The receiving line is usually the last item that comes to mind when planning your wedding. However, when you begin thinking about it, give it some serious consideration. The purpose of the receiving line is to allow the bride and groom and their parents (who often have paid for the wedding and are in fact, the hosts) the opportunity to greet every guest personally.
Now I know every bride believes that there will be more than ample time to visit every couple and stop by each table at the reception. However, it is only in hindsight that you will truly appreciate how quickly the four hours of your reception flew by.
If you have a small wedding I would suggest knocking this task out immediately after the ceremony. You will clear out the ceremony area so that you can reenter and have your formal photographs taken and everyone is ensured of being able to “kiss the bride”. On the other hand if you are inviting hundreds of guests your receiving line can take anywhere from thirty minutes to more than an hour. This is where the “serious consideration” I spoke of earlier comes into play. If your reception is set to begin “Immediately following the ceremony”, you will be losing a great deal of precious time that would be better spent taking formal portraits.
If you are a bride that has invited a significant number of guests to the ceremony that were not invited to the reception, you should have your receiving line at the ceremony location in order to greet these guests.
If at all possible situate your receiving line in close proximity to a doorway. Ideally, guests should be able to process through the receiving line, exit the building and make their way to the reception location.
Who should be in the receiving line? Again take into consideration the more people in the receiving line the longer it will take guests to file through the receiving line. The following should be a part of the receiving line, in the following order; mother of the bride, father of the bride, mother of the groom, father of the groom, bride and then the groom. Ideally, I would stop here if there are a large number of guests. If not, you can continue with; brides honor attendants, bridesmaids and groomsmen.
As for receiving lines at the reception, keep in mind a few things. By the time you arrive at the reception, the cocktail hour will be in full swing. There will be a lot going on and getting the attention of all your guests and corralling the wedding party may be a significant challenge.
Lastly, keep receiving line conversation to a minimum. It is essential that the line keep moving in order for everyone to get through. Short and Sweet is the name of the game here.