Three steps to heaven (oops, I mean, to ‘getting married’)

The biggest challenge to getting married is finding the right person to share your life with. Once you’ve done that (congratulations!), but you still have some choices as to how you get wed and perhaps even some pressures on the options you should choose.

I see the whole process as three phases – the legalities, the ceremony and the celebration)

You need to do the legal bit to get married; the other two are matters of choice. Here’s a summary of the advice I give to my couples.

a) THE LEGAL BIT: – i.e. signing the register and getting your marriage certificate.This can be quite simple. The only legal requirements (in UK) are to say some ‘declaratory words’ – “I know no reason why I cannot be married ….” and some commitment words, “I take this person to be my lawful wedded …whatever..” Do this in a licenced venue in front of two witnesses and that’s it.  You have to book this activity via your local registry office and you’ll have to prove you are who you say you are and that you have a legal right to get married in the UK. Everything else – such as making vows and exchanging rings is pure ‘ceremony’ and can be done anywhere – or not done at all.

A registry office will probably try to ‘sell’ you a package which includes a wedding ceremony (I don’t blame them; it’s all good revenue) but you have other options.

b) THE CEREMONY: Most weddings have some kind of ceremony or ritual – although it isn’t legally necessary. Marrying someone is a significant event in our lives and we want to make it special. Elements of ‘ceremony’ such as entrances, vows, music, exchanging rings etc. can be done at any location and at any time. Once marriages had to be officially licenced, it was natural that churches and registry offices started to ‘sell’ wedding ceremonies as part of their packages.

A celebrant run ceremony is just that; it’s a ‘ceremony’. It won’t give you a marriage certificate (at least not a legal one); you’ll need ten minutes at a registry office to get that. A celebrant marriage ceremony often comes a day or so after a registry office event for family members; it’s a personally designed and. unlike registry office or church ceremonies, celebrant run marriage ceremonies can take place anywhere and at any time.

A celebrant ceremony gives you almost unlimited alternatives; you can make it very personal in content, time of day and location. You can also add rituals (such as handfasting) if you choose to do so.

Most couples want a gathering of family and friends to celebrate their ‘marriage’. This could be anything ranging from a conventional wedding reception and ‘wedding breakfast’ to an informal gathering in a wine bar, restaurant or back garden.

As a toastmaster and master of ceremonies, I’ve been involved in many different kinds of celebrations:- formal hotel-based events, celebrations in garden marquees, village halls, restaurants, sailing boats, camp sites and family homes.

If you are Surrey, London or home-counties based, and will help you.

Couples have told me that thinking of these three separate phases to their wedding day has helped them; I hope it does the same for you. You can get more information at

‘I must keep reminding myself that it isn’t MY day’

Of course I want the guests / event attendees to think ‘what a great toastmaster / MC’ – that’s only natural. Every one of us in the ‘event’ business has an ego; we want our clients to like us and to like what we do. We want them to recommend us to others. That’s true whether we are toastmaster, MC, wedding celebrant, magician or some other supplier / contributor.

But the day isn’t about us; we are not the main focus. We shouldn’t think of the event being our ‘party’, neither should we regard ourselves as ‘guests’ or ‘participants’.

 The main outcome (in my opinion) should be that attendees leave with the thought ‘that was a terrific day’ in their heads.  It’s also good if they think ‘the MC did a very good job’ (in fact it’s essential) but it is secondary to the main purpose.  Focusing on getting the client and guests to have an exceptionally good day will mean that I have to perform my duties exceptionally well. Deep down, there’s a party animal lurking within me but when I’m performing my job at your event this animal is kept under firm control. I will be personable, amusing, professional and sober but I will let you and your guests get on with your conversations and only intervene where and when it is part of my role to do so.

 One characteristic of exceptional event contributors is that they know exactly what the client expects and can show their value in making those things happen.


‘But What Does a Wedding Toastmaster Do?’

Do I really need a Toastmaster?
The quick answer is no, you don’t need a toastmaster; your wedding reception can take place without one. In the same vein, neither do you need bridesmaids, a sit down meal , a professional photographer or a hired limousine; it all depends on how enjoyable and memorable you want your wedding day to be. A good wedding toastmaster will make sure everything happens as an when it should and will help you to enjoy your day without you feeling stressed.

What will a Toastmaster do that a hotel manager cannot?
Reception venue staff can do a competent job in making announcements but their top priority is to get the food and drink flow working well. A good Toastmaster in a red tailcoat will be a focal point for many things other than announcements and will work hard to keep your guests engaged, amused and involved. He, or she, is there to make sure you have an enjoyable and stress-free day. Bear in mind too, that a lot of the value goes on in the background. A toastmaster’s value is akin to an iceberg; more than 80% of it is unseen. But do quiz me on this topic until you are happy!

Couldn’t I ask a relative to do it?
Yes you could, but the same arguments apply. A professional toastmaster knows how everything can be done and is able to advise and discuss it with you beforehand. He (or she) can add the necessary degree of formality and structure to make the right things happen and to keep things on track (whilst still maintaining a sense of ‘fun’). Besides, why not let your relative enjoy your special day, stress free?

Won’t a Toastmaster be too formal for my reception?
Your toastmaster is an organiser, announcer and coordinator but ‘formality’ (in the sense of the red tailcoat, a clear speaking voice and authority) shouldn’t be confused with ‘pomposity’. For some events and for some toastmasters strict formality in the norm. That probably isn’t the case for your wedding – unless that’s what you want. But again, please ask.

What sort of person should my Toastmaster be?
Someone who can advise you, who has been properly trained and who can adapt to give you the day you want and in the format you want it. Your TM should not behave like a guest whilst still having the personality and style to suit your event. Your toastmaster should be very happy to give you as many references as you want.

What will it cost?
We will need a conversation before I quote a specific fee but, as a guideline, my core price for a wedding reception (from before the guests arrive up to the end of the wedding breakfast, which usually includes the ‘cake cutting’ ceremony) is typically £340.
There could be some extra charges to cover travel expenses, depending on your location and the number of face to face meetings we have. Depending on your timetable, I could stay on and announce your ‘first dance’; that’s an option we can discuss.