We’re in the midst of wedding season, which means that lots and lots of people are freaking out. Thousands of decisions must be made, from silverware to suits for the groomsmen, and one key job that is often doled out carelessly is wedding MC.
Not as vital or prestigious as best man or maid of honour, the job of emcee is often given to someone who is close enough to the couple to warrant a role in the wedding and doesn’t seem to mind talking in front of people. I myself have been appointed MC three times, with a fourth coming up shortly. I’m always honoured to be asked and since I’m a shameless, degenerate attention hog, playing to a captive audience appeals to me. Here are my seven wedding MC commandments (not to be confused with Wedding McCommandments, which apply only to events involving golden rings and golden arches).
1. The wedding MC’s main duty is to keep things moving — which is vital, because all receptions last roughly an eternity and get to the point where people just want to get drunk and dance already. So when a reception is only half over and everyone’s staring down another half -dozen speeches, now is not the time to launch into your shaggy dog story about that road trip you three took together that totally changed your life. If they wanted you to give a big, touching speech they would have made you best man.
2. Ever been to a wedding where the bride ends up grabbing the mic to tell someone to move their car so the caterer can get out? Yeah, you don’t want that. Make sure all the announcement dirty work goes through you.
3. Plan things with the couple beforehand. Figure out who’s going to talk and when, any subjects that shouldn’t be broached, how loose they’d be willing to let things get. Take things seriously: they’ll probably be freaking out.
4. The MC should make the bride and groom feel comfortable that the reception is moving smoothly. But it’s just as important that the guests feel the same. People need to know that someone’s at the helm, otherwise they start worrying this thing may go on forever and they may not be able to bust out their dutty wine before the babysitter has to go home.
5. People will have a few drinks and try to bum-rush the mic. The cruel irony is that the better you’re doing, the more tempting it will be for Great Uncle Scotch-and-Soda to uncoil his not-entirely-appropriate story about the groom’s bed-wetting problems. Box out these people before they get their hands on a hot mic and vet them with the bride and groom; if they veto the impromptu speech, explain to the interloper that time is tight and the bride is really stressed out about it. You’re sure they understand and hey, let’s freshen up that drink!
6. Remember, your job is to be funny but not overpowering. You may have some fantastic, edgy material that’s going to revolutionize the wedding MC game; best save that for an open mic. Your goal is to be Steve Martin hosting the Oscars, not Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes.
7. Skip joke books and canned quotes found on the internet. Speak (briefly) from the heart, compliment the bride, roast the groom a little, end on a sincere note and you’ll be electric sliding in no time.
Paul Beer is a Toronto writer, actor and comedian. You can follow him on Twitter @pauldanielbeer.