We caught up with Kent-based toastmaster David Di Cara to get the lowdown on what this invaluable service can bring to your wedding.
So David, tell us about yourself
I ran my first ever event as Chairman of my college Students’ Union at our Annual General Meeting and have been running social, family and corporate events ever since. When I left college to join my family’s restaurant business, I worked front of house and learned how to interact with people – I loved it!
After a few years I entered a corporate career, which included a great deal of travel around Europe and the USA and then became a business trainer, mentor and coach – activities I still pursue today.
I had long been pressured by family and friends to take up the role of a professional toastmaster and a chance discussion with a business colleague led to a discussion with a wedding venue and nearly five years later, here I am – an experienced, trained toastmaster presiding at weddings, social events, corporate celebrations and award ceremonies, civic and masonic occasions. I have done events in the House of Commons, the Gherkin and hotels and venues all over the south-east.
Weddings are magical days and I really enjoy feeling the love and support that characterises them – and they're fun!
We hear there's some myth-bashing that needs to be done when it comes to toastmasters. What are the perceptions versus the realities?
OK let’s look at some of the common ones:
- A toastmaster is always a man: This used to be the case but there are an increasing number of lady Toastmasters. Search for them online or meet them at wedding fayres – man or lady, the choice is yours.
- The toastmaster must sit and eat in the room with us: This used to be the tradition many years ago, but there's no functional need for this to happen. Very occasionally, I've been invited by the bride and groom to join their guests and dine with them, but these days it's normal for the toastmaster not to sit and eat with the wedding party
- A toastmaster must belong to and have been trained by a particular organisation: There are many associations of toastmasters, some of whom organise training for their members and issue a certificate at the end of that training. However, there's no single, standard training program for the profession of toastmaster. Whilst a toastmaster needs to have the knowledge of what functions he needs to perform, he equally needs to bring the voice and manner that will gain the attention and respect of all the wedding party. Always try to speak to and preferably meet your toastmaster to be sure they're the right person to play such a key role on your special day.
- A toastmaster will come along and just tell us what to do: On no he won’t! It's your wedding and as long as it's legal, safe and works for the venue, we will do things as closely to your wishes as we possibly can. We will guide you, offer opinion, give suggestions but never dictate!
- Toastmasters are prima donnas – it’s all about them! Speak to us, ask us questions – you'll very quickly get a sense of whether this is the case. A toastmaster is most often the person with the bight red tailcoat and loud voice, but he's just one part of the team of wedding suppliers that are working to make your day as fantastic as it can possibly be. We need to work very closely and happily with the venue, photographers, caterers, chauffeurs and everyone else there on the day.
- We’re having a themed wedding so can’t use a toastmaster in his uniform: The bright red tailcoat most commonly associated with toastmasters is not a compulsory uniform. It's your wedding so talk to us about the theme, you may be surprised at how ready we are to join in the fun. I have even worn my martial arts clothing and presided at a Star Wars wedding with sword in hand!
Take us through a typical wedding day for a toastmaster (if there is such a thing)
- Isn’t a toastmaster one of those people that does public speaking? You’re possibly thinking of the organisation called toastmasters International that helps people to develop their confidence and skill at speaking in public. Great organisation and the members refer to themselves as toastmasters but this nothing to do with the profession of a toastmaster.
This old cliché is well worn but very true – every wedding is different! Having said that, it's also true that they can have a lot in common. There are many different scenarios we could talk about but let’s consider one of the most popular formats, where the legal ceremony, wedding breakfast and evening reception all take place in the one venue and you have contracted me to be your toastmaster. I'll use the example of a bride and groom, but the principles apply equally to same sex couples.
Prior to the day itself, we would have met and discussed the ideas you had for the day and together with the wedding co-ordinator we will have created a running order for the day which I now own – so leave your watches behind! It's always the case that something will change on the day and it's part of my role to work with the team to make things work.
On the day, I'd arrive at least an hour before the ceremony to meet with the venue manager and other suppliers including the registrar and celebrant to confirm what time they would like all the guests to be seated in the ceremony room and how else I could be of help to them. I'd meet up with the groom and his best man and groomsmen and go through what we will be doing and when. I'd be there in plenty of time to be able to meet and greet your guests as they arrive and direct them to the reception area (most commonly the bar!) until it's time for them to take their seats.
If the bride is arriving by car, I would meet her and liaise with the registrar for their interview and when the time is right form up the bridal party for their entrance. If the bride is staying at the venue, I could collect her from her room or liaise with the venue manager who might do this also.
As the bridal party approaches the ceremony room, it's most common for the celebrant to ask all the guests to rise and welcome them. We're then in the hands of the celebrant and registrar for the wedding service itself.
At the end of the ceremony, I'd meet the married couple at the door and escort them to the reception area, then turn back and invite the guests to join them and if appropriate, form a receiving line. There's usually time for a relaxing drink and chat now and often the photographer will take photos – I'm there to assist as requested.
We'll have set a time to sit down for the wedding breakfast and I'll call for the guests to take their seats and then introduce the wedding couple into the room. There are different ways of doing this, but they all normally involve a lot of cheering and noise!
There's a traditional way of doing wedding speeches and then there's the way you would like to do it! I have experience of just one speech through to five; given at the beginning of the meal, the end and half way in between. The right way to do it is the one that feels most comfortable to you, I would be happy to go through the options with you.
At the end of the meal, we sometimes need to vacate the room so it can be turned around for the evening. In this case I'd lead you out and then invite your guests to join you until we are able to return.
If there's a wedding cake to be cut, we might do this immediately after the meal or wait until later when your evening guests arrive and cut just before the first dance. There are many options for how we do this, and we would have gone through them beforehand.
I'll meet and welcome your evening guests as they arrive and direct them to where they need to go.
If there is to be a first dance, I'll liaise closely with the DJ or band to bring everyone around the dance floor and then introduce the wedding couple to the floor. Once again, there are many ways of doing this and we will have gone through them beforehand.
Once everyone has joined in the dancing, my role for the day most often comes to an end. However, it could have started much earlier and finished much later than I have described. This is the beauty of having the flexibility of making your day the one you would like it to be.
The run through I have described outlines just one example of how the day might run doesn’t go into the detail of time I would spend with the bride, her groom and other key people such as the matron of honour, best man, and close family – this will vary considerably from one wedding to another.
The most important thing for you, the wedding couple, to remember is that I'm there first and foremost for you, to take away as much of the stress and worry as is possible and to look after and communicate with your guests and to work with the whole team of people that are there to make your day the most magical it could possibly be.What would you say to someone who says they don't need a toastmaster?
My answer is immediate – “Correct, you don't need a toastmaster!” It’s not about needing a toastmaster, it’s about looking at the difference a toastmaster could make to the wedding and the extra value that having one can bring to the occasion. We need to dig a bit deeper when we are faced with this response because the possible reasons for giving it are very varied and always worth exploring – so, in no particular order, here are some examples of the way a toastmaster would respond:
- We have already used up all our budget but too embarrassed to say: Please, never be embarrassed to talk about your budget. I recommend being open and honest with the toastmaster and seeing if there could be some flexibility either in the fee or in the payment schedule
- We’ve been to a wedding before that had a toastmaster and didn’t like the way it worked: This response is almost certainly to do with attitude. Just as weddings are all different but have a great deal in common, toastmasters are all different people and each one will address things differently. A tip for you – never be put off by that toastmaster, talk to others (preferably face to face) and you will very quickly see how they differ and how you will recognise someone you would love to have at your wedding!
- My brother/uncle/friend has said he will do it for us: Great!! So he'll have written the running order for the day, liaised with all of the other suppliers so there are no conflicts in timing or logistics, checked at the venue before the wedding party arrives to make sure all is as it should be, have the flexibility of mind to deal with the sudden changes that can crop up at zero notice and the character and communication skills to bring everyone on board? If the answer is ‘no’, think of using a toastmaster. If the answer is ‘yes, he can do all those things’ just ask, ‘how much better if he were able to enjoy the wedding as a guest?’
- We’re not having many guests so there is no need: Once again here’s that word ‘need’. A toastmaster can bring tremendous value even to a small gathering. Make sure you have that conversation when considering what to do, your toastmaster’s attitude and manner can still make a difference.
- We want a casual wedding and don’t like the formality of a toastmaster: Professional wedding and event organisers will tell you that the line between casual and chaos is a very fine one indeed. A toastmaster doesn't need to bring formality unless you wish him to. However, it does take some work to make a casual event go smoothly and here it is all about the way in which a toastmaster will communicate with you and your guests, engaging with them all the time and with a smile on his face.
- The venue has said they will take care of all that: Some venues include a toastmaster as part of the package you are buying or suggest that you organise one yourself. Other venues may say ‘oh yes, we will take care of that for you’ and use one of their staff to make announcements and introduce speakers. Just make sure you know exactly what is being offered and that the person involved does have gravitas, voice and manner to command the respect and attention of the wedding party.
Check out www.toastmasterdaviddicara.co.uk
Or follow David on Facebook and Twitter: www.facebook.com/ToastmasterDavidDiCarawww.twitter.com/toastmasterdave