What is a receiving line? When do we do one? Who's all involved? What's the point?
Traditionally every wedding had a receiving line. This was the kick off to every wedding reception in the 90's and earlier. It is the opportunity to greet and thank every guest as they enter your reception space.
Receiving lines can include the wedding party, both sets of parents, the newlyweds or all of the above. This is the traditional line up if everyone is involved in the receiving line:
Mother of the bride/ Father of the bride/ Newlyweds/ Mother of the Groom/ Father of the Groom/ Wedding Party
Occasionally the fathers of the bride/groom can mingle during the cocktail hour while the mothers greet and thank the guests as part of the receiving line.
The downside to a receiving line is that it can create a bottleneck depending on the number of guests you have at your wedding. Every guest will want to hug & greet you, and you may need to introduce your new husband to extended family members. If you are planning a receiving line, you should include a minimum of 1 hour in your timeline to greet everyone.
A few alternatives to the traditional receiving line are to mix and mingle with your guests during cocktail hour. Be sure that you actually make your way around the room and greet everyone so that no one feels left out.
If you are doing family photos or photos as newlyweds post ceremony and it isn't possible to mix and mingle during cocktail hour, set aside a bit of time to snake the reception area post-dinner. Since you will receive your dinner first at the head table, you will likely be done eating long before the guests at the last table. When you are done eating, make your way to each dinner table to greet and thank your guests.
No matter how you do it, you should greet and thank your guests for coming. This can also be included as part of your speech, but it is a bit more impersonal. Your guests have taken time out of their lives to be a part of your wedding day, be sure to show them how much you appreciate them.