You are going to be the master of ceremonies at a wedding. Wow! What an honour. Yet it can be nerve wracking, can't it? Here are seven things you can do to be confident so the wedding reception is wonderful.
1. Have all important information written down in front of you.
Being a master of ceremonies requires you to remember a lot of information. Do not risk getting the information wrong, or going blank. Have a safety net so that if you are nervous and forget, you can glance down and find the information easily. You need to have this information available in the way that best suits you. Cue cards are quite common: this is where key points of information are written on a set of cards. However, just make sure all the cards are joined together in some way, so that if you drop them they can't get out of order. Alternatively, you may find it easier to use A4 sheets of paper with key words and phrases written on them in large print.
2. Avoid word for word scripts.
Word for word scripts can heighten anxiety. They can make nervous masters of ceremonies even more nervous, as they get scared they'll lose their places. They can also become worried that they must say exactly the words that they'd thought of in advance. This can make them become script-bound and more nervous, and unable to connect with their guests. Instead, have all the key information in front of you, so you can keep eye contact with the guests and bridal party and be natural, warm and friendly. People will not mind the odd "um" or "err" as long as you are engaging.
3. Prepare a detailed running sheet and share it.
You need to do a lot of preparation to be really good and fully confident. Make up a minute-by-minute running sheet well in advance and go through it detail by detail with everyone involved to make sure everything is covered. For example, as the wedding master of ceremonies your running sheet will include information as to when the reception starts and finishes; when the caterers will fill the glasses for the toasts; who will make each toast and how long they will speak for; when the photographers need to be ready for the cake cutting; when the bride and groom will do the first dance; and so on. Once you know exactly what will happen then your nerves can ease and you can be confident that everything will run smoothly.
4. Keep everything and everyone to time.
As the master of ceremonies you are usually both an organiser and a speaker. Part of your job is to make sure everything runs to time. If this means you remind the father of the bride that he is to give a speech in ten minutes so he can go to the bathroom first - you tell the father of the bride. If you need to remind the DJ that the bride and groom will start dancing at 8pm, you remind the DJ. If you need to talk to everyone in advance about the length of their speeches and how to help them stick to time, then you talk to all the speakers in advance. You do whatever you need to keep to time.
5. Collect sufficient information on the people you will be introducing.
The wedding master of ceremonies is responsible for announcing who people are and introducing them before they give a speech or a toast. You don't usually have to give the toasts or speeches unless you are also the best man, or the bride and groom specifically want you to. You are simply the glue that joins everything together. As part of your preparation make sure you have sufficient information on all the relevant people who will be speaking or you will be announcing. Make sure you get the titles and protocol correct for all the introductions. You must be able to pronounce everyone's names correctly too. If you have difficult names to pronounce write down how to pronounce each one on a piece of paper and keep it in front of you.
6. If you are nervous while you are talking - pause at full stops.
Most people when they are nervous speak too quickly. Therefore, train yourself to pause when you rehearse out-loud. You need to pause at your full stops, i.e. at the end of your sentences. Yes, this may sound simple but pausing is absolutely essential for the guests and bridal party. While a pause can seem like eternity to you, a pause allows the time needed for what you have said to travel to your guests, and to be absorbed by them. The general rule is the larger the reception room the longer you need to pause. Why? Because your sound has to travel further. When you pause you will appear confident, (even if your stomach is churning).
7. Don't crack irrelevant jokes if you aren't already an experienced joke teller.
Masters of ceremonies who are new to the role often make the mistake of thinking that they have to tell a whole series of wedding jokes. They don't. Telling jokes well is a skilled task, requiring an excellent memory and excellent timing. If you don't know you can tell jokes well, don't do it - it will only add to your anxiety. There are other ways to produce humour, for instance, by telling funny stories about the bride and groom when they were growing up or during their time of courtship. If you do tell jokes make sure they do not offend anyone. Pick them very carefully indeed and don't tell too many. The occasional joke or funny comment is all that is needed.
Enjoy being a confident, well prepared, master of ceremonies.
Rachel Green is a Perth based professional speaker and communication specialist. You'll find more tips on being a master of ceremonies in her popular E-book, "A Master of Ceremonies: A beginner's guide to being a brilliant MC."