The first time I ever stepped up to a microphone at a wedding reception, I was 22 years old. It was my first time performing as a Wedding MC & DJ and I was absolutely terrified to introduce the Wedding Party into the room. Since that day, I’ve become significantly more comfortable with speaking in front of a group of people. So, for those asked to offer a toast or give a wedding ceremony reading and are absolutely terrified of public speaking: I can relate.

I’m no expert in public speaking, but performing in front of an audience every weekend is no longer a fear of mine. In fact, I absolutely love the thrill of it. So, I feel that qualifies me just enough to offer those of you asked to give a reading at the ceremony the following six tips to know before the wedding day comes:

Speak into the microphone.
If you follow only one thing on this list, make it this one! The passage you’ve been asked to read is very important to the couple, so step up to the microphone and be heard by all! For proper amplification, you need to be as close to the microphone as possible, typically 2-4″ away. Prior to guests arriving, do a sound check with your DJ or sound technician and make the proper adjustments. Trust me, it will only add to your confidence level as a public speaker.

Practice, practice, practice.
Please do not provide a ceremony reading without going over the passage multiple times; and by multiple times, I mean you are absolutely sick of the passage and never, ever want to read it again. Whether it is a poem, song lyrics, a bible passage, or a blessing, practice performing it – it will sound so much better than a monotone reading. Make notes on where to pause for dramatic effect, what words or phrases to emphasis, changes in tones, pacing, and volume, et cetera. Do a couple of dress rehearsals in front of people you trust and listen to their constructive feedback.

Don’t improvise, nor try to modify or add, humor.
The ceremony is a very serious moment for everyone involved. The risk/reward ratio for trying to be funny just isn’t worth it. Clear everything with at least the bride and/or groom well in advance. Also, because that sign behind the last row of chairs references two families coming together as one, avoid inside jokes; they only promote awkwardness for those that don’t get the reference.

What You Need To Know If Asked To Give A Wedding Ceremony Reading | Tony Schwartz: Wedding MC & DJ
Photo Credit: Melissa Kilner Photography

Don’t read your passage from a folded, wrinkled piece of paper.
Presentation is everything! Print your passage and apply it to a nice stock card that matches the color scheme of the wedding. For a vintage look, browse your local thrift shop or secondhand bookstore and find a nice hardcover book to insert your passage into. Or, go modern and read it off an iPad or tablet (just make sure you turn the screen brightness down if you are in a dimly lit room – no blue face!).

Speak slowly and clearly.
If you’ve rehearsed in front of others, they will undoubtedly tell you if you are speaking to fast, stumbling or mumbling. This is okay, as it will help you practice slowing down because come wedding day, nerves and adrenaline will only amplify the speed at which your brain operates. A tip from someone who speaks in front of hundreds of people each weekend: take a deep breath before you step up to the microphone, clear your mind, and speak your first line at a slightly slower pace then you normally speak. It will set the pace in your mind, and you’ll do just fine.

Remember: it’s an honor and a privilege to give a reading during the ceremony.
Finally, whether you hate public speaking or not, just remember that of all the people in attendance, the couple personally chose you to serve a prominent role during their wedding ceremony. You’re an integral part of one of the most important days of their lives. So, even if you want to faint, remind yourself that they are confident in you, so there is no reason to not be confident in yourself.

Photo Credit: Lauren Cross Photography.