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In the final part of our wedding etiquette series, let’s look at traditions for the wedding reception and how things have changed.  You can still read the previous blogs in this series, about stationery and your ceremony.


Receiving Line

This is a tradition not followed by many couples anymore but it’s a welcome line to greet all your guests personally as they enter the reception.  The line is usually made up of the happy couple and their parents.

To be honest, I have to say I’m quite glad this is dying out.   It’s very time consuming and therefore a bit dull for guests, especially at a big wedding.

Most couples choose now for their guests to be seated first.  The toast master can then introduce the newly weds as they make their entrance and take their seats. This is a lovely welcome and guests usually stand and clap & cheer the happy couple.


Top Table

Traditional wedding etiquette states that the Bride and Groom sit in the middle of the top table (which is usually a long table).  The bride’s mum sits next to the Groom with the Groom’s Father next to her.

The Bride’s father sits to the left of the Bride, then the Groom’s Mother sits next to him.  The top table would also have the bridesmaids & best man too.

If you have parents who are divorced and re-married this set up might not be the best option for you.  Also if you have a lot of bridesmaids, it can get a bit crowded up there!

So don’t feel like you have to do this, you can choose where you seat everyone.

Sweetheart tables are a great idea too if you’re struggling to agree a top table set up.

This gives you some precious time together during your meal but also means you can merge your key family members into other tables giving you more flexibility.

Bride & Groom at Sweetheart Table

Speeches & Thank you’s

The Traditional Running Order for Speeches is Bride’s Father followed by the Groom and then the Best Man.

The Bride’s father welcomes the guests in his speech and thanks everyone for coming.  He will say a few words about his daughter and welcome her new husband into the family.  He’ll end by proposing a toast to the happy couple.

If the brides father isn’t present, another family member or a family friend can take his place.   Sometimes the bride will speak here instead of her father.  Obviously this changes the sentiment of the speech but she can still welcome guests and thank them for coming.

The Groom should thank everyone who has helped with the wedding, especially anyone who has contributed to the cost. He also says a few words about his new wife (ideally nice words!) and toasts the bridesmaids.

The Best Man has the pressure that everyone expects him to be funny!  Traditionally, he will talk about his friendship with the groom.  Obviously, he’ll throw in some embarrassing stories about the groom and he might talk about how the couple met.

Many brides choose to say a few words as well as the traditional speakers too but keep it short if you do this.  Your guests are likely to be getting a bit twitchy by now.  You can get much more advice here about wedding speeches.


Cutting the Cake - Wedding Etiquette


Cutting the Cake

This is one tradition that doesn’t seem to be fading with time.  After the cake has been cut, the couple should share a piece of cake to symbolize their union and their promise to provide for each other for ever.

The top tier of the cake is traditionally saved to be served either on your first anniversary or at the christening of your first child.  If you want to do this, you need to ensure you can get the cake into the freezer pretty soon after the wedding.

Traditionally, the cake was cut at the end of the evening providing an unspoken signal to guests to tell them it was okay to go home!  And many older guests still consider it rude to leave before the cake has been cut.

Many couples choose to cut the cake earlier now which means older guests can hit the road without being rude.

If you cut the cake after your wedding breakfast, it can also then be served as dessert.  Or if you cut it early in the evening, it can be served with your evening buffet.

These are great options to make sure you’re not left with tons of cake afterwards that you have to try to deliver to your guests before you jet off on honeymoon.


1st Dance

Most couples still have their first dance together at the start of the evening party.  This is the signal to your guests that it’s time to get the party started and they need to hit the dance floor.

Don’t worry if you can’t dance – a gentle shuffle around the dance floor is fine!  Choose a song that has meaning to you and you should be too busy staring into each other’s eyes to worry about your feet.

Wedding etiquette indicates that after the first dance, the Bride dances with her father while the Groom dances with the Bride’s mum.  For many reasons, couples choose not to do this so don’t feel obliged or pressured if this doesn’t work for you for whatever reason.

Bride & Groom First Dance


I hope you’ve found it interesting finding out more about traditional wedding etiquette through this series.  My key piece of advice though is to always remember that it’s your day.  So you should have the day that you want.  There’s tons more advice available on the blog about all things wedding related and you always get in touch for some more specific advice.


Louise Wearmouth, Founder of Your Fabulous Wedding