The Receiving Line
When there is no reception, or when many guests are invited to the ceremony but not the reception, the receiving line should be established immediately after the ceremony at the ceremony venue. If, under those circumstances, the ceremony takes place in a church, the receiving line should be established just outside the main entrance. (Permission to use the vestibule in the event of inclement weather should be obtained in advance of the date of the ceremony. Establishing a reception line inside the church proper would be inappropriate since a receiving line primarily serves a secular function). Otherwise, a receiving line should be established at the reception venue. Receiving lines are best established on the left side of the reception area, thereby allowing each person proceeding down the line to be led by his right hand, the hand he will extend as he is introduced to or greets each person in the line.
The receiving line at a wedding serves two major purposes: to allow all guests to personally congratulate the couple and thank the hosts for the invitation; and for introductions to be exchanged. The receiving line at a traditional wedding consists of the mother-of-the-bride; followed by the mother-of-the-groom, then the father-of-the-groom (if he is from out of town and is unknown to the bride’s family and friends); the groom, with the bride to his right; followed by the maid- /matron-of-honor; and, finally, the best man. The bridesmaids and groomsmen are only included in the receiving line if there are only a few of each. When they are included in the line, the bridesmaids precede the groomsmen, in keeping with the custom that the last person in a receiving line should be a man. The bride’s father is not typically included in the traditional receiving line, though some fathers insist on inclusion. In either case, the line is always headed by the mother-of-the-bride or whichever lady is the official hostess of the wedding.
The receiving line of a same-sex, gender-neutral wedding should consist of the parents of the groom who is from the town in which the wedding is taking place, followed by the parents of the other groom, the mother preceding the father in each case; both grooms, the older preceding the younger; and the best men, in the order corresponding with the respective grooms. (If a groom has a maid- /matron-of-honor rather than a best man, that female attendant should stand in the place that would otherwise have been occupied by the best man. And if that placement corresponds with the end of the line, then an extra man should be added to the receiving line so that the last person in the line is male). “Groomsmaids” and groomsmen are included in the line only if there are few of each. If neither groom is from the place where the wedding is taking place, the parents of the older groom should stand at the head of the line, followed by the parents of the younger groom, etc.
When the wedding his being hosted by the couple, the receiving line should be headed by the couple, with the older groom at the head of the line; followed by the best men, in the order that corresponds with the respective groom, etc.
As impressive as they may appear, and as practical as they may be, long receiving lines are cumbersome. Therefore, only persons whose presence in the line is absolutely essential should be included.
Maneuvering through a receiving line can be most intimidating for a young gentleman. (For a discussion on the etiquette of receiving lines, See chapter, “Out and About—Manners in Public Places” or Google “Manly Manners the Etiquette of Receiving Lines”).