Industry Tips for the Rookie MC

By Robyn Pattison  (Cover Image: Captured Frames)

There are so many reasons why a professional MC is a great idea. You’ll have someone who knows what they’re doing, knows what to say (and what not to say), takes care of everything  - and leaves you – and all of your guests – to enjoy the party.

Of course, a professional MC is not an option for everyone. It might be too much of stretch on a tight budget. You might have a friend who is quite the talker – and you think they’d be perfect. You might just want the personal touch of a family member.

If you pick the personality wisely, you are halfway there – but still, there are things that only a professional knows. These are the little tips that we use, over and over again, to help you have a great time – and to help your whole team do their jobs, too. 

So, from a few of us in the wedding industry – to you - we all hope this will help…

a(Kate Tomlinson from White Clover Music - Image by Holly Prins)

To the MC, we say – be yourself

The bride and groom didn’t choose you to be perfect – they chose you because you are you. But…..

  • If you get an attack of the nerves, use the lectern if there is one. It will give you something to hide behind, while you build your confidence.
  • Don’t forget to let the guests know you are here to help them. Tell them what they need to know, where the amenities are – and that we are all here to help the Bride and Groom have the best night ever. 
  • You don’t need to be a comedian. Great, happy energy is definitely better than a bad joke. If you aren’t a natural comedian, don’t try to fake it. Just be your best happy self. 
  • Please don’t drink -  ( well - the absolute bare minimum, at most). You are the face of the event. You will need to be on your feet, thinking  - and speaking – clearly – for the whole night. This is not a night to hit the shots. 
  • Please do join the party. Maybe you can’t drink much – but you can hit the floor and dance, if that’s your thing. That’s your downtime – and joining the party will lift the vibe - and keep the dance floor going, for longer. 

    Take a cue from Robyn and join the dance floor (Image by Daniel Cheung @ Angus Porter Photography)
  • Do watch your run sheet, really, reallly carefully. It is your job to keep the entire event running as close to schedule as possible. If the kitchen is running late – and you lose time – you’ll need to make it up elsewhere. 
  • Do make sure that the venue co-ordinator has a copy of your run sheet  before the event. You need to be working to the same time frame.
  • Always warn the speechmakers that their speech is coming up. Give them time to collect themselves. Make sure they have a glass of champagne if they are toasting. Show them how to use the microphone – and if they are nervous, direct them to the lectern. 

  • Always, always make sure the photographer and videographer are ready to shoot all the events of the evening. Don’t announce the first dance – or a speech – or cake cutting – without first checking in with them. Nobody will thank you for calling the Father of The Bride for his speech, while the photographer is in the toilet!
  • Make sure that you know what time the photographer and videographer are leaving. Schedule all your major events before that time. Adjust your timing if something runs late to ensure that this happens.
  • Check in with the DJ, regularly. A great DJ will play to the crowd – and work with you to help you announce and punctuate all the great moments of the evening. Make sure you check in and make sure they have plenty of notice  - for everything. You might find you have a house DJ – or one that perhaps isn’t as enthusiastic as you would like. This is where you might need to get in there and motivate them. Make suggestions – try to keep them playing great dance tracks - but be nice! 
  • Check that the cake table has a knife – and two champagne flutes on it – before the cake cutting. Get the crowd to count them down, with you. Show the Bride and Groom how to cut the cake using their inner arms.
  • Prepare for the first dance. Let the DJ know if the first dance will be choreographed – or made up as they go along. Have the bridal party on hand to jump in, when they’re needed. Watch the bridal waltz really carefully. If your couple have had enough dancing alone, watch for their signal – and tell the DJ to change the song NOW!

    (Image by Francois Photography)
  • Make sure the tossing bouquet is on hand, before announcing the bouquet toss ( most brides have a smaller, lighter bouquet to throw away). Motivate the crowd. Call all the unmarried girls in – and remind them that it’s only fun if everyone plays along. Remind girls in strapless dresses NOT to put their arms above their heads – they’ll have to use elbow tactics. Do a countdown, get the guests to help. Raise a round of applause for the winner!
  • At the end of the night – you have to get everyone out. Give the Bride and Groom plenty of notice that the time is coming to an end. Organise your exit - and then tell the guests what an amazing night it has been – and thank them for their participation. Be aware of flowers/ decorations they can take – and those that need to stay ie : guests may be able to take the flowers, but not the vases – because they belong to the florist.
  • Remind the bride and groom that nobody will leave unless they think they have. If they are coming back in to collect things or tidy up – tell them to wait until the guests are gone
  • Check in with the venue co-ordinator – when you arrive, before all major events – basically all day – or night – long. You need to know when the plates will be cleared – or courses will be served.
To the Bride and Groom – and your Bridal Party, we say

Have a ball! Stop worrying - you are going to have an amazing time.  But these tips might help;

  • Entering the room - If you are heading straight to a bridal table, line up in pairs – on the side of the table you will sit on, before you enter. Listen for the MC to announce you.  When you enter the room – dance your way in – or walk in with plenty of bounce! Look excited! The room wants to celebrate your happiness – so start helping them! Come across the room and split in front of the table and go around.
  • Cutting the cake - If you have a multi-tier cake – cut from the bottom tier. If you try to cut into the top it can look like you are stabbing it! Cut across – not up and down. If your cake is not so conventional – maybe cupcakes, macaron tower, doughnuts etc – it is easier to pluck from the tower, not cut. Feed each other – or not – it’s up to you. Just make sure your MC knows what you will do.  
    - Stand side by side and put your closest hands together over the knife. If you use your outer arms, you will block everyone’s view – including the photographer.  
    - Decide in advance if you are going to do the swanning of arms to drink your toast. It’s ok to just take a sip from your own cup, if it’s too complicated. That’s always better than spilling champagne down your front.
  • If the Bride is changing her dress - Make sure you budget enough time for this. Think about at what stage you want to be seen in your new dress. Mark it in your run sheet. Allow extra time for hair and makeup change if you are doing this too. 
  • For the first dance - If you are going the whole way, with a choreographed first dance, make sure you have supplied the DJ with the correct version of your song. Don’t assume they already have it – or that there is only one version. 
    - If you are dancing the whole song, make sure the MC knows that. Choose a song for after this one and have people on hand to jump in and dance. 
    - If you are winging it – or only doing a short portion on your own – have a signal to the MC to call others onto the floor. 

(Image by Vincent Lai Photography)

  • For speeches - Don’t overload with too many speeches. Tell speechmakers that shorter is better. 3-5 minutes is more than enough for most people. Break the speeches up between courses.
    - When you - and bridal party - do your speeches, stand behind the bridal table. The photos will be prettier than if you stand behind a lectern. 
  • For the bouquet toss - This is more fun if you fake it a little. Move the bouquet on each count. Bounce around a bit. Maybe fake it the first time. Throw it on the second go.
  • Some people will leave early - The elderly, the distant relatives, anybody with small children – or a babysitter at home, will often disappear after the cake cutting or first dance. Don’t take it personally. Your friends are happy to have you to themselves – so hit the dancefloor!
  • Be flexible about the final exit.  You can make all the plans in the world for a fancy exit, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Your amazing sparkler exit will only work if the weather is good – and you are outside. It’s not going to happen if it’s raining. Orif you are inside. Maybe your exit arch isn’t as long as you expected – because some people have left early. Maybe you are just so tired from this big, incredible day that you just want to sleep. It’s all ok – you’ve had an incredible day. 

About the Author: Robyn Pattison is a Sydney based Wedding Celebrant, MC and presiding administrator of We Work Together (A Facebook Group for Wedding Vendors in Sydney to network and share ideas for working effectively together at weddings).  Thanks also to Kate Tomlinson of White Clover Music & Wedding Supplier Toolkit (a great resource for wedding vendors) for contributions to this article.  
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