We chat with one of the best Toastmasters in the UK, Richard Birtchnell, the London Toastmaster. He has over 30 years of experience hosting weddings and events – he even hosts our Wedding Ideas Awards! So what does he actually do?
Toastmasters are an essential, yet often forgotten, part of the big day. Experts in timing, they can help the day run smoothly and organise suppliers, leaving you to have a stress-free celebration. “To most families, a wedding day is like a big-budget show and, therefore, it requires stage management, direction and compering,” says Richard. “We are the eyes, ears and voice of the bride and groom, making sure that their carefully laid plans pay off. Duties would include ensuring the venue is ready, greeting the bridal party and guests, arranging the receiving line, organising group photography, directing guests, announcing the wedding breakfast and introducing the speakers. They would also be in charge of orchestrating the important moments such as the cutting of the cake, first dance and bouquet toss. The Toastmaster would ensure lighting and sound levels are appropriately set and liaise with staff and musicians on timing.”
What’s your best piece of advice for couples?
“Make sure that all suppliers are working to the same schedule. Often, I arrive at the venue to discover the photographer hasn’t been allocated enough time, or that banqueting need longer to serve the meal than you think, or that the band hasn’t set up when they should have and so on.”
Are toastmasters only necessary at larger weddings?
“It’s true that larger parties require more management but a smaller number suggests that the budget is tight or that only the closest family and friends will be invited. All the more reason, therefore, to give them a quality experience in my view.”
Who decides what is said and when?
“Many weeks before the big day, we would sit down together and agree the sequence of events and the speakers on the day. I would advise the bride and groom of traditional conventions but it is their party and I undertake whatever duties and announcements they wish, never the other way round.”
My toastmaster wants to arrive early. Is that really necessary?
“Yes, most certainly it is. Toastmasters needs to check the wedding venue is ready for what is about to follow. Is the red carpet laid? Are the cloakrooms manned? Are the toilets clean and the ramps for wheelchairs in place? Is the table plan on display, Champagne chilled, canapés ready? Is the cake (and the knife!) in place? If the ceremony is taking place at the venue, I would also check the ceremony room was laid out with enough chairs.”
Can’t the best man do all these jobs?
“The Best Man’s key duty is to take care of the groom on the day and lead the ushers – a job in its own right. He can, of course, take on additional responsibilities but he cannot be in two places at once – at the venue inspection prior to the reception and at the church supporting the groom, for example. It is best to engage a professional and put yourself in their safe hands.”