Your Parents Want You to Have a Receiving Line During the Wedding—Should You Do It?

This tradition doesn't fit every celebration, but parents will still ask if you intend to do it. Here's what you need to know.

The tradition of having a receiving line at a wedding has dwindled in recent years, as weddings tend to extend over entire weekends of celebration and spending quality time with guests. For your parents' generation, it may seem like taboo not to include a receiving line. If you're not sure which way to go, here's the whole picture of what's behind the tradition, its basic pros and cons, and some great alternatives if you don't love the idea.

chelsea john wedding couple on dirt road
Hannah Alyssa Photography

What's the purpose of the receiving line?

A receiving line is a chance to let all your guests shake hands with everyone in the wedding party and immediate family, while also congratulating the couple. This cultural tradition is one that's still going hard in certain regions, while it's faded into wedding history in others. Chances are, if your parents are pushing for it, it's something they remember doing at their own wedding.

The case for a receiving line, explained.

If you're having a large wedding and you're worried you won't be able to greet every guest in attendance, a receiving line minimizes that stress. It's an easy way to share your gratitude to each individual guest for simply showing up. Every guest will walk through the line, grab a hug or a handshake, and you're sure to see everyone's faces in this easy, traditional way.

The case against a receiving line, explained.

The biggest complaint from couples is that a receiving line takes up a big chunk of time, especially if you have a large guest list. Most couples feel like they'd rather spend that time mingling in a more natural way, or enjoying their cocktail hour instead. Additionally, complicated family dynamics can make a receiving line feel awkward if there are people who don't get along with one another.

Consider these alternatives if your parents just won't drop it.

One of the best alternatives is to compromise by telling your parents you'll visit with each table during dinner. This is a chance to greet everyone individually, without the time pressure of guests waiting to go through a long line. If you're having a weekend-long celebration with events in the days before your wedding, it doesn't make sense to have a receiving line because you'll be able to greet most guests in advance of the wedding and you can spread your attention and conversation across multiple days.

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