We’ve had a number of questions about MC’ing wedding receptions recently, so I’ve wrapped it all up in this quick and easy how-to guide.
The host, or MC, of an event is as unique role as the whole event is held in your hands but you’re not at the centre of it. You’re the ringleader, the master of ceremony, the voice, and the host, but if you’re any good no-one will remember you – because it’s your job to make the couple shine and for all of the guests to have an amazing night.
MCing the reception is a natural fit for a celebrant, we’ve already spent the time getting to know the couple, and we already start the event, it’s only natural that we’d continue hosting the after-ceremony proceedings.
Ultimately what happens at the reception, and how you navigate those waters, will be 45% the couple’s doing and 45% you being you, so this article is on the remaining 10%: how to be the best MC.
I see the MC’s role as being the middle-person in-between the couple, the venue, the kitchen, the other vendors, and the crowd.
We want to have a good understand of the couple’s needs and desires – they’re paying the bill after all – so that as we interact with everyone else we can respectfully communicate that “all of that is great, but the couple would like it to happen this way” so that a suitable outcome can be found when the kitchen needs to serve dinner, but the photographer ran late with photos, the band is due to start soon, but you haven’t communicated the housekeeping and introduced the couple yet.
Your role is a little bit like a doula. A doula isn’t a midwife, but they are a third party liaison for the couple giving birth so that they aren’t hindered with making decisions they don’t need to make. A doula is like a professional best-friend when giving birth, and a MC is a professional best-friend on your wedding day.
Speaking is only part of your role, the rest of it is understanding the flow of the event, everyone’s priorities, and then leading the couple and the crowd through that.
Runsheets are powerful yet useless. They are powerful because they lay out the groundwork for what’s going to happen at a wedding, and what order they’ll occur in, but they’re useless because in the 15 years I’ve been running events I’ve never seen a runsheet obeyed. They’re a rough guide as to what will happen and when.
The chef and kitchen staff hold an important aspect of the day: the food. It’s your job to be in communication with them around their timelines and what they need so that everyone has hot food in front of them, so establish a good relationship with the appropriate people in the kitchen so that flows well.
Another aspect of your relationship with the kitchen is working out if they would prefer to clear plates before speeches begin, or after. I prefer that the plates are cleared before we begin speaking, but some kitchens can do it quietly.
Photographers and videographers
It is your responsibility to communicate to the photography and videography crew about what they need to capture on the night, and how you can make that easy for them. It might be that they need 10 minutes notice on speeches so they can set up, if so, give them 10 minutes notice, and not less. I recommend talking to them about positioning in the room, if that is flexible, so they can get great photos and video with ease.
Band or DJ
I prefer to use my own PA system in a reception, but if the band or DJ has a good setup that you trust, use theirs, and that will require you to work with them on levels, and also cues on you speaking and them stopping the music.
A hint here: try not to cut in to the middle of a song, but tell them “I’d like to speak at the end of this song”. That way they have notice and can also give the event a better flow and feel instead of you interrupting everyone’s favourite song.
As the couple’s liaison, through the event stay in touch with them about what you’re planning on doing next and if that suits them, also offering them an opportunity to change things if required. The couple having a fun and relaxed night is more important than any runsheet.
Imagine that the whole crowd are idiots, but treat them with the upmost respect. Simply, don’t assume that everyone knows what is happening, and why, but talk to them kindly, slowly, and clearly.
My MC style is to talk as little as possible while saying everything needed to be said, however there are other equally good wedding reception MC styles that are on the more verbose side. DJ friends of mine are trained in the Marbecca Method which really intrigues me, but for today I like my minimalist approach.
Most of your role on the night is off-microphone, but what you say on microphone is also important, just be sure to be clear as you communicate it because as you start speaking you’re interrupting everyone’s conversations so it best be good.
How much to charge
I’m not going to dictate a fee, but the way I view it is that I could be at home with my wife, so it better be worth it. I don’t like charging by the hour, only because I don’t want to be the guy that tells the couple that my time is up. I’d rather charge a good price for the whole night and then leave when appropriate. But if you’re going to charge by the hour, make sure it’s clearly communicated to the couple.
How to sell it
Many couples have already identified a friend or family member that will MC, and most of those MCs are terrible at it. Your pitch should communicate your professional public speaking ability that has already sold you as a celebrant, but you just extend that service past the ceremony into the reception.