Standing on Ceremony

From the politics of choosing a flower girl to determining how and where guests will sit, wedding ceremonies are fraught with challenges. Donna Garlough tackles readers' quandaries, big and small.

Must we have a receiving line after the ceremony? Is it rude if we skip it? L.R., Boston

Receiving lines have always rubbed me the wrong way — it’s a bride and groom’s first few minutes as husband and wife, and they spend it shaking hands with almost-strangers. I think you’re safe skipping the receiving line, but you must take the time to greet and thank your guests personally at some point during the day. Maybe do it as they filter into the cocktail hour, or pay a visit to each table during dinner. (After you’ve eaten, of course. I’m a big believer in sitting down to that meal you’ve paid so dearly for.) As long as you two make a point of saying hello to each and every guest, you’ll be off the hook.

Our wedding ceremony will be over by noon, but our reception venue won’t allow us to start the cocktail hour until 4 p.m. Do we have to organize an activity to keep everyone busy between the two events?S.B., Weymouth

I’m assuming there’s a reason you need to have your ceremony so early (there’s another wedding after yours, for example). If there’s nothing you can do to shorten the gap, you have a few options. It’s certainly a nice touch to treat your guests to an excursion, such as a trolley tour of Boston, or provide passes to a nearby museum. But it’s not mandatory, and in fact, some might actually appreciate a little down (read: nap) time. You don’t want to leave people hanging, though, especially those who are from out of town. So offer a guide: Place an annotated list of activity suggestions inside your invitations and programs, noting favorite cafés, shops, bars, and area attractions. Your guests won’t just stay occupied — they might actually have fun.