Wedding Etiquette Forum

Receiving Line Alternative?

I'm not getting married until August, so this isn't really a pressing concern but it's been on my mind. My FI and I are planning a cocktail reception (don't worry there will be TONS of food and enough seating for everyone!) and I'm not sure the best way to go about making sure I take a moment with each of our guests to thank them for coming. I hate the idea of doing a receiving line because they've taken forever at every wedding I've been to plus they always feel awkward to me. But because we are doing a cocktail reception and there won't be a specific meal time where everyone is sitting down at a table, I'm worried that table visits won't be a feasible option. Has anyone here done table visits at a cocktail reception? Is there another option I'm not thinking of? Obviously, if a receiving line is the best option it's what I'll do (I hate it when the bride and groom don't make an effort to greet their guests).


Re: Receiving Line Alternative?

  • Unfortunately, I think you have to choose between the cocktail style reception, which has no set meal time so table visits aren't really feasible, and doing a receiving line. Because you're right, it would be really rude to not greet everyone. Maybe if you did one as people entered the reception space (vs. as they leave the ceremony which is more typical) the line would go more quickly as the bar and food would be in sight.
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    bethsmilesInLoveInQueensCasadena[Deleted User]
  • I've heard of a bride standing by the bar at her wedding, with her group everyone came up to grab a drink and she was able to see almost everyone just by doing that (I've forgotten who it was though). Is there somewhere that all the guests will have to go for anything? Like a buffet spot or drink table?
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  • bethsmilesbethsmiles Denver, CO member
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    @southernbelle0915 - That's what I figured. Doing a cocktail reception is pretty much the only thing my parents have asked for (and they are paying) so not doing one to avoid having to do a receiving line isn't really an option.

    @justsie - All the drinks will be served from the bar, but it's pretty common in my circle to send up one person to get drinks for multiple people so I'd probably be missing quite a few people that way. I thought about maybe serving the cake...everyone comes to get cake right?


  • @southernbelle0915 - That's what I figured. Doing a cocktail reception is pretty much the only thing my parents have asked for (and they are paying) so not doing one to avoid having to do a receiving line isn't really an option.

    @justsie - All the drinks will be served from the bar, but it's pretty common in my circle to send up one person to get drinks for multiple people so I'd probably be missing quite a few people that way. I thought about maybe serving the cake...everyone comes to get cake right?


    My wedding was an outlier (a bit of a disaster), but very few people actually had cake.  I would estimate 10 pieces of cake and 2 cupcakes were eaten.  Guest list of 95!

    I did a receiving line at the church, and was very glad to have that out of the way for the reception.

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  • bethsmilesbethsmiles Denver, CO member
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    @luckya23 - what is wrong with your guests?! Cake is the best! 


  • @luckya23 - what is wrong with your guests?! Cake is the best! 


    Well my own theory is that DH's side of the family is pretty much one big wet blanket - pretty appropriate for my 50 degree pouring rain outdoor wedding - and the cake table was too close to the dance floor for comfort! ;-)

    The weather didn't encourage partaking of the ice cream sundae bar either, unfortunately!

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  • @southernbelle0915 - That's what I figured. Doing a cocktail reception is pretty much the only thing my parents have asked for (and they are paying) so not doing one to avoid having to do a receiving line isn't really an option.

    @justsie - All the drinks will be served from the bar, but it's pretty common in my circle to send up one person to get drinks for multiple people so I'd probably be missing quite a few people that way. I thought about maybe serving the cake...everyone comes to get cake right?

    Doing it this way (you stay put and they come up during the reception - regardless of if it's at the bar or for cake) puts the onus on them to come up to you so you can greet and thank them, when you should be going out of your way to greet and thank your guests.  And then are you going to stand there all night for people who don't want to come up right away, are enjoying their conversations with other people, are in the restroom or outside having a smoke or calling home to the babysitter to check on the kids?

    Honestly, unless you're having 500 people, your reception line isn't going to take that long.  I've never been in a receiving line longer than 20 minutes (and I somehow always end up towards the end of the line) and that's including my friend who had 325 people.  You're not having full-on conversations with people in a receiving line - they tell you how wonderful you look, how beautiful the ceremony was, thanks for inviting us, blah blah blah - you say how much you appreciate they could make the trip, you're so glad they could join you on this day, you're looking forward to catching a drink/dance with them later blah blah blah, they move on the line.  People are pretty quick to move through a line when you're standing between them and the booze and they see a line of people behind them waiting.

    SP29PrettyGirlLost
  • bethsmilesbethsmiles Denver, CO member
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    jacques27 said:
    @southernbelle0915 - That's what I figured. Doing a cocktail reception is pretty much the only thing my parents have asked for (and they are paying) so not doing one to avoid having to do a receiving line isn't really an option.

    @justsie - All the drinks will be served from the bar, but it's pretty common in my circle to send up one person to get drinks for multiple people so I'd probably be missing quite a few people that way. I thought about maybe serving the cake...everyone comes to get cake right?

    Doing it this way (you stay put and they come up during the reception - regardless of if it's at the bar or for cake) puts the onus on them to come up to you so you can greet and thank them, when you should be going out of your way to greet and thank your guests.  And then are you going to stand there all night for people who don't want to come up right away, are enjoying their conversations with other people, are in the restroom or outside having a smoke or calling home to the babysitter to check on the kids?

    So does a receiving line, couples absolutely aren't going out of their way to greet their guests when then do a receiving line. 


  • Will somebody please explain a "cocktail reception" to this old lady?  I never heard of such a thing until recently.
    In the old days, "cocktails" was a gathering that came before dinner.
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  • CMGragain said:

    Will somebody please explain a "cocktail reception" to this old lady?  I never heard of such a thing until recently.
    In the old days, "cocktails" was a gathering that came before dinner.

    It's basically where heavy appetizers (and LOTS of them) replace a meal. There's no set dinner time or service. People can graze and choose when/what they want to eat. There's usually a large, open space for people to stand and mingle so they're not stuck with the small group at their table...although there must be a seat for every butt (this is where a lot of couples mess it up). Think cocktail party.

    @bethsmiles - do make sure people know there won't be dinner service, though. I went to a cocktail reception and no one really ate because they figured dinner would be served. Then when people realized apps were "it" there was a mad rush and they ran out of food.
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  • How many people are you having at the wedding. I think if the number is less than, say, 120 or so, you can just "work the room" to make sure you greet everyone. Basically the way a host would do at a regular party. If you make a conscious effort to do this, and allot yourself plenty of time to make the rounds, you should be fine.

    Even with table visits or a receiving line there's no guaranteed way to know you spoke to everyone--people could be in the bathroom, sneaking out a back door after the church, etc. 
  • I would do a "receiving" line to welcome your guests into the reception space. All your guests have to come in the front door, versus some guests who won't go to the bar, or who won't get up for cake. 

    I've seen this done twice, and I think it works out well (despite the fact that we did ours post ceremony- which I think also worked out well). With entering the reception space, nothing else has really "started" yet, so I think you are less likely to miss people and you aren't walking up to someone who has a mouth full of food. At my cousin's wedding, the B&G were handing out a shot to each guest, as per the tradition in the grooms family- no one complained about having to wait for that ;)
  • bethsmilesbethsmiles Denver, CO member
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    @southernbelle0915 - We'll put putting "cocktail reception to follow" on the invitations so people won't think we are doing a full dinner.

    Thanks for the advice everyone, looks like a receiving line is the best option!


  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    We had a receiving line that was just passed the end of the aisle where the ceremony was held.  People had to walk past us anyway, so it seem to work.  It also doubled as the line to the bar.  With my family, that meant everyone was in line anyway.

    We also did semi-table visits.  Basically, if I saw people who didn't go through the line I made a point of going over to their table.






    What differentiates an average host and a great host is anticipating unexpressed needs and wants of their guests.  Just because the want/need is not expressed, doesn't mean it wouldn't be appreciated. 
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
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    edited December 2015
    @bethsmiles we had a cocktail style reception for ~150 guests and we did a receiving line and it worked out really well.

    We did our entrance into the reception, the DJ announced we were going to cut our cake and then do a receiving line, so then the guests all gathered to watch the cake cutting and then hopped in the receiving line.

    By the time that was done the venue had set up the food stations for dinner and it was time to eat!

    ETA: Our reception was "cocktail style" in that we had multiple food stations for dinner, on top of the app station and hand passed apps during cocktail hour, and seating was spread out over the entire 1st floor of our venue.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


  • we had a smaller wedding, something like 65-75 guests (I've already forgotten) and our receiving line took no time at all.  It was just H and I, we didn't have wedding party or family members in it since that is always so awkward so I think that helped it go pretty quickly too. Basically "hey, thanks for coming, hug, quick one liner" and they moved on to the reception
  • If you don't mind people seeing you before the wedding you could greet guests as they enter your ceremony.
    Hubby and I did first look pictures (I had a pretty coat on instead of my dress) and then he and I greeted guests as they entered the church. I just did a costume change 5 minutes before the ceremony so I picked up the stray guests at their tables at the reception (only 100 guests so I had a pretty good idea who I missed).
  • CMGragainCMGragain member
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    edited December 2015
    I still don't understand how a cocktail reception is different from a dinner buffet.
    In times past, if you were invited to someone's home for cocktails, this was at 5:00 PM, and lasted about an hour to an hour and a half, tops.  Drinks were served and people enjoyed conversation.  This seems very different from what people think of as a "cocktail reception".  This must be something new.
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  • CMGragain said:

    I still don't understand how a cocktail reception is different from a dinner buffet.
    In times past, if you were invited to someone's home for cocktails, this was at 5:00 PM, and lasted about an hour to an hour and a half, tops.  Drinks were served and people enjoyed conversation.  This seems very different from what people think of as a "cocktail reception".  This must be something new.

    Really? We talk about them all the time on here! If you want to think of it as a dinner buffet of small foods available throughout the evening with no set time to consume and no assigned seating that works too!

    I attend cocktail parties all the time and they often start at 8:30 and last until 2. I guess they're the modern equivalent of a dance or ball but way more casual? After dinner, lots of drinks, many nibbles, and a ton of fun. Both in people's homes and at bars and event spaces.
    PrettyGirlLost
  • SP29SP29 member
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    edited December 2015
    CMGragain said:
    I still don't understand how a cocktail reception is different from a dinner buffet.
    In times past, if you were invited to someone's home for cocktails, this was at 5:00 PM, and lasted about an hour to an hour and a half, tops.  Drinks were served and people enjoyed conversation.  This seems very different from what people think of as a "cocktail reception".  This must be something new.
    Generally cocktail receptions are hosted after a meal time. While they can still be VERY fancy, they are less formal. No assigned seating (though etiquette still holds a chair for every butt!), and one would not sit down for an extended period of time (such as for several courses). As it is not a dinner, the food has no "order", and is snacked on through out the evening. 

    I can see how it is a bit confusing, as I have been to events (one was an academic event, the other charity) where a cocktail reception was held during a meal time. Various stations of small items, and enough to fill everyone up. But still, I think the sentiment is, is that it encourages guests to be more fluid- mingle, network, bid on silent auction items (at the charity event) while still eating, yet not missing out on anything because one has to go back to their table for the salad course. 
    PrettyGirlLostMandyMost
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