what do you say in the receiving line?
Dear Mr Postmanners:
When you are in a receiving line at after a wedding, what exactly do you say to the bride and groom? What do you say to the parents of the participants? Is there some protocol for handling all of this? I had heard that there was a specific sex-defined way to handle this, but surely we're past that in this day and age!
Confounded in Connecticut
Dear C in C:
One must sternly inform you that when it comes to weddings, society will always and forever have forms and protocols divided by sex that will never make sense to the participants or observants. For example, why aren't women allowed to catch the bridal garter? Why aren't men allowed to try for the bouquet? Some things Simply Are. As it turns out, receiving line etiquette, up to a point, is one of these things.
Traditionally, you are supposed to give your "best wishes" to the bride and "congratulations" to the groom. The concept is that "congratulations" implies that someone has won a prize or caught something, and it is somehow impolite to imply that the bride "caught" her husband. Yet it is entirely polite to imply that the groom "caught" the bride. One has no idea why. (Although it may go some way to explaining the rather odd sense of tittilation people seem to feel at watching "The Bachelorette" where she is quite obviously doing the "fishing", as it were, and throwing back the small ones. But one digresses.) However, if you wish to be entirely neutral about the whole thing (and One can applaud such a desire), it is also entirely proper to give your "best wishes" to both the bride and groom.
As for the rest of the people in the receiving line, you should remember that one of the goals of such a line is to acknowledge everyone that has attended the wedding, and to do so quickly. Also, depending on your relationship to the bride and/or groom, a few of the people in the receiving line may not have the foggiest idea who you are. Therefore, the most effective sort of thing to say is, "Hello, I'm C in C and I work with Bride (or Groom) at Workplace/went to school with them/met them through friends, etc." They will respond with "How do you do" or "Nice to meet you" or "I've heard so much about you" or some such, and you smile, nod politely, and move on to the next person.