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Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'


Receptions are usually formal affairs; a public or semipublic gathering in honor of a prominent person or an important event. There is often a receiving line associated with receptions in honor of a high level dignitary. (See Chapter 11, Receiving Lines.)

The most common type of official reception we are familiar with is when there is a change of command or a retirement ceremony for a commander. The purpose of this official reception is to allow community/civic leaders and other distinguished visitors from out of town to meet and welcome the new commander and spouse or, in the case of a retirement, to say farewell and to allow the retiring commander and spouse to thank community leaders for their support.

When you receive word that the ceremony is over and guests are heading back for the club (five to ten minutes prior to the start of the reception), make sure that the food is uncovered and the service people are prepared to start serving trays of beverages/the bar is open. You also need to have protocol personnel outside the club/building waiting to open car doors for the official party and others to greet and lead them into the reception area.

Once the official parity is prepared to start the receiving line, encourage the first arrivals to proceed through. As these lines tend to back up and sometimes even stretch clear out the door of the club, station protocol people to encourage guests to get out of the line and come back through when it is less crowded. We set up the room so the guests can go ahead and get some refreshments while waiting for the line to get shorter. As soon as the receiving line is over, the official party joins the guests for refreshments and conversation. Ideally the receiving line will last 45 minutes to an hour to allow the host and hostess plenty of time to visit with their guests.

Arrange for some small tables and chairs to be spread around the room for people to set their glasses and plates down or to have a seat if they are tired. Plan on seating for approximately 25 to 30 percent of your invited guests (or more, if guests are older). Also, consider more if there is to be an entertainment program during the function.

It may be necessary for you to book the entire club to avoid congestion and the confusion of having "John Q. Public" coming to the club that day for breakfast or lunch and getting mixed up with your guests. If so, make sure the club manager and/or catering manager understand that the dining room will have to be closed that day. If the function is large enough, you may be using the dining room for your reception/dinner also and, if you do, you'll need time to put place cards down, etc. (in the case of a big dinner you need to start early in the afternoon).

We do not recommend using name tags for these receptions because of the numbers of people attending--stopping to put on name tags is time-consuming.