Getting Down to Basics
When and where you set up the receiving line depends on your situation: It's typically either in the vestibule immediately after the ceremony, or as the reception is beginning, just inside the site's entrance. The wedding's official hostess (that's usually your mother) heads the line, followed by you, your groom, and his mother.
Your dads, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and child attendants aren't expected to stand with you, and can instead proceed to the cocktail area. Remember: The fewer people in line, the faster it will go.
Movers and Shakers
Avoid a bottleneck by doing some prep work. Review the guest list the day before the wedding with your parents and groom so that everyone knows who's who, but don't worry too much about forgetting a person's name: It's expected that people from the groom's side will introduce themselves to you and your mom; you'll introduce your side of the guest list to your groom. Ask those in the wedding party who'll be joining you to keep their comments brief.
Stand and Deliver
So what happens when a woman in red embraces you, and you haven't a clue who she is? Try one of these one-size-fits-all greetings:
I'm so glad you're here—[fill in groom's name] and I feel very lucky to be surrounded by so many good thoughts and well-wishers today.
It's great to see you! Please say hello to my brand-new husband [gesture toward him].
Thank you so much for coming! We hope you have a wonderful time today.
What a terrific dress [tie/hat/necklace]. We'll be sure to get a picture of you!
How 'bout those Yankees?
Make It Entertaining
If you'll form the receiving line in a place other than a house of worship and you have a large guest list, consider providing some form of entertainment or activity while everyone's waiting to greet you. You could:
Have music. Position the cocktail-hour musicians (or the DJ) in a spot that makes the music audible on the receiving line. Be sure to consult with your caterer or wedding consultant ahead of time to figure out the best location.
Offer food and drink. There's nothing like a few tasty hors d'oeuvres and a glass of Champagne to put guests in a good mood while they're waiting in line. The nibbles can either be passed on trays or placed on a table.
Set up a photo exhibit. If the space can accommodate it, consider hanging framed photos of family weddings for guests to view as they prepare to greet you, or display snapshots of the two of you growing up.
It's About Time
Even though it's as traditional as the first kiss, some brides and grooms choose not to have a receiving line because they think it will take too long. How much time will it actually eat up? Frank Gregoli, of Elegant Occasions, a top New York party planner, says to schedule about 30 minutes for 100 guests. So fix your lipstick and let the kissing begin!