Last year I was asked to be the Master of Ceremonies (MC) at my close friends’ wedding. I was honoured, but nervous, and I’m pretty sure my reaction would be standard for most people like me who’ve never undertaken any master of ceremonies duties before.

Sure I’ve done plenty of minor speaking gigs like professional seminars, presentations and I was a regular at Toastmasters for a while – so I wasn’t completely fresh – but I’ve never had the opportunity to potentially ruin the biggest day of my friends’ life!

Lucky they are such good friends. Elise, the bride, made things easy for me by having a detailed run sheet. Her run sheet helped me plan my speech and detailed the key guests I had to introduce. But we all know that the best MC gets the guests laughing and helps set the right mood for such a special occasion.

A good MC understands the important balance between communicating the formalities and injecting some fun. Too much of either makes for a cringe-worthy wedding experience for everyone.

Unlike the rest of my life, I was well-planned and ready for the big day. I’d done my research by contacting the close friends and family of the couple and I was confident I had some good nuggets of friendly ‘dirt’ and wise words of wisdom. I did the requisite internet searches on how to be a great wedding MC – which were only partially helpful. Google was great for confirming the formalities to include, but the tired old jokes, outdated traditions and scammers (promising the best MC speech scripts for just $199) were painful.

On the day, I knew only a fraction of the guests would actually know who I was, so straight up I explained my relationship to the bride and groom and made sure to include one of the more entertaining experiences I’d shared with them. I also got the compulsory housekeeping stuff out of the way early on – well before I introduced the bridal party.

The majority of my responsibilities were in the first 15 minutes of the evening, and after that I became merely a link between the events of the night announcing speeches, cake cutting and the first dance.

I’m pleased to say the planning and preparation paid off. I didn’t feint. I didn’t forget what I had to say. I got people laughing. I even got a few compliments from guests I didn’t know. The bride and groom are still my close friends – so all in all, a success!

I did learn some things along the way, so if you’re a first time MC, here are my top smooth talking tips!

  1. The day is not about you. So relax. An MC plays an important role, but really, you’re just a cog in the wheel. Don’t build it up to something it’s not. No one is focused on you, it’s the bride and groom they’re interested in! Equally, the content of your script should reflect this.
  2.  Balance. Identify the most important elements of your job and get them right. This is not your chance to release your pent up inner-comedian. Not everything you say needs to be funny. Try to show some personality and warmth, and generating some laughter is great, but make sure you get a balance between ‘entertaining’ and the important formalities.
  3. Get a run sheet. View the run sheet well in advance of the big day so you can understand your duties and shape your script accordingly. Most brides will have one, so ask them for it. It will give them lots of confidence you’ve got everything in hand.
  4. Think confident! Hopefully you won’t have any challenging situations to deal with but if they do arise remember, you’re responsible for getting things back on track seamlessly. Use your judgement. At I wedding I went to recently, the MC stepped in and tactfully finished up a rambling and intoxicated mother of the bride speech. It was needed and his actions saved everyone from embarrassment and the night being remembered for all the wrong reasons.
  5. Talk to the key players. Get to know the wedding planner, band and catering staff. Take the time to meet and talk to them to get a feel for their priorities and how they see things running. Do this early so you can make any necessary script or run sheet changes.
  6. Brief the bride! Check in with the bride and groom before the day. Give them an overview of your script (don’t ruin any surprise jokes though!). Check if there is anyone who will be present or who can’t attend that deserves special recognition. This is your last chance to find out any other important background information which could add the extra icing on the cake!

Good luck to all first time MCs! Full credit to Gemma Clarke Photography for great photos from the day.

Ms Gingham says: Public speaking is a real skill and needs preparation! Great tips here from Scott.

Scott Evans is a contributor to Courses Direct, an Australian based website providing online courses in a range of industries, including wedding planning! Scott hasn’t completed the course and is mostly a rookie when it comes to weddings! He’s also a keen runner, yoga amateur and part-time traveller.