Toastmaster Bob’s helpful hints for your wedding

Having officiated at many weddings over the past years I have noticed that a number of traditions and small details are often forgotten or overlooked. Sometimes couples are not even aware of the best way to do things. I have put together these helpful hints to help you in your planning and preparation so that you can fully enjoy your very special day. If you would like more help and advice please contact bob@toastmasterbob.co.uk.

Bride’s Arrival

If your wedding ceremony is being held in a venue other than a church, the bride must arrive 10-15 minutes early as she has to meet with the Registrars prior to the ceremony, and allow time for photo’s getting out of the car. Don’t be late as the Registrar’s may have another wedding to travel to later that day! Your toastmaster will ensure your guests are all seated in the ceremony room before you arrive. Have some music e.g. a pianist or harpist to keep them entertained while they await your entrance.

Engagement Ring

Bride, swap your engagement ring to the ring finger of your right hand before the ceremony. You can put it back on your left hand after the ceremony.

Buttonholes

It may be helpful to appoint someone to make sure each principal guest is wearing their button hole or corsage and they may require help to pin them on. A good florist who is in attendance should help with this but your toastmaster will also be on hand to assist. A man’s buttonhole should be worn on the outside of the buttonhole of the left lapel and pinned from behind. Corsages are worn just below the lady’s right shoulder with the stem pointing up. The light weight material of ladies attire may not bear the weight of the corsage so another option is a wrist corsage worn on the right hand wrist. The best way to remember which side is – “the ladies are always right!”

Seating

The Bride’s family should be seated on the left and Bridegroom’s on the right (facing the front) & Ushers should remember to leave enough seats on the Bride’s side for the Father of the Bride and Bridesmaids to be seated. These days, many couples have a sign at the entrance to the ceremony – “Today, two families are being joined together. Please choose a seat not a side”.

The seating of family at the top table can often be awkward if parents have divorced and remarried, so do ask your toastmaster for advice on this matter. You can arrange the seating plan however you wish but a conventional top table arrangement, when viewed from the front left to right is:

Chief Bridesmaid / BG father / Bride’s mother / Bridegroom / Bride / Bride’s father / BG’s Mother / Best Man

This is a mix and match arrangement but you can of course seat the respective parents next to each other. Other options where parents are no longer together is to have a round table with close friends (usually bridesmaids, best man etc.) seated with the Bride & Bridegroom. 

 Walking down the aisle

The Bridal party should take their time entering, allowing the music to play a little before starting the walk down the aisle. If it is a short aisle try taking one step at a time in sync with your father (left, together, right, together etc.). This will avoid walking out of step and help you savour the moment by making it last longer. At ceremonies held in the same venue as the wedding breakfast your toastmaster, with the agreement of the Registrars, can announce you into the ceremony – “Ladies and Gentlemen would you please stand. Accompanied by her Father and attended by her bridesmaids – your Bride”. Cue music and away you go! At the conclusion, after the Registrars have handed over the wedding certificate, I am also able to advise guests of the location for drinks and photographs, and then introduce the new Mr & Mrs before you walk down the aisle together.

Which side

Remember that the Bridegroom is the Bride’s ‘right hand man’. In other words, for the ceremony, photos and seating on the top table, the Bridegroom is on the right hand side of his Bride. When walking down the aisle, Dad is on his daughter’s left side. Best remembered by saying ‘the Bride has left her Father for her right hand man’.

Photographs

Allow plenty of time for your photographs, as you want to mingle with your guests and not be rushing from photo’s to meal.  Consult with your photographer but try not to have too many group shots as this can take up more time than you think. Ten to fifteen groups is a good number but you can always add a couple on the day. A good toastmaster will assist the photographer in gathering groups of guests for the photographs. Most photographers will take the Bride & Bridegroom off on their own for 20 minutes so I suggest a minimum of 1½ – 2 hours from the end of your ceremony (or arrival at the venue in the case of church wedding) to the start of your meal. This will give you plenty of time to relax with your guests as well as having photo’s taken. Perhaps a singer, musician or magician can help to keep guests entertained during this time before the meal.

Receiving Line

You will also need to allow time for the receiving line when you greet everyone as they enter for the meal. This is traditional but not all couples want to do it these days. The receiving line can comprise of just the Bride & Bridegroom or can include parents, bridesmaids and best man. A hundred guests can take between 30/40 minutes to pass through depending on how long you chat to each one. It is the role of your toastmaster to advise on all these timings and keep proceedings on schedule. Don’t forget you have a meal being prepared and you don’t want it to be overcooked.

Speeches

These can be before or after the meal but try not to make them longer than 10 mins each. If you have three people speaking that’s half an hour, and if the speeches are before the meal your guests may be hungry.

The order is usually, Father of the Bride, Bridegroom, Best Man. It is the role of the Bridegroom to thank parents, bridesmaids, best man, ushers etc. and to give out gifts (bouquets for mothers) during his speech. Your toastmaster will make sure the gifts are to hand. Many couples give gifts privately earlier in the day.

Try to use prompt cards with bullet points for your speech rather than written in full on sheaves of A4!  You could lose your place and have your head down reading all the time. You may be nervous but try to speak clearly, not too fast and don’t drop your voice, especially if you’re telling a joke – you want everyone to hear the punch-line.

If a microphone is available please use it. You may think you have a loud voice but some elderly guests may have difficulty hearing. Your speech is to everyone in the room and when addressing top table guests you may turn your head and tend to drop your voice so it may not carry to the furthest table. Marquees especially tend to absorb sound.

Toasts

Traditionally the Father of the Bride toasts the Bride & Bridegroom and the Bridegroom toasts the Bridesmaids. The Best Man may also toast the newlyweds if he chooses. It may also be appropriate for the Bridegroom or Father of the Bride to raise a toast during his speech to ‘absent friends’.

Menu choices

If your guests have a choice menu, it may be helpful to have their choice printed on the reverse of their place name card. Once they are seated they can turn the card over to assist the waiting staff in serving the correct choice.

Guest book

If you have a guest book or photo frame to be signed don’t forget to provide a nice pen! There are many other options including the photo-booth, heart frames and finger print tree. Your toastmaster can remind guests to sign whatever you choose.

Bouquet throwing

Bride, do you want to throw your bouquet to all the unmarried ladies? This is usually done in the evening when more guests have arrived and is a lot of fun. If you want to keep your bouquet, perhaps to have it dried or to place on a loved ones grave, how about having a small replica made to throw. There is also the tradition (not often done) of the Bridegroom throwing the Bride’s garter to all the single men! Traditionally he removes it with his teeth before throwing it!!

Confetti throwing

Many venues only allow bio-degradable confetti so check and make sure that’s what your guests bring. It  makes a great photo and your toastmaster can assist your photographer in organising guests for this shot.

Bride’s Dress

Here are a couple of tips I picked up at two separate weddings. First, make sure you can sit down comfortably! One of my Brides had to ask her Bridesmaid to unlace the back of the dress as it was so tight she could not sit down at the top table. Secondly, make sure you can dance in your dress. On another occasion the Bride & Bridegroom had rehearsed a special routine for their first dance together. Of course they hadn’t been able to practice in ‘the dress’, and when they had a final rehearsal privately just before they took to the floor, the Bride found she couldn’t do the dance properly as the dress kept getting caught. Half an hour was spent with the Bridesmaids helping her to pin the dress up so she didn’t trip over!

First dance

Talking of the first dance, you don’t have to do the whole dance, especially if you feel uncomfortable being on the dance floor together. Your toastmaster or DJ can invite guests to join you halfway through and get the party started. As the Bride, you may also want to have special Father/daughter dance. This can be done after the first dance or later in the evening.

Cutting the cake

When cutting your wedding cake the easiest way is for the Bridegroom to hold the knife in his right hand and the Bride to place her left hand on top with her rings visible. This avoids the Bridegroom pressing down on the Bride’s rings which can be painful for both. They can also place their arms around each other. When you have cut the cake hold the pose and look at the cake, each other and the many cameras that will no doubt be focused upon you – as they will have been the whole day! Enjoy