No wedding receiving line: Socially distanced ways to greet your wedding guests

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Original photo by melberry29

I have a condition called fibromyalgia which causes me near constant pain and makes me feel tired very easily. I am really worried about how to deal with receiving lines (shaking hands and hugging are extremely uncomfortable for me).

Can you think of any alternatives or polite ways to weasel out of the physical contact?


[related_post align=”right”]Laura, there are tons of non-touchy alternatives to the receiving line. Let's pull back the receiving line tradition and get down to the nitty gritty: you want a way to make each guest feel personally welcome and appreciated for making it to your wedding.

There are tons of ways to do so that don't force your guests to wait in line to shake your hand, and also allow you to conserve your energies on your wedding day. These ideas also work great for shy couples who shrivel up inside when they think of facing down a line of 100+ people waiting to touch them.

Serve your guests dessert

I love how Ali & Phil donned aprons and served their guests ice cream at their wedding. You could serve your guests cake or cupcakes or any other dessert, too. This allows you to interact with every single one of your guests, but you're safely tucked behind a table where they can't fondle you.

ice cream scoopers in african aprons


Have a cocktail reception before the wedding

This was the route we took. Since our guests had to ride a ferry to get to the wedding, we wanted to have a gentle start time to allow for folks missing ferries. The hour before our ceremony was spent welcome guests and having cocktails in the sun. It's not quite as non-touchy as having a dessert table between you and your guests' loving arms, but it's the least formal way to greet your guests.

Greet guests at their tables as they eat

Have your partner hold your hand or have an arm around your waist as you walk through the reception area chatting with guests as they eat. The physical contact from your partner is not only romantic, but it also makes it clear that your personal space is already taken up with them. And since your guests are sitting and nomming while you're standing, there's less pressure than a receiving line.


It's really hard for guests to hug you when you're wearing a big beautiful set of wedding wings. Bonus: wings are visually stunning and totally unique. This Etsy seller makes some guh-guh-GORGEOUS wings.


Remember that ultimately the goal is to make guest traveling from afar feel personally welcomed by both of you. It's just about finding a way to do so that allows you to preserve your personal space.

Now I'll open it to the peanut gallery — any other ideas for how Laura can greet her guests without getting groped?

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Comments on No wedding receiving line: Socially distanced ways to greet your wedding guests

  1. If you have a "wedsite" you could make mention of it somewhere on there. Obviously not everyone reads and absorbs all of the information on your website, but it might help some.

  2. Avoiding hugs is REALLY hard at a wedding. At the reception, people will inevitably approach you, arms wide open, expecting physical contact.
    If you're comfortable with doing so, maybe you just tackle the issue head-on with a toast or note in your programs? Someone could make the announcement that every time someone feels like throwing a hug, they should instead flash a peace sign or make a heart with their hands or raise the roof. That way, guests have a fabulous and silly way to express their exuberance without getting touchy. It'll be like your own wedding gang sign.

    • I've heard of people passing out little bells or flags that the guests can waive. You can put a little note on each one explaining a bit (or not) and that they should ring/wave when they are happy for you or something.

    • I actually have a condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and I put a “Fragrance Free Wedding” card in our invitations. It basically explained to people that I am severely allergic to perfumes and colognes and asked people to not wear them to the celebration. Many guests actually thanked me because they are also sensitive to fragrances. Perhaps you can find a beautiful way to explain your condition without being overly personal, and that way people know that it’s not personal.

      • Just making sure you saw this wedding which was also fragrance-free!

        We wanted everyone to feel as comfortable and welcome as possible, so we really focused on making sure our wedding was accessible for all of our guests. This manifested in a couple of ways: asking all who attended our wedding to be fragrance-free and letting everyone know that there would be no alcohol on our wedding day. Many people have fragrance and chemical sensitivities, so in our invitations, we included a fragrance-free request, information, and how-to resources, and asked our friend, Casey, to act as Accessibility Coordinator in case anyone had questions or access needs that day.

  3. We went with greeting guests at their tables. I didn't really think anything of it, as I think I've been to as many weddings with that approach as I have with a receiving line. In my case, it wasn't for the reason described here — I just really don't like feeling like a spotlight's on me. I could handle the wedding itself, and even things like first dance at the reception, though cutting the cake pushed my limits. Greeting our guests at the table took us out of the focus of things and made it more about interacting with our guests, even with less physical contact. Even as a guest, I prefer that approach, as it feels more personal.

    • There’s actually a cool Chinese custom of the bride and groom going from table to table at the reception to have a toast with every table. I didn’t do it at my wedding (mostly because I didn’t realize this custom existed until right after my wedding was over!) but that’s a cool option, too.

  4. Similar to serving dessert, you could get behind the bar with your husband and pass out a few cocktails if you are comfortable with that.

    Another way to accommodate your needs without making a verbal announcement could be to make a donation to an accredited fibromyalgia research foundation instead of traditional favors. You could include a note about the donation at each place setting and mention that it is an issue close to you both because the bride is living with fibromyalgia.

    • I LOVE this idea! We might make options to donate to foundations (my father had a bought with cancer, and I suffer from Chronic Pain and Fatigue and other diseases) rather than getting us gifts! I think it would be a good way to let people know you have an illness and that’s why you CAN’T (not “don’t want to”) hug guests.

  5. You can greet people from behind a table, say the gift table, and then the receiving line can go through but you don't have to actually do more than shake a hand. This is your wedding, though, and these are your friends and family – put it in your program what you're doing and why you're doing it.


  7. I have Fybro lady, I get it (though I don't have this problem anymore… it can get much better 🙂

    Anyway – Yeah, tell people, if you can. But I know people can be effing weird about it, or about really trusting that you have this thing they can't see. So, I don't know about putting it in the program (I wouldn't be comfortable with that personally), but I'd put the word out through parents, "She's going to be really tired, and probably in pain, and we obviously want to make this day as joyful as we possibly can for her, so if you could try to not hug her, as hard as that might be, and instead express your love in words, I know she'd appreciate that so much." And then if people try to hug you, you can wave them off and say, "I'm so sorry, I'm in pain right now, but thank you so much… CHANGE SUBJECT."

    …. Cont….

  8. I think telling people, really, is your best bet. Say something (or have your partner/MC/cousin/etc say something). People want you to be happy an comfortable on your wedding day, and lots will think hugging you will HELP, instead of HURT. Plus, if it is said once at the start of things, then you won’t have to address it consistently throughout the night.

  9. We don’t actually have any staff at the venue, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to handle the cake thing. I decided that if we cut the cake ourselves, we could not only handle the issue of finding someone to do it, but we could make sure to greet everyone.

    We’re also doing a very small wedding with several events. So there’s no pressure to see everyone at the reception, because we’ll also see them at the welcome dinner, the rehearsal lunch, and the cabana by the pool the next day.

    Or, if you did the receiving line, you could put your parents ahead of you, so they can give people a heads up. Although I think table visits, where the guests are seated and the couple is standing, may work best for Laura. A few people might still stand for a hug, but few enough that she can just tell them that she’d rather not be hugged.

    • YAY BRIANNA! I’m so glad I could feature that photo of you again. It’s simply gorgeous, and super inspiring — especially since you’re at a church altar. Makes for such a mix of traditional and offbeat. 🙂

    • What A BEAUTIFUL photo!!! took my breath away. I’m glad it was featured as well!

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