Essential MC Guide
Essential MC Guide
If you are reading this, it is probably because the wedding couple have asked you to be their Master of Ceremonies (MC) for their wedding day! This is a great honour and should not be taken lightly. This is an extremely important role. In fact, YOU as the MC are the glue that hold the entire event together! (That means it is also YOUR responsibility if the night doesn’t go smoothly!). No pressure right?
It is becoming more and more common practice now for couples to hire a professional Master of Ceremonies. In the old days (mostly because there was a lack of professional MCs), it was more customary to have a friend or relative take the role of MC. In fact, in the United States it is almost unheard of to have a friend or relative as the Master of Ceremonies, it is always a hired professional taking this role.
The Role of the Master of Ceremonies …
What does an MC actually do? The rest of this guide will take you through that, but it is probably the single most misunderstood role of the entire wedding. Most people assume the MC is there just to make a few announcements and introduce the people making a speech.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. 70% of what an MC does goes unseen. A Master of Ceremonies is constantly working at a wedding and doesn’t get time to relax (that is … if they are doing their job right!)
The Role of the Master of Ceremonies
Your role as the host …
Make no mistake about it. YOU are the host of the event. Everyone (guests, the bridal couple, the venue and all the other wedding suppliers) are looking to YOU to know what is going on, when and where. You are the host that should have all the answers.
You will be the one ensuring the run sheet is adhered to as closely as possible (and you should have also gone over and make necessary suggestions for changes of the run sheet with the couple at least 2 weeks prior to the wedding).
Think of the MC as the pilot of the airplane. Passengers are relying on YOU to give them a smooth and enjoyable experience. Just like a good pilot, if you run into incliment weather, you should also be prepared to make necessary changes quickly and efficiently without causing any disruption to the guests and still keep things on time.
Your Role As Host
Keeping on time …
Your key task is to keep everything on time. The couple have invested thousands of dollars on this one special day and it is YOUR responsibility to keep everything on time.
I have seen many, many times a family appointed MC more interested in drinking their share of the bar tab, socialising with others and eating than ensuring the schedule is being adhered to. This often has a domino effect. 5 minutes late here, 12 minutes late there … it might not seem like much but it all adds up and next thing you know there is very little time for guests to enjoy dance floor fun. (We have even seen it where the MC has run that much over time that there WAS no time left at all for even the wedding couples first dance!). How disappointing for the couple that had paid for dance lessons and looking forward to the videographer and photographer taking images of this important moment.
Make no mistake. Keeping everything on time (and knowing how to make up time when required) is a crucial skill you need to possess as a Master of Ceremonies.
HOT TIP: Before you announce ANY key event (Cake cutting, bridal dance, grand entry etc) announce to everyone that it will be happening in 10 minutes time. This gives everyone the pre-warning to be ready for it to happen. When you say 10 minutes MEAN 10 minutes. We have seen MCs say something will be happening in 10 minutes time and 30 minutes later guests, the venue and suppliers are wondering if it is still happening or not.
ANOTHER HOT TIP: Meal service times is of paramount importance. There is nothing that will upset a venue more than an MC that allows things to cut into the allocated time for meal service. The chef and the team work hard to create a great meal and when they are forced to keep it on hold, the meal can easily spoil and not be a good representation of the hard work they went to. Meals must be served on time. There is no exception to this. Nobody wants a spoiled meal and bear in mind that frequently the wedding couple have paid a LOT of money per head for everyone to enjoy their meal. It is your responsibility to ensure the meal is served on time.
Keeping On Time
Using a microphone correctly …
Many people are not comfortable using a microphone. For many, it will be the first time they have used a microphone. As the MC, you should be well versed in the correct use of a microphone and able to help guide others in the correct use of a mic.
The two main types of microphones are lecturn mics and handheld style. Generally speaking, lecturn mics worst enemy is the person who speaks too close into it. A well sound balanced lecturn mic should allow the speaker to stand naturally and not need to “talk into the mic”. It will pick up the sound well and talking into it will only serve to give a horrible distorted sound.
On the other hand, a handheld style microphone (be it actually one you are going to hold yourself or one on a stand), you need to have it close to your mouth. It is the opposite in many ways to the lecturn mic. Distance is not your friend for a hand held mic. It needs to be close to your mouth.
As an MC, you need to discreetly (off mic) give each person that is coming up to make a speech a very quick guide on using the mic correctly. A simple (“hold the mic nice and close to your mouth” or “don’t get too close to the mic” is often enough to suffice).
Your own use of the mic, because you are the first one being seen to speak, is often the best example as guests will notice how you are using the mic yourself. And of course, don’t wait until all the guests are in the room to find and test the mic. Get in the room before it opens to guests, find the mic and test it so you can get comfortable with it. There is nothing that looks more unprofessional than a master of ceremonies fumbling with a microphone in front of the guests. As the MC, guests are looking at you to be the one in control. Cool, calm and collected at all times.
HOT TIP: Don’t speak from multiple locations. If there is a lecturn provided, that is where you should speak from every time. If there is no lecturn, choose a location and always speak from that location. Just because you might have been given a wireless mic doesn’t mean you can speak from any location in the room. It is disrespectful of the guests to have to keep looking around to see where you are. Once they guests have seen you speak from the location you gave your welcome, always speak from that same location because that is where people are expecting you to be. (Remember, your voice will be coming from the speakers, so locating you is not as easy as you would think and can be annoying for guests to always be guessing where you are going to pop up next).
Using a Microphone Correctly
Think before you speak …
Take time, every time, before you use the mic to speak to consider what it is you are trying to achieve. WHY are you about to say what you are about to say? WHAT outcome do you want from this?
Too many times we have seen MCs open the microphone and rattle off anything just because they think their job is to speak. No! Your job is not to speak, it is to guide. You are there to direct, inform and guide. (A friend of mine, Mark Farrell taught me the acronym D.I.G. – a good MC DIGs the guests). DIRECT / INSTRUCT / GUIDE.
For example, when you are about to have the grand entry of the wedding couple, you want to warm the room by introducing yourself. Think about what you need to say here. What is it you want people to know? You can briefly say how you know the couple, but this is not your time to give a story. Keep it brief. You might be a relative or friend, but now is not the time for your speech. You are there in the capacity as the Master of Ceremonies, not as the family member or friend. Keep professional and say only what is required.
An important note is to realise you are also not there to make people laugh. If something arises that can be the basis for a small joke or pun, that is fine, but there is nothing worse than an MC that thinks they are a stand-up comedian. I have even seen a professional stand-up comedian as an MC and it just didn’t work. A little humour is fine, too much and you actually lose the respect of your guests as you become seen as a comedian rather than a person in charge. Being cheerful and fun is one thing, being a stand-up comedian is another. Too much.
There are really three things that guests want to know when you speak –
1. What is happening?
2. Does it involve me?
3. What do I need to do?
If you think about those three things before speaking it becomes easy to guide people and make them feel comfortable. Guests become uncomfortable and feel that the MC in control is doing a poor job when they are left wondering what is happening or what they need to do.
Think Before You Speak
Your style and look …
You are in charge. Dress in a way that instills confidence in your guests. Think again of an airline pilot. Seeing a pilot in their sharp, clean uniform makes you feel comfortable. If I saw a pilot walk into the cockpit wearing jeans and a T-shirt would make me feel very unsafe and uncomfortable. Be the pilot. Dress sharp. Even if it is a “casual” wedding, aim to dress as sharp as possible (without going over the top).
As the Master of Ceremonies, don’t expect that you will get a meal (and if you do, don’t expect you will get time to eat it). You might, but don’t let your stomach take precedence over your responsibilities. Missing a meal won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but if it meant that the couple missed out on something important that could be a very big deal to them.
Be mindful of your confidence you are portraying on the microphone. Knowing what you are going to say before you say it is a big part of this (as we have already mentioned) but also try and eliminate as many “umms” and “ahhs” from your speech as possible. Hearing too many of these makes people feel that you are not in control. It makes you sound uncertain. Eliminating these can be very difficult and are often deeply ingrained as crutch sounds when we are not sure what to say next. Start noticing your own speech as a path to getting this under control.
When standing and speaking, be mindful of fidgeting. If you are being seen to fidget or rock side to side, this is very distracting and also is a sign of low confidence in your ability. Practice speaking at home in front of a mirror and notice your posture. Big open hand gestures are fine, closed hands and pointing fingers are not. Don’t point if you need to draw attention to something, instead use an open hand with palm showing.
Your Style and Look
The big day …
Hopefully you are still reading because now we have set a lot of the basic ideas of what your responsibilities are for the day, we are ready to explore the day itself and give you a general run though guide of what to expect from each “key” moment.
The Big Day
Arrive early …
Don’t arrive to the reception with the other guests. Get there before they do. This gives you time to familiarise yourself with the microphone you will be using, meet the venue and other staff (eg. the DJ) you will be working with as well as find where the toilet and smoking areas are so you can guide guests. Aiming to get there at least 30 minutes prior to the guests is a great idea. Making sure you introduce yourself to the venue staff and the DJ is crucial. The venue staff will work closely with you on meal service times and the DJ is someone you definitely want to meet as they may be the one in control of your microphone.
On the other extreme of this is prepare yourself for a long night. As the Master of Ceremonies you should also be the last person to leave. You are responsible for ensuring transport has been arranged, gifts and the money well have been stored in a safe location as requested by the couple as well as checking with the venue and other suppliers if they have any requirements or outstanding issues.
Welcome guests as they arrive …
It is a nice idea to be standing at the door and greet guests as they enter. Helping them find their names on the seating plan and assisting them to their table if required.
Once guests are all seated and comfortable, it is then a great time to use the microphone for the first time to introduce yourself briefly and provide any house-keeping (eg. where the toilets are located, how the meal service will work, where the smoking area is). Remember, this is the first time they will hear you speak and this is the time they will quickly form an opinion of you … are you in control and confident? Now is the time to earn their respect and trust. When they trust and respect you, they are much easier to guide later in the night (especially as they become a little more intoxicated!)
Once guests are all seated, it is a great idea to find out where the wedding couple and their wedding party are located. If they are close by, it is a good idea to go and introduce yourself to them and to confirm the order of entry you have is still correct. Often times they aren’t sure of who is entering first so you might be the one to let them know.
Welcome Guests As They Arrive
The grand entry …
Here we go! It’s time to bring in the newly weds and their wedding party. However first … have you checked they are outside and in the right order? Are they ready?
Have you checked if the photographer and/or videographer are ready? (Nothing worse than an MC that does the grand entry and the photographer the couple are spending thousands of dollars for hasn’t been told by the MC it is happening! Again, your fault, not the photographers! As the MC, it is almost always your problem if something is missed because you should have been onto it).
Now, once you know everyone is ready, it’s time to make sure the guests are ready. You can’t go around and check with everyone, so instead you announce that the wedding party will be coming in to join everyone in 5 minutes, so tell people to please return to their seats now.
If the time has been kept on time, you should still be 5 minutes away from the scheduled time according to the run sheet you have. Making the grand entry at the perfect scheduled time. But …
If the photographer has kept them away doing off site shots too long, this isn’t your fault right?
As the MC, you should have all the suppliers phone numbers and watching the entry time. As it gets closer, if the photographer and wedding party haven’t returned 20 minutes or so prior to the scheduled entry time you should be on the phone asking how far away they are and gently reminding them to please be back on time to avoid everything running overtime and meals becoming spoilt.
So to the entry itself …
Hopefully you have made friends with the DJ because they are going to be the one helping you with this as they will be playing the song for entry and fading the volume down as you announce the next couple in and back up when they come in.
As you announce each couple, do it with great energy. Make sure people hear the excitement in your voice as you announce them (just not too over the top). Allow the couple ample time to walk in and stand behind their table. Don’t just announce them, clap as well to encourage people to join in without you having to ask. (Where do you put the mic if it is handheld? Simple, under your arm pit leaving your hands free to applause!). When it comes to announcing the newly weds, they should get more enthusiasm than the rest of the wedding party.
Once the newly-weds sit down, it is time to go and check the venue have provided them with a drink and if not, take care of this for them.
The Grand Entry
Time for speeches. (For many MCs that have been thrown into this role, they thought this was all they had to take care of! Now you can see it is much more).
Make sure you have the correct order of speeches and that you have practiced announcing the correct pronunciation of any names that might be difficult. (This should have been checked with the wedding couple during one of your meetings with them when planning).
First find the photographer, videographer and DJ and check they are okay to start speeches. (Nothing worse than an MC that announces the speeches are about to start only to find the photographer is out having their meal and not there to take photos!)
As with any other time of the night, you should have give the entire room and all other wedding vendors a 5 minute heads up before calling up anyone to speak. This is simple if you just announce “Ladies and gentlemen, in 5 minutes time we will be heading into speeches, so please start making your way back to your seats now”.
Be there to introduce each speaker, then discreetly remind them how close to be to the mic (depending on the type). Also be standing in a position where they can see you but not in an obvious location so that if they are not using the mic properly you can discreetly indicate to them to hold it closer to their mouth for example.
Speeches are the one element you have very little control over how long they run. However, you should have calculated the allocated time divided by the number of speakers to find how much the maximum per speaker would work. This should be spoken about with the wedding couple at one of your planning meetings with them to ensure they let all the people speaking their allowed maximum time allowed. Speeches running under the allocated time isn’t a problem, speeches running over time can be detrimental to other aspects of the night (especially if speeches are done before meals).
HOT TIP: It is never a good idea to “open the floor” to speeches to allow anyone that was not on the list of speakers to come up. This becomes awkward, looks desperate and often has people come up to make speeches that are not well thought out and to be honest, boring or even worse … embarrasing and inappropriate.
Cake cutting …
In Australia, the cake cutting isn’t as big a deal as it is in the US. In Australia we tend to just cut the cake while the DJ plays a song and people take photos. (In the US the MC has a more major role as they have a cake cutting ceremony).
Again, make sure the photographer, videographer, DJ and the wedding couple are aware it is about to happen. The DJ usually has a special song for the cake cutting.
Then again, announce to everyone that it will be happening in … you guessed it 5 minutes time. Giving everyone the chance to have a toilet break, get a drink etc if they wish and be back ready for the cake cutting.
HOT TIP: In the planning of the run sheet, it is highly recommended to have the cake cutting performed before the speeches. This gives the venue staff the opportunity to take the cake away, cut it up and plate it whilst the speeches are taking place, rather than having an awkward wait time after speeches.
The first dance …
This is the first time the newly-weds have danced since becoming married! This is very often a highlight of the entire wedding. Maybe only 2nd to the first kiss!
It is crucial you check with the newly-weds if they are ready before announcing it. They might need a break first. (If the first dance is later than the scheduled time, this isn’t usually such a big issue as the meals are done by now so no stress from the kitchen).
In a planning meeting, you should have checked with the couple if they want to do the entire dance as just the two of them or if they want the rest of the wedding party invited at a specific point of the song.
The First Dance
Dance time …
Finally you get to relax a bit. Let the entertainer take over from here as they get people up and dancing on the dance floor. You might be asked to help facilitate the throwing of the boquet and/or the garter toss if these are happening, but in most cases professional entertainers are happy to take this role.
The end of the night …
As the MC, it is your responisbility to make sure everything is sorted at the end of the night. This doesn’t mean YOU have to be the one to pack everything up, but you need to make sure that someone is taking the gifts and/or wishing well and placing it in a secure location.
You need to check about 30 minutes prior to the departure of the wedding couple that their transport (if applicable) has been arranged and confirm it will be there on time.
You should also be there to facilitate and help the venue staff to usher and assist guests to leave the room. Often this can be a little difficult as people have had a few drinks and are difficult to encourage to move on. If you did a good job of getting them to look to you as a leader, they should now be easier to encourage to head out.
The End Of The Night
Final tips …
Less is more when it comes to what you should be saying on the microphone as the Master of Ceremonies. A little humour is great, but this is NOT your time to shine. An MC is there to support and make the true stars the wedding couple.
In essence, a good Master of Ceremonies is there to serve. We are at the service of the wedding couple, their guests and the other wedding professionals that are working to create the event.
Don’t be tempted to change the order of events on the run sheet that was given to you unless you have a good reason for doing so. If you do need to change, think about who else this could effect and make sure they are aware of the change.
Mostly, enjoy your role as the Master of Ceremonies. This is a great honor that has been bestowed on your by the couple.
Meet the Author …
I hope this guide has been of help to you. I am Nik Edser, from NikNat Entertainment.
I have been a professional MC for many years and have provided my Master of Ceremonies services to hundreds of wedding.
I have a Master of Ceremonies certification from the MarBecca Method, which is based in the United States.
I am also a proud member of the International Master of Ceremonies ToastMasters group where I further hone my skills on a weekly basis.
I have been fortunate enough to have won multiple Master of Ceremonies awards at both a state and national level. Including finishing in the Top 10 of Master of Ceremonies across Australia in 2019 and 2nd in Queensland.