Moving and Mingling
Ask any newlywed what she remembers about her wedding, and she's likely to tell you that it passed in such a blur that she barely remembers it. One advantage to having a destination wedding is that it stretches out the event and thus slows down the time.
However, you may have guests who are only able to make it for a day or two, and you'll need to touch base with every person who shows up. Do you have to wear running shoes to the reception, or might a little course in reception mingling do the trick?
The Receiving Line
Standing at attention, the bridal party meets and greets guests either after the ceremony or at the beginning of the reception — or both, if the timing happens to be one and the same. This is another one of those wedding traditions that has fallen out of favor lately.
Some brides feel that it just takes too much time, it's old-fashioned, and no one wants to come through the line to say hello to the bridesmaids anyway, so why bother?
Well, it may be true enough that the bridesmaids are not the central points of interest among your guests — but you (and/or your fiancé) are. You're going to be so busy at the reception that it may be very hard to say hello to everyone. The minutes will fly by like seconds and before you know it, you'll be on your way to your honeymoon suite. Taking this block of time and dedicating it to greeting guests actually will make your day easier.
Why do I have to have a receiving line?
Since most destination wedding guests attend both the ceremony and reception (hey, they schlepped all the way out here — you think they'd miss the ceremony?), the receiving line after the ceremony is the perfect time to say hello to everyone and then move on with the rest of the evening.
If you're worried about the size of the bridal party and the time it will take your guests to greet everyone, then cut down the line to just you, the groom, and both sets of parents. Easy as pie.
The receiving line doesn't get you off the hook for the rest of the evening. You still need to make your best effort to mingle with as many guests as possible at the reception. Yes, you are the center of attention, and sure, people should come to you, but — you're the bride. It's your party. Be the friendly hostess and do your best to at least pretend that you're concerned about the welfare of your guests.
Granted, it's not easy to balance everything that's going on — pictures, food, dancing — with the well-being of your individual guests, but you'll score huge points for asking people if they're having a good time or for thanking people for coming.
You say you're not interested in putting on this type of show. This is your wedding; not some popularity contest. Wrong, Sister! Your wedding is a popularity contest — and if people bother to show, you're winning. But you're going to lose points for acting the part of the self-important bride. Just remember that all of your guests cared enough about you to be with you on this day; show them a little love in return. It's so easy to do.
What Happens When
A decent reception has to have some order to it. You can't just expect the food, the chitchat, and the dancing to magically happen on cue if you haven't laid out a plan. To that end, you and the reception site coordinator will sit down and talk about your vision of the evening. Some traditional elements of the reception include:
The cocktail hour. Lots of mingling, drinking, folks finding their seats for dinner.
Cutting of the cake. Big photo op for the newlyweds, so dash into the powder room and powder your nose.
The introduction of the wedding party. The emcee (either the reception coordinator or the DJ or the bandleader) will introduce the attendants, the parents of the bride and groom, and then the newlyweds just as everyone is sitting down to dinner. Cheers abound for the happy couple.
Toasts. The best man is held responsible for offering the first toast to the bride and groom. If others have some sentiments they'd like to share, the traditional order of toast-makers is: best man; father of the groom; father of the bride; groom; bride; friends and relatives; maid of honor; mother of the groom; mother of the bride.
Dinner. During the meal your guests will tap their silverware on their cups and expect you and the groom to stop chewing and start smooching.
Dancing. The bride shares the first dance with her father; then the groom shares a dance with his mother; then the newlyweds have their first dance together. After that, the dance floor opens up to everyone else.
Tossing of the bouquet and garter. Brides are still tossing throwaway bouquets on a regular basis, though many couples don't bother with the other part of this tradition, the garter toss. (Seems that some brides are uncomfortable having their groom literally reach up their dress in front of a large group of people.) In any event, tradition holds that the man and woman who make the lucky catches will be the next to be married — but not necessarily to each other.
In addition to these traditions, you might want to include some ethnic traditions, such as the dollar dance (Italian brides), carrying the bride and groom on chairs (Jewish weddings), or the groom wearing a hat made of fruit as a symbol of virility (Polish men).