Question from Ruth:
Hi again. I have another question – who is it that stands in the receiving line – wedding party includes candle lighter, ring bearer, Maid of Honour and Best Man. Do all of them stand in the receiving line, including the parents? Also, do all of them sit at the head table (excluding parents). Thanks!
Answer from Wedding Expert Angela:
Hi Ruth. Nice to hear from you again. Ah, yes, the receiving line. It is a ‘rule of etiquette’ that a wedding has a receiving line, although if you don’t have a receiving line, the bride and groom must visit every person invited to the wedding during the evening. It is much easier to do a receiving line.
THE RECEIVING LINE
A tradition, formal receiving line has, from right to left facing the guests: the bride’s mother, the groom’s mother, bride, groom, maid of honour, and all of the bridesmaids. If you so choose, the fathers can be included next to their spouse. If the fathers aren’t in the receiving line, their “job” is to act as hosts (with the best man) at the reception site, greeting guests, and directing them to the bar for cocktails, and so forth.
A contemporary receiving line can include any of the wedding party that the couple wishes to include. Usually, it follows this order: mother of the bride, father of the bride, bride, groom, mother of the groom, father of the groom.
If parents are divorced and relations are strained, the receiving line can be: mother of the bride, father of the groom, bride, groom, mother of the groom, father of the bride.
If the wedding is under 125 people, the entire wedding party can be included in the receiving line. This includes the bestman, and groomsmen. The bestman, will stand next to the maid of honour, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen will be with their wedding party partner inthe lineup. If the wedding has over 125 guests, the receiving line is usually kept shorter: bride, groom, mothers of the bride and groom, and the maid of honour. Again, the fathers can be included or not, as you choose.
It is proper etiquette that each person in the receiving line greet the guest, and introduce them to the next person in the receiving line. That “next person” then greets the guest, and introduces the next person in the receiving line. This eliminates the need of your guests to create ‘small talk’ with each person in the receiving line.
If this is a second wedding (commonly called an encore wedding), the parents of the bride and groom will not be in the receiving line unless they are paying for the wedding. If the couple have children, they can be included in the receiving line (if they want to be there).
THE HEAD TABLE
As for the head table, it is tradition to have the wedding party from left to right (when facing the head table): bridesmaid, groomsmen, bridesmaid, bestman, bride, groom, maid of honour, groomsmen, bridesmaid, groomsmen. In addition to this you would have a “parents’ table” (usually seated at the usual 8′ round table) which would have the officiant, groom’s mother, groom’s father, bride’s mother, bride’s father, and two spots of other important persons at the wedding.
The candle lighter, and the ring bearer are not included in the receiving line or head table, although you may choose to honour them by giving them a table of their own next to the parent’s table. They should be seated with their family members, if at all possible, at this special table.
Many couples choose to also honour their grandparents by having a special table for them also, that could include other important family members—say god-parents, or close family members.
If you have further questions, feel free to ask.
Angela Fiebelkorn, Ask The Wedding Expert