What on earth is a Toastmaster and why Have a Toastmaster at your wedding we hear you say?
The origins and history of the red-coated Toastmaster are not entirely clear.
The red coat originated in 1894 when noted toastmaster William Knight Smith, concerned at being mistaken for a butler, was persuaded by his wife to wear a coat in military red.
The toastmaster became more of a personality in 1705 when Richard “Beau” Nash set himself up as a Master Of Ceremonies in Bath and later in Tunbridge Wells.
However, it is generally accepted that the custom of the toast – drinking to someone’s health – dates from the Middle Ages.
Traditionally, a special smaller cup was made for the toastmaster so they remained sober at functions and several such glasses are now displayed in the Victoria And Albert Museum in London.
Our very own Stuart is now a fully qualified, full member of the Scottish Association of Toastmasters (www.scottishtoastmasters.com/)
What is the point of having a Toastmaster at your wedding? It all seems a bit over the top! Regardless of what culture you are, if you want to relax and enjoy your day, then the simple answer is – get a Toastmaster!
As a bride or bridegroom, or parents of either, if you are arranging a wedding day there will many things that are to happen at certain times throughout the day that will need structure. If you are trying to meet your guests and keep one eye or ear on all those things happening, then you cannot relax and enjoy it as much as you should. Weddings are not cheap celebrations. Vast sums are spent on making the perfect day a reality, but aren’t you entitled to enjoy it too, especially as it is you that is spending the money? So what does a Toastmaster do to make this happen?
What does a Toastmaster do?
If you ask most people what a Toastmaster does, the typical response is that he or she is a person in a red coat who makes announcements in a loud voice! However, this description is more of a town crier than Toastmaster. The announcing part is only the tip of the iceberg with regard to his or her duties. If a wedding planner is the planner, then the Toastmaster is the ‘carry outer’ – their job is to take the running order of the day and make it work. If they are doing things as they should, they will be ensuring everybody is where they should be, when they should be. They will be ensuring that all the guests are being looked after and that everything is in place, so that when it is needed there is no delay or ambiguity. They are there to give all those who have to perform a part a helping hand and boost confidence if required. And finally, they are there to make a few relevant announcements, keeping things running to time. To do this they are your eyes and ears, and they work in parallel with all the venue staff and your photographers and videographers to make sure that things happen to time and there are no surprises for anyone. Imagine standing up to give a speech and your videographer isn’t ready? It shouldn’t happen if you use a professional Toastmaster.
Having someone standing in a red tailcoat, making announcements to some people may sound a bit stuffy or possibly over the top, but think about it. If you use someone from the venue that you are using for your reception, they will not stand out as they will be dressed like many of your guests and they will also be concentrating on other things. Likewise if you use a friend they may not have the skills to work in tandem with your suppliers, they are unlikely to be insured and would it not be nice for them to enjoy the occasion too? The Toastmaster, who should be insured (always ask them), is only concentrating on you and your guests and the red coat gives everyone an easily identifiable person in authority with whom they are normally happy to respect and work with. If the Toastmaster is sensitive in their work they will adapt their appearance and everything they say, relevant to their surroundings and audience. (So the red coat is optional if that is the clients wish!)
How often have you been to a wedding where you have stood around wondering what is happening or what you should be doing at a particular time? If you have a Toastmaster there is none of this uncertainty as everything that is relevant is communicated to those that need to know, either in the wedding party or behind the scenes. A properly trained Toastmaster is well versed in etiquette, and if they are clever, they will use everything within their armoury of information, and adapt it to make it work for you. There are some who will tell you what to do – you need to be aware of these, as they may not be the right person to run your wedding. The Toastmaster you want to engage is the type who may make a suggestion about protocol, but if you want it differently, they should be able to adapt to make it work for you. A wedding is fun occasion, not a state occasion after all! The only thing they should not budge on, is if you are to have a loyal toast (a toast to the head of state of whichever country you are in. HM the Queen in the UK or Commonwealth Countries, the President in the US and at Jewish functions the president of the state of Israel). That can only be placed at one time, should you choose to have one. So remember it is your day. You should be there to enjoy it with your guests and not have to be worrying about what is going on.
The best way I can describe this to you is for you to imagine there are two couples both going on a touring holiday. In both cases they are going to the same places, and they have the same itinerary. However, one couple is doing it themselves, while the other is using a bespoke tour guide to help them. At the end of the day, who is going to be more relaxed? They may have both had fun, but one of them has still got the energy to keep going and they will have had more time to be with their friends and felt less stressed, as someone has guided them through the process so they haven’t had to think. A Toastmaster is effectively the bespoke tour guide on your holiday. For you, your wedding day is much in the planning, but you don’t have one every day. A Toastmaster goes to many weddings and as such their experience will help guide you through the day and in some cases in the planning. There is nothing better than to have someone tell you that something is about to happen, rather than you wonder whether or not it should be being done. Costs vary depending on the number of guests and how long they are on duty for, but in general the cost of a Toastmaster is a fraction of the total cost of a wedding and in the end they really can make the difference, not just for you, but also for your guests too.
Finding the right Toastmaster for you
Two important things you should consider when you take on a Toastmaster – firstly, anyone could go out and buy a red tailcoat and pretend to be a Toastmaster. Therefore only engage one who has membership of a guild or association where that association has its own identifiable website. This ensures the person you are thinking of has at least been trained to a recognisable standard and they are not just pretending; they are also more likely to be insured. Secondly, everyone’s personality is different and this person is going to run your day. It is therefore important that they are the right person for you. I recommend you ring at least three and have a decent conversation with them, and while I understand that budgets are important, go for the one that you like the most. If logistics permit then have a meeting with this person in the flesh. However, if this isn’t possible, use technology and have a conversation on Skype or similar, because two senses are better than one. The Toastmaster you engage should be the type to remember that it is your day, not theirs, and therefore the cheapest option may not always be the best idea! Some will be of the flamboyant type, who get into everything. Others, like myself, will be the type that you only see and hear from clearly when you need to. However, whoever you choose will make such a difference to your enjoyment of your day. The most commonly used compliment that the majority of Toastmasters get following their service, is “Thank you so much, we couldn’t have done it or enjoyed it so much without you”.
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