By Paul Deacon
To be able to consider how wedding trends are moving and what might be expected of a Bridegroom at his wedding reception it is probably appropriate to review how English wedding traditions have been changing over the past few years.
It used to be that the Father of the Bride would arrange and pay for everything and that the style would generally follow the same pattern of receiving line, grace, dinner in a hotel for between 150 to 200 guests, cake-cutting, three speeches after the meal (Father of the Bride, Bridegroom, Best Man) and dancing.
Now, the Bride and Bridegroom pay for most items perhaps with contributions from their parents and, in consequence, the guests at the meal are fewer in number and there are more evening guests. Experienced hotel providers are being replaced with more venues being licensed for civil wedding ceremonies who bring in external caterers. The hotel then takes little interest except for providing a Duty Manager who handles emergencies; the caterers are in unfamiliar surroundings and you should appoint a coordinator, such as a Toastmaster, to make sure that everything happens as you want. Receiving lines are less common but have not disappeared altogether and are substituted by the newly-weds visiting each table during the meal. (The receiving line is a long-running tradition in which the couple and specific members of their families greet guests).
In comparison, second and third generation Asian newly-weds are looking to introduce more Westernised ideas into their reception and to bring in a reasonable structure to the event which can be pre-advised and followed as closely or loosely as necessary. Such pre-planning significantly helps the caterers, photographer, videographer and DJ and I am now regularly asked before the wedding to help the Bride and Groom and caterer to draw up an appropriate timeframe. This makes allowance for the time it takes to move hundreds of guests from one area to another and to draw their attention to the events which are unfolding to make sure that they are properly handled and seen.
Previously each family would make the arrangements for different parts of the wedding reception, but it is very common now for both the Bride and Bridegroom to take the most active part in the discussions. Problems arise when it is not made clear from the start who is going to be responsible for the planning of the day. There are then no surprises and each person can be at the right place at the right time. Parents are asked for their input for instance about the role grandparents and siblings might play but often they no longer control the event like they used to.
Nonetheless, often when I am at the venue several helpful members of the family will invariably approach me with a request perhaps to make a speech or presentation or arrange an extra ceremony or dance on behalf of the sisters and I tactfully have to liaise with the Bride and Bridegroom and decide between us how best these requests can be accommodated.
Ultimately it is important that you include in your wedding all the traditions and activities which you want to see on the day. You should always give the photographer a list of the photographs you want and who should be in them – just saying 'take one photograph of every family' is clear but not helpful. It often means that orderly photographs which could take one hour will take up to two.
But please do not present your event organiser with a list of activities, such as one hour of photographs, one hour of a receiving line to greet 300 guests, one hour of entertainment with dancers or singers, one hour of speeches, one hour of cake cutting, feeding and any other games when you want to start at 8pm and finish before midnight. It just won’t happen!
About Paul Deacon
Paul is a professional International Toastmaster and Master of Ceremonies with almost 25 years experience of a variety of weddings and dinners . He is the 2013 President of the National Association of Toastmasters and is regularly seen working at weddings of all faiths and in recent years has officiated at events with Brides, Bridegrooms, Royalty, major and minor celebrities in the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe and throughout the UK.