One of the biggest roles of my job as a photographer is to help inform my clients of all of the crazy things that happen on wedding days (and then of course share how to avoid them!) The truth is? I used to not be very involved in helping my clients tailor their day to a schedule that not only maximized photographic opportunities while also maximizing the potential of time spent with their wedding guests. In all honesty, my hands off approach was more that I didn’t want to step on any toes while my couples were planning their wedding but as I went on, I realized that brides often weren’t aware of the simple changes that could be made to allow more ease and less stress on their wedding day. Now, I am bracing myself for some wonderful mothers-of-the-bride to fight me on this one, but first, hear me out: receiving lines are a lot of things, they are a chance to greet guests, a chance to acknowledge attendance, they can sometimes be awkward, they offer a chance to hug every person (even the ones you don’t know), they take up a chunk of your wedding day timeline, and there may be a better solution to consider.
As a photographer, my biggest goal in a wedding day is to document it well, get you beautiful images that tell your wedding day story, and I want to create the best flow of the day. Here is why I might ask you to reconsider a receiving line (and the alternative I will offer in place of it!) After you ceremony is generally one of the best times to get the rest of your “must have” photos taken care of. What am I talking about? Regardless of if you chose to do a first look, you will probably still have some family photos that need to be captured, you might have to knock out a great portion of your bride and groom portraits, or even squeeze in your wedding party gems, you might have a tight amount of time before your cocktail hour gets underway and here is what I want you to know: I want you to be at your cocktail hour with a cocktail in your hand (you are paying for it, aren’t you?) Now before you think I hate receiving lines, I don’t at all but if given the option to greet guests in a forced line while your guests wait in the pews to be dismissed or greet them while they have a chance to grab a cocktail, talk to their old college friend, and take a few photos with you, which would you choose? The average receiving line for 200 guests is generally one hour (even when you think you are moving quickly!)
One of the things I tell my clients is that I want you at your cocktail hour. That time isn’t photo time, it’s time to spend with the people who drove near and far to celebrate with you on such a special day. It’s candid time to spend with your guests, catch up with friends, hop into selfies, and really be present in seeing a room filled with your friends and family. In the past, couples would use that time to do all of their wedding photos but now that first looks are happening all of the time, we are able to approach the wedding day schedule a little differently, normally leaving a short amount of time needed after the ceremony to wrap up any formal portraits! When the bride and groom are able to be at their cocktail hour, they are given the opportunity to visit with guests, enjoy a cocktail, be present for conversations, and it also allows us as photographers to photograph the reception space before the guests enter (double bonus!) If you skip your cocktail hour, your time interacting with your guests can be incredibly limited and as you sit down for you dinner and look at the sea of your friends and family, you might feel like you never got a chance to connect with any of them!
My advice: skip the traditional receiving line, have your officiant let your guests know that you will be greeting them at your cocktail hour, and after you walk down that aisle, take a few minutes to yourselves to celebrate before the rush happens. Knock out the remaining portraits that need to get done and get to your party where you can enjoy a candid evening with a drink in your hand and time with your guests.