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Introduction

I’ve been a Master of Ceremony and DJ for over twenty years and I can literally count on two hands the times I’ve seen phenomenal MC’s at weddings.  Now the reason why the number is so low isn’t because the talent isn’t there - it is!  It’s just that there hasn’t been an easy, step-by-step guide that covers all the basics to take these MC’s through the process of getting prepared for the big event.

The Art of the MC is your guide on how to be a phenomenal Master of Ceremonies.  Whether it’s your first or tenth time in this role, these posts will get you prepared to look like a pro.  

Designed to be an easy read and to make preparing for the event as stress free as possible, the first post is to help you prepare for the big day, while the second part is what you need to do on the day-of the wedding to ensure success.

Follow these simple guidelines and you will be amazing!

So let’s get to it…

The role of MC is not a “public speaking” role...

but an entertainment role.  You have to realize that the best entertainers are those that are extremely well prepared.  You may be an amazing storyteller, have a fantastic sense of humour or have experience speaking in public.  Yet, if you don’t do the necessary work ahead of the event, no matter how funny you may be, you're setting yourself up for trouble.

The real key to success when hosting a wedding is doing your “homework”, which consists of writing your opening remarks, any house keeping notes, and writing the introductions and extroduction’s for each speaker.

When you're prepared, your special traits will shine through and you’ll look like you have done this job a hundred times.

A Social Event

A wedding is a social event.  It’s not only a time to celebrate the couple, it’s an opportunity for friends and family to spend and enjoy time together.  With this in mind, realize that you don’t need to keep the guests constantly entertained or speak right through the whole wedding.  

Give your audience some time to eat and socialize as opposed to talking at them through the whole evening.  It will make for a much better, fun-filled party.

15 Minutes 

That’s it.  As a MC at a wedding, you should never speak more then 15 minutes throughout the entire evening. You will work more preparing for the event than you will have time on the microphone.

Keep your speaking points brief and to the point, but adlib where you feel it may work.  The key is keeping it short, in order to keep the evening moving along smoothly.

Make it Personal

When preparing to MC a wedding, many people go online to do a search for “Wedding MC”.  What they will find is pages and pages of corny jokes, tacky toasts and countless sayings.  Please, please, please - avoid these at all costs as they will only make you sound fake and insincere.  

Take the time to sit down and think about what you want to say to the couple.  Assuming you know the couple well - think about all of the great times and adventures you have shared and put these memories and feelings into words.  Write from the heart.  It will make your remarks more memorable.

Meet with the Couple

Approximately two months before the wedding arrange a time that you can sit down with the couple face to face, on the phone, or chat online, to go over what the job entails and what their expectations are of you.  Ask them how they envision you interacting and engaging with the crowd and how much talking they want you to do. Getting a set of clear expectations from the couple will really help guide you.  

At this meeting you will need to find out who you are introducing and what their relationship is to the couple.  Any interesting facts or details about the speaker (ex: how long they have known the bride and/or groom, any funny stories, hobbies, if they are known for something, etc.) is ideal when writing the introductions. 

There’s a good chance half the room won’t know who they are, so this gives the audience an opportunity to know more about the speaker and what their relationship is to the couple. 

Timing

The venue or wedding planner will ask for the timing of the evening in advance, or may provide it to you.  

As a general guideline each course will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, with the main course taking roughly 45 minutes.  Food station and buffet receptions typically take 1.5 hours.

A typical four course meal would look something like this:

7:00 pm - first course

7:30 pm - second course

8:00 pm - main course

8:45 pm - dessert

Who should talk and when?

Depending on the number of speeches, weddings tend to flow more smoothly when you have the speeches in between courses.  After the first course, the Best Man and Maid/Matron of honour should speak, as typically their speeches are the shortest of the evening.  You may also have one of them speak right after your opening remarks and before the first course is served.

The Parents should speak after the main course.  Typically, Parents speeches tend to be longer than anyone else in the Bridal Party, so having them speak after the time sensitive main course will not interrupt the events flow.  If you, or the couple, know that the Best Man and Maid of Honour will speak longer then the Parents, schedule them after the main course. 

Traditionally, the couple speak last after everyone has been served their last course, which is typically dessert.  It’s also an excellent segue into the evenings traditional events like the cake cutting, first dance, parent dances and the party!

Here is an example of a 3 Course meal

After first course served - Best Man and Maid of Honour

After main - both sets of Parents

After dessert - the Newlyweds

Now this will vary depending on how many courses you are serving.  If you are serving a four course meal you can do the following:

After First Course Served - Maid of Honour

After Second - Best Man

After Main - Both sets of Parents 

After Dessert - the Couple

If there are only one or two speeches, then I would suggest having the first speech before the first course is served with the couples speech taking place after dessert.  These speeches will serve as transition points in the evening, allowing guests to know that you’re moving into something new.  

For cocktail style or buffet receptions, do two speeches before the food stations open, with the remaining speeches before the dancing begins.  The food service typically lasts for an hour and a half.

If the reception is taking place at a restaurant, there may be a great amount of time between the servers taking guest orders and the first course being served.  During this time, try to incorporate 3-4 speeches and save the rest until after dessert.

Keep in mind the order suggested can be modified.  In some instances, if the parents are hosting the event (paying for it), they may want to speak first, and that’s ok.  If one of the speakers is really nervous, let them speak earlier.  Plug them into a slot at puts them at ease.  You may start off the evening with a short speech or toast before the first course is served and that is fine.  Do what fits the event.

In the case that your couple is working with a wedding planner, then the planner will likely provide you with an itinerary to follow, making your job that much easier.

The Script

Once you have collected all of the information, go through your notes and start writing your script for the evening.  You should be writing:

- A short welcome speech (who you are and how you know the couple)

- Housekeeping information / any game notes if applicable (washroom location, smoking area)

- Introductions of each speaker (Intro)

- What you’re going to say once the speaker has completed their speech (Extro)

The Grand Entrance

The Grand Entrance is one of the most exciting and exhilarating points of the evening and set’s the tone for the rest of the event.  I suggest the you have the DJ do the introductions of the Bridal Party and the Couple into the dining area for two reasons: 

1)  They have the experience doing it.  The Grand Entrance always flows well when someone who’s done it numerous times runs the show.

2) To do it right, timing with the music is key.  It makes sense to have the person in control of the music do the introductions to ensure the timing is perfect.

Once the DJ has completed the entrance, they can now introduce you as the MC and you can take your spot at the podium.

Now some Entertainers won’t do the Grand Entrance, so in this situation you may be responsible to handle it.  If this is the case, keep it simple and to the point and coordinate with the entertainer regarding music and timing.

Opening Remarks

As the MC, you should start the evening off by doing a short welcome speech and toast.  Let everyone know who you are and what your relationship is with the couple.  If you have any funny stories to tell, use them here.  

You may announce any relevant housekeeping details and can explain how the rest of the evening will transpire (when will speeches occur, when will the special events take place, any games that will be played).  

You want to keep this short (five minutes) as the guests will be hungry.  

Intro’s

In your “intro” you want to let everyone know 1. who the speaker is. 2. what’s their relationship to the couple 3. any other relevant or funny information that you would want to share.  Don’t embellish as it can make for awkward moments.

When introducing someone, it’s a good idea to state their title, then their name.  For example “The Father of the Bride, Mr. John Doe!!!”.  Everyone loves the sound of their own name, so be sure to use their names while introducing them.

When you introduce a speaker, always say their name last.  Watch any talkshow, and you’ll notice that the host will always tell you relevant information about the next guest, then say their name, which is the audiences cue to applaud.

Extro’s

These should always be short, but are needed to let the audience know that the speech has concluded and that we are moving on to the next event.   You can say something as simple as “The Best Man, John Doe!  The next course will now be served shortly”.  It gives the guests the cue that this section is now complete and it cues the service staff that they can begin to clear the course. 

If a speaker is giving a toast, be sure to remind them to bring their drink up with them (or have an extra glass ready nearby).

Games & Grace

Some people love them and some can’t stand them.  If you will be running any games throughout the evening in order to see the couple kiss or to give away the centrepieces, etc. please discuss it in advance with the venue, wedding planner and the DJ to ensure that it won’t interfere with dinner service.  If any special music is needed to go along with these games, contact your DJ ahead of time to ensure that it is prepared.

If Grace is being said at the wedding, you want it to be the last thing that is said right before the first course comes out.  It will serve as a cue for the wait staff to begin service of the first course.

Entertainment

If your couple has arranged for some special entertainment during dinner, whether it’s a singer, cultural dancers, musical performance, etc. schedule them the same way you would schedule speeches.  

Always lean to having the performance after the main course, depending on how many routines the artists may be performing.  

You would introduce them the same way you would introduce someone giving a speech.  Give some relevant information about the group and say their name last.  

The extro would also be the same as a speaker and something along the lines of “Thank you artist name here we’ll be back after the next course.”

The Final Speech and Closing Remarks

For your closing remarks and announcements, thank the newlyweds for asking you to be the MC, let the guests know how the rest of the evening will unfold (will there be a late night or dessert table coming out, etc.), then introduce the couple for the last speech of the night.

 Once they’re done, let the DJ take control and go and enjoy your evening!

Service Culture and Speeches

Being a father of three daughters, the Father of the Bride speech is always the speech I look forward to most.  I love to hear how the Dad’s talk about their daughters and their journey together.  There was one speech in particular that stands out, now I can’t remember it word for word, but I do recall this Dad’s speech bringing tears to my eyes.  It was eloquent, compassionate and you could tell that he really loved his daughter.  

The unfortunate part was that I was the only one that heard it.  At this venue, they serve and clear straight through speeches.  So while he was pouring out his heart, all the guests could hear were the clatter of cutlery.  His daughter couldn’t even hear the speech.

If you are giving someone the honour of speaking at a wedding, also be respectful of that person.  It’s disrespectful to serve and clear while someone is speaking.  As soon as someone steps up to the podium, the servers should pull back, stop what they are doing and remain silent.  Period.

At the same time, you must communicate with the floor manager so that you know when the next course is to be served as to not interfere with the plating and serving of the next dish.  Food is very time sensitive and during the dinner portion of the evening - it is the priority.

To read the next chapter of the The Art of the MC part II, "the day of", click right here.