The big MC

  • 13/05/2009

You’ve been asked to be the Master of Ceremonies (MC) at a wedding? Perhaps you’re the Bride or the Groom and you want to offer your chosen MC some guidelines and assistance. Either way, this article is written to give you an insight into the substantial and pivotal role of the wedding MC.

Sometimes the choice of MC can be difficult as you may be concerned that the uncle whom you were originally considering might not have everything sufficiently organised, or that your fiancé’s brother (or sister) might get a little tipsy and say inappropriate things.

The MC’s role starts with preparation and consultation. The MC needs to know everything about your reception, your wedding vendors and your timeline, and have it clearly scheduled in a runsheet.

At the reception, the MC starts by welcoming guests to the venue and giving them the ‘housekeeping’ rules such as where to smoke, when to turn cell phones onto silent, the emergency evacuation instructions, safety messages (such as ‘mind the step by the restrooms’) and importantly, what time the bar closes and they all need to leave.

The Master of Ceremonies not only introduces the people making speeches, but coordinates and liaises with the videographer, caterer, waiting staff and serving staff.

They introduce the person offering grace or the blessing and then sometimes direct the guests to the buffet, table by table. They should make sure that the guests and other wedding professionals know what is coming up next and help everyone relax and enjoy the celebration. The challenge is to not give out too much instruction and information at any given time - just the next few elements to the reception is sufficient.

The Bride and Groom, the wedding party and the parents shouldn’t have to worry about timelines, order of proceedings or delegation of jobs on the day. They should feel relaxed knowing that their MC has things well under control. Some of the things which follow may be taken care of by your venue, but if the venue is a dry-hire where you supply everything, consider the items listed opposite, which are a few examples of important things for your MC to do.

There’s no need to panic over the MC role. This article was written to help you plan in advance to avoid any panic or issues on the day. The MC is the glue that holds the celebration together. It’s a pivotal role and one that carries responsibility, but with a little preparation, you’ll be able to shine and help the occasion (and the hosts of the celebration) look spectacular. Here’s the brief guide to being a great Master of Ceremonies at a wedding:

• Prepare! Put together a detailed runsheet in advance. Make copies and give a copy to anyone who may have use for it, such as the caterer, the photographer, the videographer.

• Put your notes and runsheet in bullet points and keep them brief. Put the runsheet in double line space format so you’ve got room to add things as the proceedings alter and evolve.

• Research and become familiar with wedding protocol as well as applicable cultural and social etiquette. Some weddings will be very formal, some incredibly informal. Know in advance what style is suitable and aim slightly higher than the expected standard of professionalism and formality.

• Do your best to memorise the names of the important people in advance, so you don’t have to read off your notes all night. Some of the best MCs make it look so easy and unrehearsed, but in reality they rehearsed every detail.

• Expect that some things will change on the night. Be prepared for this.

• Introduce yourself to the event professionals, such as the entertainers, banquet captain/ Maître D, photographer and celebrant.

• Appear calm and unflustered, even if you’re having a mild panic!

• Introduce yourself, welcome them to the venue and thank the guests for their attention.

• Announce and introduce the wedding party and newlyweds into the room with style, flair and enthusiasm, but in a manner suiting your personalities. This sets the tone for the reception to follow.

• Acknowledge and introduce the members of the head table and identify where they fit into the Bride & Groom’s lives. Do the same with the parents.

• Get the dinner plates cleared away well before the speeches start so the waiting staff and noise aren’t a distraction. Also ensure that the staff aren’t chatting or working during the speeches where they can be seen or heard.

• Make sure the toast glasses are primed and ready before the speeches start and that the entire bridal party is seated.

• Before announcing speeches, ensure that all of the important people are in the room.

• Remind people to turn their cell phones to silent or off. Guests with babysitters probably won’t want them off altogether.

• Before making any announcements, get the crowd’s attention first.

• Smile. All night, not just when you’re speaking.
• Know in advance who the speakers are, what they look like, what their relationship is to the couple and where they are sitting.

• Mock the Groom (without causing embarrassment to his family or other
VIPs) by all means, but the Bride is sacred!

• Never use humour that could offend your grandparents!

• Keep it brief: it’s not the MCs role to deliver a speech.

• Be sincere and humble.

• When speaking, ensure you can be easily seen by all guests, apologising in advance to any who are behind you or cannot easily see you. Then apologise profusely to those who can see you!

• Give everyone involved a few minutes warning before announcing the next item coming up. They may wish to make a quick visit to the restroom before the commencement of speeches. There’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable when it can be avoided.

• Brief each of the event professionals before making announcements to make sure they are prepared and ready for their role in the next formality. An example is that if the videographer isn’t warned that you’re about to stand up and talk, they might miss important announcements and introductions through no fault of their own, or the entertainers may not be ready to play the cake-cutting song.

• Announce any family gathering (like a barbeque at Mum and Dad’s) that may be on the next day. This is very often forgotten. Likewise the guest register, which you may even need to start making its way around the tables.

• Be prepared to offer any thanks or make any toasts that you see have been missed, such as toasting the parents, or thanking (on behalf of the couple) for the wonderful gifts.

• Be aware of the timeline and keep things moving along at a reasonable pace, but don’t make it too hurried. Part of your job is to make sure everything runs to time.

• If your eyesight isn’t brilliant, ensure you have your reading glasses with you and pick a well-lit spot close to the head table so you’re at the focal point of the room and you can see your notes clearly. Suggest (in advance) the same advice to other speakers on the night.

• Do not drink alcohol before you’re finished with your duties. It won’t make you funnier, better looking, wittier or taller. Water (not too cold) is better for your vocal chords and will help you sound much more natural, mellifluous and relaxed.

The MC should be in total control of the evening, but not obviously so. They are a facilitator, directing the flow, but not making the event about them. The stars of the night are the happy couple, their families and their wedding party.

Above all, your MC needs to be able to change and be flexible if things don’t go according to the script. Being a wedding Master of Ceremonies is a great honour and privilege and can be very rewarding.
Article by DJ Richard Mills, visit his website here.
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