Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Receiving Lines are Like Lawyers

Miss Manners says that the bride and the groom must greet every guest at the wedding. When you have invited a jillion people, however, it’s pretty doggone difficult to figure out a way to greet everyone in a sincere but efficient way.

The Mister and I would like to enjoy the reception, which means enjoying our guests. It does not, however, mean being cornered at the reception by Crazy Aunt Talksalot, who wants to tell us all about her hemorrhoids. We want to be hospitable and gracious, but we also want to have a moment or two to enjoy the day and to eat our own dinners. (I get grouchy when I don’t eat, which would lead to me telling Aunt Talksalot where to stick her hemorrhoids, if you know what I mean.)

As far as I can tell, there are five basic options to greet the guests:
1. A traditional receiving line, with parents and the bridal party included.
2. Just the bride and the groom at the back of the ceremony, greeting guests.
3. Reentering the ceremony to release the rows of guests one by one.
4. Going around from table to table at the reception.
5. Randomly seeing people at the reception, without any plan to get to everybody.

My entire experience at weddings involves waiting to greet the bride and groom. Whether it’s in a receiving line at the ceremony, being released by rows, or searching the dark reception for a flash of white dress, this waiting seems to take forever. I will admit that forever is slightly more bearable when I’ve got a canapé in my mouth and a glass of wine in my hand, but forever it is. The Mister and I didn’t know what to do.

So we took a poll of friends and family. What did they do? How long did it take them? What would they do differently? Here’s what I learned.

Receiving lines are like lawyers. People hate lawyers, but they love their own. Most people looooved whatever method they used at their own weddings, and they haaaated every other method that anyone else has ever tried.

There were a few exceptions, however. Several people who went table to table at the reception did not have a chance to eat dinner or enjoy the party. They wished that they had used option 1, 2, or 3. These are the people who got corned by Aunt Talksalot. And Uncle Gripey.

If only we could combine the concepts – instead of communion, we could serve canapés and real wine (rather than the crangrape juice I swear our church serves). “This bruchetta is the body of Christ, and by the way, we loved the toaster!” But I digress. Into blasphemy.

Here’s our decision. We are NOT doing option #1. People want to see us, and briefly. All four of my parents have the gift of gab, and if they were included in the receiving line, we’d be there until my next birthday. We are NOT doing option #5. I’m sure it works very well when you have a small or medium sized wedding, but at a biggun, it’s well nigh impossible. Besides, we want to make the effort affirmatively to thank each person for coming.

If it’s sunny, we’ll stand at the back of the ceremony to greet guests as they head outside to wait for our grand getaway. That way, if they are dying to go to the bathroom (or just don’t really want to say hello to us), they can slip out of the receiving line to do what they’ve gotta do. If it’s raining, however, we need a place for people to congregate out of the elements. That’s in the back of the ceremony where we would do the receiving line on a sunny day. So if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, we’ll reenter the ceremony to release the rows. That way, people can remain seated until we get to their row, so they’ll be more comfortable.

For those of you who were rooting for option #4, may I make a suggestion? A few well-chosen items from your hotel mini bar would recreate the canapé-and-wine feeling you’d get while waiting to see us at the reception. And if you don’t want the procedure to take forever, leave your hemorrhoid stories at home. (wink!)
(P.S. The picture in this post is of a branch of the Mister's family. His beloved grandfather is third from the left, no doubt thinking that wedding photos take even longer than receving lines.)

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