By Paul Deacon
Confucius said: 'Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.'
As part of my overall role, I am now regularly asked to advise about a running order for a wedding day day because, increasingly, there is a communal desire for an orderliness and a wish for guests to be aware of and see the various activities during the day. This all has to be planned beforehand and the Bridegroom has a crucial role in making sure that much of the hard work has been done beforehand.
As a start, make sure that the caterer, photographer and videographer have all been given and have agreed on a timetable of events. At a wedding in Wembley which I attended at short notice when a colleague Toastmaster went ill, I arrived and was given one timetable by the caterer, another by the photographer who was concerned about the fading light and another by the DJ who was so keen to start the dancing as soon as possible that he forgot to allow any time for the meal. The Bridegroom and Best Man were not in agreement about the timing and order of the speeches. In short, there was a huge amount of stress which could have been avoided if the Bridegroom had taken control before the day and decided upon a timing schedule. As an aside, please make sure that you also prepare beforehand a list of the participants in each of the formal photographs you want and give it to the photographer.
The Bride and Bridegroom will usually make their way to Top table before or after the starter with either an announcement for the guests to stand and welcome them or with dhol drums. The cake is cut and I recommend that feeding is kept to a minimum, and only to pre-advised members of the family.
With regard to the speeches there are several options. At a Christian wedding the speeches are delivered after the meal by the Father of the Bride (FOTB), the Bridegroom and the Best Man; at a Jewish wedding the FOTB will make a welcome speech before the meal and the Best Man toasts the Bride and Bridegroom after the meal with a response by the Groom. At Asian weddings, although many members of the family will want to speak I offer the following suggestions:
Except for the FOTB, who might deliver his speech before the meal, make all the speeches at the same time so that you do not need to call the guests to listen at different times during the evening.
If siblings and other relatives are to speak as well as a Best Man or Best Men please give them a clear time limit. Bearing in mind each person speaks for at least 5 minutes and that it takes time to bring them into place it can take an hour for everyone to deliver all their speeches.
I would suggest that only the FOTB, Bridegroom and Best Man speak – probably for 10 minutes each.
There should be no lengthy references to activities in the Hen and Stag nights – only the participants are amused and frankly the rest of the guests do not want to know; consider carefully whether a Powerpoint presentation really is effective at a wedding.
I have attended many Asian weddings where no thought at all has been given to a speech and absolutely no preparation has been made. Sometimes, the person speaking has only been asked to do so on the day. This is in my mind disrespectful to the guests and only shows the person making the speech in a bad light as they stumble their way through some incoherent mumblings. I was trained to allow one hour of preparation, and practice, for each minute of speech. Take professional advice, perhaps from your Toastmaster, so that you look good on your most important day.
In summary guests appreciate being well looked after during a wedding reception and careful planning beforehand will help significantly in reducing time delays and misunderstandings so that your day is a complete success.
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.