Have you been considering booking a toastmaster for your wedding? We spoke to professional toastmaster Paul Deacon, a former president of the National Association of Toastmasters with over 25 years’ experience, to find out exactly what a toastmaster does and why you might need one for your big day…
Find out how you can book a toastmaster for your wedding or visit Paul's website to find out more about his toastmaster services.
What does a toastmaster do?
A toastmaster’s job is never the same. All couples are different. Sometimes his priority is to ensure that the ceremony room, flowers, cake and chefs are ready. Or to make sure that the right people are in the right place at the right time and introduce speakers - and every now and then he might have to do a bit of crisis management!
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On one occasion the caterer had forgotten the date, at another a best man had too much to drink and I made the incoherent best man’s speech – with twenty minutes’ notice because he had not written any notes. Another time, a DJ broke his leg playing football and I found a very short-notice replacement.
Why should couples have a toastmaster at their wedding?
A quarter of a century ago I was frequently asked by parents to “do the right thing”. The couple now organise the day, rather than parents, and the requests of a modern bride and groom can sometimes be challenging.
From the moment I am booked I offer as little or as much advice as needed and make sure that every celebration runs how the hosts want.
Read more: The order of wedding speeches explained
How do I do this? At a planning discussion, which could be in person, online or by phone, the couple, and perhaps their parents, explain what they want to happen and what is not needed. This “talk through the day” as if it is happening at the meeting makes many people say that after months of planning they can suddenly picture how their day will work. It is also a check that proposed timings are realistic and achievable.
Could the best man not just perform the toastmaster duties?
A good toastmaster works hard to coordinate every part of the wedding. For just one day a new team of event staff, photographers, entertainers, speakers, and other suppliers has been brought together. He supports them and makes sure that they work together and each give their best.
The venue can help but their priority is to provide the best food and drink so they do not attend to the guests as much as a toastmaster does. It may be that a friend or best man has a loud voice or good management skills but it’s unlikely that they can combine all the disciplines which are needed to coordinate and run the day perfectly. They might be looking after one of the most important days of your life probably for the first and only time.
Read more: Best man duties explained
What have you learnt during your time as a toastmaster?
In over 25 years of working as a toastmaster, I’ve learnt:
- The bride and groom know what they want but not always how to achieve it. It is the toastmaster’s responsibility to deliver all the parts of the day appropriately on their behalf.
- It is no longer the toastmaster’s job to tell the newlyweds what they must include during the reception but to offer advice about the traditions they might like. Increasingly with multi-national and multi-faith weddings there is a blend of traditions
- The toastmaster is not the star of the show and is only there to be instrumental in making a wedding memorable.
- I usually wear a traditional toastmaster uniform which, since the turn of the last century, is a red tail-coat, stiff white shirt, bow tie and waistcoat with black trousers and patent leather shoes, but not everyone wants such formality. I also proudly wear a National Association of Toastmasters Past President’s medal.
- Some weddings need very little management, and others require a lot! One of the skills is knowing what is needed and making it all seem effortless while giving as much regular feedback to the couple as they want.
Read more: The wedding planning journey - a step by step guide
How can couples be sure they’ve picked the right toastmaster for their wedding?
I take trouble to understand all the relationships involved, like the sometimes-complex subject of separated parents and new partners and their interactions. I also enjoy looking after Jewish and English Asian weddings which need a properly trained and experienced Toastmaster. Some less experienced and often cheaper toastmasters might struggle to offer all this. My role is very diverse. I am a surrogate host, compere and organiser and sometimes stand in the shoes of the family.
For instance, a naval officer wanted me to treat guests formally and his wedding ran on time – to the minute - a premiership footballer wanted a warm and cheerful performance and at a local wedding reception with a barbecue and tipis in a field I used a different style altogether.
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Depending on the number of guests attending, I am one of the few toastmasters in the UK with enough experience to adapt from being a butler with a dozen guests to an effective crowd controller with over 1,000. One of my skills is to provide my performance in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Gujarati, Punjabi and Hindi. Other languages on request!
What do couples need to consider before they book their toastmaster?
If you are thinking of booking a Toastmaster, you should be sure, as with any supplier, that you like them.
Anyone can put on a red coat and say they are a toastmaster so, having checked out references and past work photos on the internet, call and discuss basic issues, such as his availability and:
- How many planning meetings do you want? If a toastmaster cannot satisfy your needs with one or two meetings or calls has he really got a grip on what you want?
- Will he arrive an hour or so before you on the day and is there any extra charge to stay on for the first dance?
- How long has he been a toastmaster and how many weddings has he worked at?
- How would he describe the style of his performance?
- Why does he consider himself better than others?
- Does he belong to a professional body of toastmasters and was he examined before being admitted or is it just a social membership with no proper qualifications?
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Because the service is personalised do not make a booking only by email. While you are asking him questions, you can also tell if his telephone manner and email style are professional and suit you.
What do you do to ensure the best possible service for the couple?
Experience has taught me not to get excited, which might worry the guests, but to deal calmly and professionally with any situation that arises, such as drunk or unruly guests, or an unexpected change in timings or a wardrobe malfunction.
I have developed a sixth sense which alerts me to a potential problem. Proper planning before the day and regular checking on the day mean that I encounter very few real difficulties and I am confident of being able to offer a service which pretty much guarantees a great outcome.
As one of the country’s finest toastmasters I work at almost 150 events per year and have bookings to the end of next year. A contemporary toastmaster with a proper sense of courtesy and charm is hard to find but either I will be delighted to look after you or, if unavailable, can call on other qualified toastmasters in the National Association of Toastmasters.
I ask the couple beforehand for a description of their day in three words – no two sets of words are the same. How would you describe your day – and will it be delivered as you want it? A toastmaster might be the answer to your wedding worries.
Make sure your day runs smoothly and everything happens as it should by hiring a toastmaster for your wedding.