What is the difference between a Toastmaster and an MC?
Asian Wedding Toastmaster
The professional Toastmaster is trained in the protocol, craft and procedures of state, civic, corporate and social events. His genesis can be traced back to the staging of banquets of royal and noble households in the middle ages. He will be attired in a distinctive red uniform and will make scripted announcements in a formal manner. He will belong to a professional body, institute or collegiate guild who will have admitted him having achieved a required level of experience and standard of performance under examination.
The MC (Master of Ceremonies) on the other hand is not bound by any professional code of behaviour, has no specific uniform and delivers a performance in an informal style. The objectives of both types of performers are the same: to advise and guide guests, introduce speeches and entertainment and run an unrehearsed live event to a planned timetable. The nature of the event and wishes of the hosts determine which style will be appropriate. Toastmasters are able to adopt either persona or act as a hybrid as in "firm but friendly".
What should a couple look for in a Toastmaster?
The attributes a couple should look for in a Toastmaster are an engaging warm personality, a strong, clear, well-spoken voice that commands authority, a smart appearance, a knowledge of the customs, religious traditions and protocol of the wedding, relevant experience and membership of one of the respected professional Toastmaster organisations. Also important is to have confidence that the Toastmaster will be able to handle the unexpected.
What are the benefits of having a Toastmaster at an Asian wedding?
Are toastmasters trained in the etiquettes of different Asian ceremonies?
A Toastmaster is an asset to any kind of wedding as its stage manager but particularly beneficial to Asian weddings which invariably involve large numbers of guests, colour, loud noise, spectacle and occasional chaos despite the most careful planning. There are centuries-old, sometimes long, often complicated ceremonies and rituals to introduce. There may be a "western" civil wedding to handle on the same day as well. There will be multiple photographers and video cameramen with their lights and equipment. Often dhol players, musicians and sometimes Bollywood dancers are engaged. Catering is always a feast of many dishes or courses. Guests may not arrive on time and will be reluctant to remain quiet during speeches. Large groups of family members will want their photograph taking with the couple. There may be language problems and family sensitivities of which to be aware. With such a complex production, only the most experienced and calm Asian Wedding Toastmaster will volunteer to manage the myriad of elements, many in conflict. It is essential he understands the basic ceremonies and customs at least of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim cultures and indeed if asked, can comfortably and authoritatively advise families on how they should be performed and what allowances should be made for timing, sequencing, effectiveness and issues about space.
How far in advance should you book a toastmaster?
Toastmasters are booked up to two years ahead, so it is never too early to engage one. It is advisable, if you can organise it, to meet with the prospective Toastmaster before commitment. Ask for testimonials from his previous client couples and then follow up by having a friendly chat with them.
What uniform do toastmasters wear?
Richard Birtchnell wearing the Toastmasters' uniform
A professional Toastmaster will by custom wear a red ("hunting pink") tailcoat over black trousers; around the neck will be a white bow tie, winged collar, white marcella shirt and waistcoat. This attire ensures he will stand out in a crowd of any size. Occasionally it may be preferred for the tailcoat to be a black one. It could also be requested for the Toastmaster to wear full Asian dress, shalwar kameez or similar. Whilst this may well be respectful, stylish and topical, the effect is to lose both the identity and with it the friendly authority of the Toastmaster among the guests and in diminishing his role, this style is therefore not recommended.
How far do most Toastmaster travel?
So long as English is the spoken language, most Toastmasters will travel anywhere in the world to perform their craft and it is always a great honour to be invited to participate. The principles of guest and event management are identical regardless of location or culture. Obviously, budgets need to accommodate the consequential extra demands of time and distance.
What are the duties of a Toastmaster at a Wedding Reception?
A Toastmaster's work at the venue starts one hour before any of the family or guests arrive, to check the elements are all in place or ready and that banqueting and technical staff are working to the same timetable. Some of the details on the Toastmaster's checklist will be:
- Cloakrooms : are they open and clean?
- Test the microphones.
- Is the florist going to finish on time?
- Is the mandap complete?
- Enough chairs? Reserved seating for close family and late-comers?
- Ramps for wheelchairs?
- Note position of the fire exits.
- Where does the string quartet/harpist go?
- How do the lighting and air-conditioning controls work?
- Has the cake (and knife) arrived?
- Table plans? Place cards? Favours? Photobooth?
- Liaising with photographers, videographers, the DJ, the Pandit or the Imam
As the eyes and ears of the couple, the Toastmaster will ensure all these items are, or will be at the right place at the right time.
Let's Assume a Typical Hindu Wedding.
We're ready to go and the Toastmaster will orchestrate the sequence of events as follows: As the guests start to arrive they need to be separated and guided. The groom's family will be assembling in the car park and the Toastmaster will go out to greet the groom and tell him how prepared the venue is, how the bride's family are, how the timing is going and give him an estimate when he should advance to the entrance. Now back to the bride's family, making sure they are ready at the doors inside to receive the Barat.
The Toastmaster will ask the dhol players, Groom and family to come forward and invite the Pandit to start the welcome ceremony at which the groom will be denied entrance. He will watch that the doors do not break under pressure and keep wedding guests away from blocking the hotel entrance so it can still function normally! He will invite guests to come in for the ceremony, bride's side will be left; groom's on the right. The Pandit will be in control for the arch ceremony after which the principals arrive at the mandap while guests take their seats.
Now the Toastmaster will address the guests politely requesting that they should respect the ceremony, remain quiet, not get up to take pictures or approach the mandap unless invited and then introduce the Pandit who commands the next hour and a half while the Toastmaster stands at the rear of the room to admit and seat late-comers.
Soon into the ceremony, the Toastmaster will cue the Bride to make her entrance with her mamas, having made sure she was ready to come before the ceremony started.
After the ceremony, the Toastmaster will stage manage the posing of family groups at the mandap working through prepared lists from each side, making sure no time is wasted at this stage by guests chatting to, or greeting the couple or showering them with gifts. This is a hugely important role of the Toastmaster : to keep things moving at a stressful time.
The Toastmaster will invite guests who have been photographed to go for buffet lunch then retrieve them afterwards for the Vidai/Dholi at the mandap ensuring the limousine is outside with its driver and the Pandit ready to perform the departure ceremony and that he has the essential coconut for the front wheel of the car ceremony. With not a dry eye in the house, the Toastmaster ensures there is a direct path for the couple to exit the building safely and that children do not risk injury by stopping the car making progress.
As the car disappears for a short tour (round the block), guests are advised by the Toastmaster to either now assemble for a civil ceremony or more likely to relax and return for the wedding reception proper in the evening.
The evening reception, with its banquet and Ball follows a more traditional format except that the cake is usually cut immediately upon the announced entrance of the Bride and Groom. Once again and throughout the evening as during the day, the Toastmaster will stage manage set piece moments, briefing the guests in advance of what is about to happen, announcing the speeches, the first dance, the entertainment and being on hand to answer questions, direct late arrivals and to help with seating and access.
What other duties can a Toastmaster carry out?
There should be no duty left to undertake or the Toastmaster would have overlooked an expectation so going the extra mile would involve a really good Toastmaster for example discreetly offering to assist the formal speakers with their material and if time permits, might listen to their rehearsal. The Toastmaster might also distribute payment to various artistes on behalf of the couple or take round the guest book for signing from table to table.
What is a receiving line?
A Receiving Line is where a group of hosts formally receive a line of guests who are announced by name by the Toastmaster after the wedding ceremony or "going into the wedding breakfast". The host group usually comprise (in this order) Mother of the Bride, Father of the Bride, Mother of the Groom, Father of the Groom, Bride and Groom. Guests are encouraged to keep moving, only to shake hands or kiss briefly and all are deterred from chatting. The perfect line should see guests move through at the rate of one every 10 seconds. A receiving line should not last longer than 30 minutes which suggests it should not be undertaken if guests number greater than 200. Because of the large numbers at Asian weddings and the unavailability of Bride and Groom at the most suitable moments, it is a rare feature.
How long do Toastmasters stay at a wedding?
The Toastmaster will stay until all the formal aspects have been completed and the dancing is underway with the DJ in control, unless of course there is to be a fireworks display or a helicopter departure, in which case guests will need to be advised, moved, guided and protected from danger!
Are You Seeking an Asian Wedding Toastmaster To Manage Your Wedding?
Richard Birtchnell is a specialist Asian Wedding Toastmaster and can help you and your Asian Wedding. Call NOW 0207 730 3725 or email us if you need some guidance and help.