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The Receiving Line

The idea of a receiving line is to allow the bride, groom and other members of the bridal party to officially welcome all the guests. You could make it less formal by just having you and your husband greeting them instead of a long line of people. Many couples plan to welcome their guests separately during the reception, but in practice this rarely happens. The traditional receiving line takes the following form: bride's mother; groom's father; groom's mother; bride's father; bride; groom; chief bridesmaid; best man.

Seating Plan

Traditionally, the bride and groom sit at a 'top table' with their parents, the chief bridesmaid and the best man.

However, if you want to avoid complicated family politics - if your parents are divorced and are attending with their new partners for example - it can be easier if the bride and groom host one table of family & friends and each set of parents host their own table.

When it comes to everyone else, don't be afraid of mixing up generations. This often works well, jollying up the older generation and keeping the high-spirited younger guests in check.

Tables for six to eight people are ideal. Make sure each guest knows someone on his or her table and has a like-minded stranger nearby. As a rule, couples sit on the same table, but not next to each other.


Speeches and the cutting of the cake are at the heart of the reception and traditionally take place in the following order:

The bride's father usually makes the first speech, in which he'll be expected to thank the guests for attending the wedding and formally welcome his new son-in-law into the family. Then he'll offer congratulations to the happy couple and recollect some amusing tales from the bride's childhood. He should then thank all those who have helped organise the wedding and end by proposing a toast to the bride and groom.

Here are some ideas that may help: jot down ideas for the speech and place in a logical order; select the best and don't make the speech too long - about five minutes is perfect; avoid bad taste and overused cliches; if you can't tell jokes, then don't - no one will think badly of a sincere, affectionate speech.

Think about including a few tried and tested anecdotes instead. After composing your speech, make cue cards with clear headings to remind you of each item - this makes the speech appear more spontaneous than reading from a script - and finally, rehearse your speech in front of an audience or a mirror.

The bridegroom begins by thanking the bride's parents for the wedding and for allowing him to marry their daughter. Now is the moment for any personal remarks he may wish to say about his new wife! He ends by thanking the guests for attending and proposes a toast to the attendants - the bridesmaids.

The best man's speech introduces the groom to the bride's side of the family. This speech is expected to contain funny stories about the groom, but should not be too risque - you don't want him to embarrass your granny! He also reads out any cards or telegrams from absent friends.

The cutting of the cake is then announced by the toastmaster or the best man. The couple make the first cut, then the cake is taken away to be sliced.

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