Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Receiving Line

Receiving lines are intended to be the greeting of the guests by the hostess and guests of honor at an event. We see them most often at weddings these days where one can wait more than an hour not to be greeted by more than half the receivers because they do not know them personally and do not know how to manage the guests through the line.

The Hostess has been all for being rid of the receiving line, ever since, as a young guest at the Black and Gold at West Point, she stood in a receiving line of decorated military dignitaries for one and half hours in three inch heels. At least they knew the etiquette which is nothing short of a miracle in these times.

If you are considering a receiving line, there are a couple of things I want you to know:

It is your wedding, greet me casually if you like. A simple smile and nod and coming down the isle in between photos is enough. There is just no reason we need to stand in 100 degree heat for an hour to exchange the kiss of peace.

Secondly, a receiving line takes an awfully long time to complete so you will need to plan for it: 45 minutes for every 200 guests, that is if you are moving with infantry-like swiftness and your receivers know the drill well, no pun intended. The Hostess has been a victim of the 400 person line and is glad she lived to relate these tales to you.

Finally, best to have a drink or cocktail and a canape service if you plan to keep anyone lingering for an hour. At one memorable wedding, the Hostess nearly passed out in a sweltering Methodist camp in Oregon from a lack of hydration and the exhaustion from the around-the-world in a day journey to Corvalis. Be thoughtful, about the standing around and the air conditioning.

The drill then, is as follows:

No guest should be cold-shouldered or ignored because your Dad does not recognize him. The etiquette is that the hostess or host at a wedding, generally the Mother of the Bride, is the first in the receiving line. She greets the guests, being sure she has their name correct, turns to the receiver on her right and introduces the guest to the next person on the line by their complete name and affiliation. Each consecutive person introduces the guest in kind to the person on their right. Now everyone knows everyone else.

Do not bother getting too stuck on formality at a wedding over what order you stand in on line as the idea is that the guest will see everyone by the time they get to the end. It is painful enough, no reason to be any more tiresome with formality. And there is also no reason to have the entire wedding party stand in line too.

Think it over. No one will miss it if you forgo the line; you must get to every reception table regardless. The Hostess' two cents worth is that weddings should be fun: Bird seed and champagne cocktails. Save the line and hand off's for your next state reception.

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