A Beginner’s Guide to MC’ing a Wedding

When you hire a professional wedding DJ for your big reception, you get a 2-for-1 bonus — a professional MC. But if there are compelling reasons to have a relative or friend handle your announcing duties, please accept the advice of someone who’s done it thousands of times, and train your MC in proper technique and timing. Your reception will go more smoothly, without all those cringe-worthy foul-ups that will send your guests home shaking their heads. Ready? Take notes.

  • Give your MC his directions. Sit down with him, or her, in advance and explain in detail your desired order of events. Don’t try to do it on the fly. It just doesn’t work that way. 
  • An MC is not an entertainer. Unless you’ve chosen your MC for his comedy routines, or his ability to juggle or make balloon animals, his primary job will be that of a professional traffic cop. He’s supposed to guide the flow of events smoothly, ensuring that no speech drags on too long, and no speaker gets too raunchy. If your speeches are before dinner, every wasted word allows the food to get that much colder, and the guests to get that much hungrier.
  • The MC needs to know who he’s introducing, and when. In most cases, your DJ or band will provide extra microphones as needed, so no one will have to pass the mic from person to person.
  • An MC must know the players. He needs to recognize when a key person, like the father of the bride, is out of the room when the next speech is all about him. Imagine your MC introducing the bride-father dance when Dad is outside smoking a cigarette. Suddenly, the whole party has to stop while everyone searches for him. A professional knows enough to read the room and find the players; that’s not always true with an amateur.
  • An MC must work with your venue and vendors. And that requires some preparation time. He needs to know when the caterer wants to serve the meal. He needs to ensure that the photographer knows in advance about any surprises he plans to spring on the guests, so that the magic moment gets properly captured on camera. If the MC’s big speech requires music at certain points, he needs to coordinate with, and cue, the DJ to play the proper songs at the proper times, so there are no awkward pauses while he asks for music the DJ didn’t know anything about. If your venue provides a Champagne parade prior to dinner, your MC needs to know when it starts and how he’ll be alerted to start it. 
  • Few MCs are as funny as they think they are. And an MC who waits for applause, only to be met with nervous laughter, has already lost the crowd. Better to accept his MC duties as serious business, and let and humor flow naturally from the moment. 
  • No one likes to hear their name mispronounced. If your MC is handling wedding party introductions, he should line everyone up, ask for pronunciations of unfamiliar names, and write them down phonetically, so he doesn’t forget. 
  • Explain the rules. The MC should tell the guests when the bar is closing and when it’ll reopen. If you want your guests to do something special to make the two of you kiss, the MC has to explain it. 
  • An MC needs to know how to use a microphone. It sounds obvious, but you won’t believe how many amateur MC’s hold the microphone at belly button level, forcing the DJ to crank up the volume on his speakers, and risking a screech of feedback. The MC should keep the mic about 3 inches from his mouth, and never — NEVER — try to cover it with his hand. That’s the surest way to bring the feedback. 
  • Save the sentimentality for when the newlyweds are in the room. Sharing the MC’s warmest memories about the couple is a waste of time, if they’re still outside the door waiting to be introduced.    

Your MC must understand that, if he does a good job, no one will remember him — they’ll remember only how smoothly your party went. That is as it should be; and if your MC is looking to use your wedding to make a name for himself, he may be sorely disappointed. A good MC doesn’t have the luxury of a big ego. As long as your MC keeps the party moving, you and your guests will have a great time.  

© Fourth Estate Audio, 2017 – Jay Congdon is president of Fourth Estate Audio, a professional Chicago DJ and Chicago Wedding DJ company.      

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