Helping Your Client Through the Receiving Line

As much as we know they get thrown off and they never quite go as planned, wedding timelines are crucial. As photographers, it’s incredibly important that we do our part in helping things stay on track. Dado and I have had the conversation with other wedding professionals countless times, debating back and forth on is it really our place to get involved. The answer is a loud and resounding YES. It’s yes for a few of reasons:

1. Most brides don’t have the experience with wedding timing, some don’t even think about it at all.
Let me tell you how many times I’ve had a bride say her timeline goes like this: hair and make-up from 10-12, getting dressed from 12-1, ceremony from 1-2 and reception from 4 on. My mind? BLOWN. We’ll save the details of the timeline for a different day, but refer to this past post for a start.

2. A lot of brides are choosing to skip the wedding planner.
This year, we did not have one bride that chose to work with a planner. They did this to allow for larger decor and photography budgets (hugs to them). Without a planner, it’s unlikely that every bride will consider all the timing details (one of the downsides to not having a planner).

3. Even when the individual item on the timeline is considered, clients can often underestimate the actual time it takes.
‘Nough said.

So, this brings me to a specific point of the timeline that we work with clients on, the Receiving Line.

In my opinion, there are 3 categories of receiving lines, that are clearly distinct based on the time they take.

1. The Grand Exit. Selfishly, this is my favorite. It takes the shortest amount of time and leaves Dado and I a ton of time to photograph the couple solo in between the ceremony and reception. The bride and groom exit the ceremony and stay hidden while the guests leave the sanctuary or the ceremony seating area and congregate on steps (of a church for example), along a path, along an aisle, in an open space directly behind the ceremony seating, etc. This is where you’ll get to see the rice, butterflies, bubbles, confetti, doves, sparklers, or any other fantastic entertaining items fly in the air. This goes quick and the couple is off!
time: 10-20 minutes

2. Releasing the pews. This is the happy medium for brides and grooms who want to see each guest. Releasing guests from the ceremony pew-by-pew gives the couple the opportunity to thank, hug, and kiss each of the guests, but forces the guests to keep moving. The couple always starts from the front of the church, so each one of the people lined up in their pew sees all of the ceremony attendees waiting on them to finish their kisskiss. As a result, the guests feel the pressure to keep it moving. Win-win…say hello, but no dilly-dallying.
time: 20-40 minutes

3. The Receiving Line. This is by far the long option. The couple exits the immediate ceremony site and lines up (often with their immediate family) just behind all the seated guests. Then ushers release pews one-by-one to enter yet another line that makes it’s way to the bride and groom. Each guest is provided the latitude to compliment, talk to and take their time through the line. Why I emphasized “behind” a second ago is because to the guests passing the bride and groom, the rest of the attendees are out of sight and out of mind, behind them. Consequently, a receiving line generally takes a long time. Is this a negative? Not necessarily. What’s great about true receiving lines is they give the couple the full opportunity to catch up with each guest, thank them, and make the guests feel important and appreciated. From this stand point, this is the best, but again, it all depends on how much time has been allotted for the remaining activities and festivities of the day.
time: 40-120 minutes

What we’ve learned is that if the client is looking to us for advice, we recommend the grand exit accompanied by table visits by the bride and groom during the reception. This allows the client to get a great exit photo from the ceremony, it allows for more couple photos after the ceremony, and gives the bride and groom an opportunity to relax after the ceremony. But most importantly, we take it upon ourselves to educate our clients on their options and allow them to make their own decision.

Starting a conversation with your clients about the details of weddings is always a positive. It shows you care and it shows your expertise. Have confidence and go!


Steph (& Dado).

Grand Exit Receiving Line


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