughtful manner. Your grandparents should also participate if they are present and able to do so. After all, most of your wedding guests are also family members and will want to see these people too. I would also include your Best Man and Maid/Matron of Honor, as their primary duty is to actually play host and hostess for you. The rest of your family members and wedding party should just hang back and encourage the rest of your guests to head toward whatever activity(ies) you have planned for them.
With any luck, your receiving line should move quickly and smoothly and I will be whisking you and your immediate family and wedding party off for your formal portraits within 20 minutes.