This day will be the celebration of your love and the wonderful world that nurtured it. Ideally, your guests will go home with big smiles on their faces, their spirits lifted, and their hearts inspired to be kind to their family and the rest of world.
Weddings naturally inspire lofty emotions, but emotions are such fickle things, it takes a skilled someone to identify and channel them. Imagine mother of the groom starting to cry while making a speech. Suddenly there’s a long silence, and it’s awkward for everyone. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone respectfully took the stage and said ‘Dear bride and groom, we know your new life together will get busy. I’d like you to please remember this moment… and visit your parents often’.
“Aaaaaawwwwwwwwwww.” Said everybody.
Now, there will be many priorities vying for your wedding dollars, but please consider what a truly good MC will bring to the table.
Think of your school graduation speech. Think of when you last listened to the radio. Could you feel the energy coming from the person with the microphone? How did it affect you? Now think about the weddings you’ve been to. Isn’t it true that, when the MC makes everyone feel great, there are suddenly many wonderful things you remember about that wedding? And conversely, an MC who is a little nervous or disrespectful can make the entire wedding affair feel a little lackluster.
A good MC will bring out the best mood and energy from the celebration using entertainment, timing and delivery. If they are also a DJ, which they often are, another one of their tools will be music. It takes different skills to create a mood with music and with words. That’s why this article focuses on your MC, and another article talks about selecting a DJ. Some entertainers can do both, but not all.
Ok, so what’s the job description of the MC?
- keep your guests informed by making announcements in a way that is unobtrusive and clear;
- keep the agenda on track, while at the same time reading the room and respecting the timing of things. An overzealous MC can ruin the moment by forcing something to happen when it shouldn’t.
- remember to coordinate and confirm readiness for agenda items prior to announcing them (for example, checking that the photographer is well-positioned);
- explain and lead games in a way that will stimulate guest involvement and fun;
- think on their feet to be spontaneously yet tastefully entertaining;
- stay cool while keeping everyone’s attention, and at the same time constantly create a diffused, warm glow around the couple;
- if required, speak in a particular language and be able to connect with a particular ethnic group;
- know the phonetic pronunciation of the names and words their will be saying;
- if required, help you prepare something special: read a romantic love story introduction or repeat your vows, or maybe work with you to create a video interview with the couple (and/or members of the wedding party).
How do you choose an MC?
Start by identifying candidates that meet any special requirements, such as ability to speak fluently in a particular language.
Meet them in person.
Do you like their personality, their sense of humour, their ideas? Do you trust their judgment? Do you like them enough that, if something were to go wrong, you would be able to talk to them without getting adversarial?
Just as importantly, are they interested in creating something unique, that would reflect who you are? You don’t want some guy or gal to ‘just do their usual schtick,’ making your wedding a carbon copy of their previous one. But you wouldn’t be well-served with a ‘yes man’ attitude, either. It’s a fine line: they should be flexible to work with your evolving wishes – but also able to tactfully keep your imagination in check, keeping things simple and understandable for everyone.
Understand their experience level. This is not to say that experience is mandatory; someone talented and passionate can create a truly unique experience for you. But lack of experience can trip them up: they may forget about some important formality, get overwhelmed or discouraged, or fail to anticipate a problem in the making. What sorts of groups have they worked with before, and in what context? Have they MC’d weddings before? Do they understand the cultures and cultural traditions that will be involved in the wedding?
Ask for examples of how they handle emergencies and deal with difficult people. You will rely on their ability to remain upbeat, resourceful and approachable in the face of challenges.
Make inquiries about how they perform. Now, the easiest way to check out an MC is to see them in action at someone else’s wedding, but crashing strangers’ wedding is a bit of a controversial idea. Depending on the set-up, it may be possible to be a fly on the wall, but ask yourself this: how would you feel if some strangers walked into your reception and watched some of your private, emotional moments? How would you feel if your vendor specifically invited them there, and then tried to do something out of place to show off his skill? Uninvited guests, wearing their street clothes, can stand out like a sore thumb. Finally, seeing the MC in action for a short period of time does not give you enough information about how they entertain in different situations and throughout the night. A better idea will be to ask to see a video recording of a wedding they MC’d, or focus on vendors you’ve seen in action at your friend’s weddings.
Book early and quickly. Good MCs are often booked solid for months or even years in advance. So, start searching early, find someone you like, see if they are available, and book them quickly. If they offer different packages and you cannot finalize your choice, that’s ok, try to lock in the date and defer the particular decision until later.
How do you work with your MC?
Have all the decision-makers (i.e., both of you, the couple) present at the meetings. You don’t want to scramble to schedule additional meetings.
In-between the meetings, if you have some ideas or questions, try to hold off calling or emailing your MC immediately. It actually works better for everyone if you consolidate all your thoughts on a ‘talk with MC’ page and communicate them in bulk. That way, you can focus on better ideas and more important items, and have a more in-depth discussion about the themes you identify throughout your questions. Also, that way you can both ensure that small requests don’t slip through the cracks.
Tastes change and new ideas emerge, so don’t rush to finalize everything months and months before the big day. Aim to have things nailed down and confirmed with your MC two to three weeks before. Don’t keep any surprises from your MC. Planning to have a video conference with a famous hockey player? Tell your MC. Your kid brother wants to make a speech? The MC will need to know.
Finally, remember how you selected the MC because you liked them? MC’s are very professional, but they are also human – and a big part of their job is to connect with everybody and project good emotions. Your MC’s good spirits and warm feelings towards you will be very important for the success of your night. So, with all the stress and emotions of the day, if you happen to get in a bad mood (which happens, and everybody understands it), try not to take it out on your MC. You can have a positive feedback loop, or a negative feedback loop. Your MC works hard to make you and everybody else happy.