Q: It’s looking like we’re going to have around 350 people at our wedding, and I’m not sure how to go about greeting each of them and thanking them for coming and still get to enjoy my own party. Is it important that we speak to each one personally? If so, when and how should we get that done? We’d like to be able to still have time to eat dinner and dance the night away!
A: It is indeed hugely important that you thank each of your guests personally for coming, and for that, there are a few options.
There’s always the receiving line, which is the more traditional, formal way to say hello to everyone at your wedding, and it does ensure face time with anyone who wants it. That said, “I always encourage my clients to think about what it would be like to attend their own event,” says Christiane Lehman of Philadelphia’s Truly You Events. “Would you like to stand in a line of 350 people without the hope of a drink, hors d’oeuvres or restroom while you wait to say hello to the newlyweds? Probably not.”
If you do go for the receiving line, she says, be sure to chat with your venue about setting it up just outside the cocktail-hour space—and then extend cocktail hour, since the receiving line would take up most of that one-hour time frame. Also make sure the catering staff is ready to offer your guests refreshments while they wait.
A more modern approach, though, is to simply greet your guests during cocktail hour and by visiting tables during dinner. “Before your wedding, chat with your fiancé about any older or VIP guests, or those who have driven a long distance to attend your wedding,” she says. “It’s likely that these folks will depart earlier, and so cocktail hour would be the best opportunity to thank them for coming. Your younger guests are more likely OK with a big hug on the dance floor.” And to make sure you two are able to actually enjoy your dinner, ask the catering staff to serve your meals first, so you can eat before making the rounds.
Either way, she says, guests understand that you want to have fun at your own wedding. “Greetings needn’t take all night,” she says. “As long as you look your guests in the eye at some point and express your appreciation for their attendance.”