As a mobile entertainer, you’ve no doubt seen it all with wedding toasts: The drunken uncle who makes a total fool of himself. The panic-stricken maid of honor visibly shaking at the podium. The father of the bride who delivers a twenty minute sermon on marital success. The best man who offends the entire room with off-color jokes and inappropriate stories. The painfully boring elderly aunt who rambles on and on and on and on and on…
Unfortunately, many families underestimate the potential for those kinds of situations to arise at their wedding. So it behooves you, as the professional they’ve hired to help plan, conduct and oversee the wedding reception, to be proactive in helping them steer clear of those disasters.
Because when they look good, you look good (and vice-versa). Here are ten tips to help ensure your wedding toasters shine:
1. Choose the right speakers. Encourage the bride and groom to give serious thought to who they chose to speak at their wedding. The act of public speaking can be absolutely terrifying to some people—yet they’re cast into a role (as best man or maid of honor) that requires them to deliver a speech to several hundred people. Give them an “out” if necessary—or offer to pre-record their toast in advance.
2. Limit the number of speakers. No matter how good a lineup of speakers might be, there is a limit to the guests’ attention span. My rule of thumb is that the “formal” part of a wedding reception (like most any corporate event) should be scheduled for after dinner, and that the total time allotted for it should be about 20 minutes. Tailor your speaker lineup accordingly.
3. Take control of the microphone. Work with the bride and groom (and other decision-makers) to nail down a pre-approved event agenda that clearly spells out who is going to offer toasts. Do NOT give up the mic to anyone not on that list.
4. Brief speakers in advance. Most people asked to make a wedding toast have no idea what to say and what to expect. Educate them in advance about the need to focus their toast on the bride and groom (“It’s about them, not you”); to personalize their toast and honor the wedding couple (“It’s a toast, not a roast”); and to limit their talk to a maximum of three or four minutes. You might also give them a copy of the event agenda to help give them a sense of the overall event and their place within it.
5. Encourage them to get started early. Most people tend to procrastinate in preparing a wedding toast. Then they panic and scribble something down on the back of a napkin on the day of the wedding. Suggest to them that the quality of their toast will be in direct proportion to their level of preparation. A well-considered, thoughtful toast that’s rehearsed in advance is their prescription for success at the podium.
6. Pre-approve their material. Some wedding emcees require all wedding toasters to submit their speech in writing in order to earn the right to speak. While that can help ensure quality control, it might be a little much for some folks. As an alternative, you might simply offer to review their toast and provide feedback if they send it to you no later than ten days prior to the wedding.
7. Encourage them to rehearse in advance. One of the reasons people tend to ramble on too long with their toast is that they simply have no sense of what they can actually cover in three or four minutes. Suggest they rehearse in advance and time themselves.
8. Coach them on the day of the wedding. People who rehearse their toast in the actual room where the reception is to take place tend to be a lot more comfortable when they go live. Encourage them to do so—and allow them to rehearse with the microphone (with some coaching from you).
9. Invest in a lectern. Have you ever tried to hold a microphone in one hand and your speaking notes/champagne flute in the other? Make it easy for toasters by providing an actual lectern for them to use in spreading out their speaking notes. Here are links to a couple of companies that will custom-design a lectern with your company logo on it: http://podiumpros.com/ or www.forbesindustries.com.
10. Be proactive when necessary. Drill down on the bride and groom’s expectations of your potential action should a speaker drone on too long, use off-color material or appear inebriated. Agree on some sort of hand signal should they wish for you to bring up the music and cut power to the mic. Guests will understand if the situation warrants it.
Tom Haibeck is the author of the bestselling book, Wedding Toasts Made Easy. Go to NoMoreBadToasts.com for details on how you can provide every one of your wedding toasters with a complimentary copy, for just $97 a year.
Filed Under: Exclusive Online News and Content, Issues from 2012, Performing, Weddings
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