Tips to Organizing Your Formal Introduction
Opening your wedding reception with the Formal Introduction is an excellent way to start off of your celebration. It marks the perfect transition from the formal pomp of your wedding ceremony, into a more festive environment where your guests will feel at ease to eat, cheer, and be merry.
However, your Formal Introduction serves another important function for your guests other than setting the tone for the evening. It identifies the place, role, and relationship of each member of the wedding party in relation to the bride and groom.
The bride’s side of the family may not be entirely familiar with all members of the groom’s side of the family, and vice-versa. The Formal Introduction clears this up and breaks the ice for your guests making it easier for them to later approach and get to know their new extended family.
The Formal Introduction is especially important if you choose not to form a receiving line after your ceremony (for more information on the receiving line, please read my article, “What is a Receiving Line?“).
What follows are some tips that I have acquired through the years that will surely increase the livelihood of a fun, engaging, and informative Formal Introduction.
Tips For Your Grand Entrance
Tip #1: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
I cannot emphasize this enough. You cannot just “wing it” and assume that all will go perfectly as planned on your Big Day. There are too many variables that could go awry and unforeseen mistakes will always occur… you can bet on it.
Rehearsal is the time and place to make mistakes and get them out of the way. Rehearsing the Formal Introduction with your wedding party should take no more than 30-40 minutes and will prove time well spent in making sure everything runs smoothly.
Running through the Formal Introduction a few times is ideal; however, if practicing once is all you have time for, be assured that once is infinitely better than not practicing at all.
Tip #2: Rehearse in reverse.
What I mean by this is to start by placing each person at their final destination (professionally known as their “mark”). This may be their respective seat at the head table or their position on the dance floor. This way everyone will know where to go and where to stand (or sit) after their name is called.
Once everyone is on the same page, and they know their respective mark, rehearse the introduction a second time. Make sure to watch closely that each member is hitting their mark without additional coaching. If not, you may want to run through it again (if time permits).
Tip #3: Announce everyone’s full and legal name, rank and title:
- Mr. Williams & Dr. Rhonda Smith
- Lt. Colonel & Mrs. David Johnson
- The Honorable & Mrs. Samuel Longman
- Reverend & Mrs. Benjamen O’Rourke
Try to avoid using abbreviated names like Dick, Bill, or Andy. Also avoid using nicknames when possible. Remember, this is a formal introduction and historically a ceremony unto itself.
It is ideal to uphold this standard for the sake of tradition and out of respect to those who you are announcing. Of course exceptions should be made if a person in the wedding party feels strongly about using an alternative to their full and legal name.
Just provide that person with the reason why you are following this protocol, and assure them it will be the only time where their full legal name will be used.
You can revert to their preferred name after the Formal Introduction. If you receive any pushback, remain flexible and use the name they prefer.
And don't forget to ask permission directly from the couple to announce their names in the traditional "male first, male dominant" format. It has become increasingly less mainstream to refer to the woman in a relationship as "Mrs. Samuel Longman".
Using the example above, "The Honorable & Mrs. Samuel Longman," may also be announced as, "The Honorable Samuel Longman, and his wife, Mrs. Tricia Longman". Yes, it may be a bit awkward to articulate the last name twice, but if this is how the couple prefers it, do it.
Tip #4: Make sure to pronounce everyone's name correctly:
It is best practice to check the pronunciation of each person’s name directly with the person to whom the name belongs.
Don't be afraid to enunciate their name back to them, and listen closely to how they correct you. You'd be surprised at how appreciative that person may be for taking the time to sound out their name correctly. You've just made an ally.
Don't assume that they will correct you at the rehearsal either. There are certain cultures where “saving face” is the norm and it is considered disrespectful to disagree or to correct the person in charge. Also, be aware of the other person's personal space. This can vary greatly from culture to culture.
Tip #5: Include their relationship to the newlyweds:
How are the Best Man, Matron of Honor, the bridesmaids and flower girls related to the newlyweds? Don't assume your audience already knows. Context is everything.
You can also include the ages of the ring bearer and flower girls when appropriate. This information will go a long way toward informing and engaging your guests.
Tip #6: Include the parents and grandparents of both newlyweds when possible:
This is a family affair after all, and the matriarchal & patriarchal heads of both families should be included. If your parents are remarried and their respective spouse is present, it is appropriate to include them as well. Remember, context is everything.
Separate these couples within the lineup, and if needed, gently remind them that this is a celebration of family unity and a time to focus on the future, not the past. If one of the parents or grandparents is lacking a partner, you can always couple them with a sibling or other close member of the family.
Tip #7: Make sure the wedding party is queued up and ready to go in advance:
This may seem obvious, but this is a common novice mistake. Never assume the wedding party is ready simply because it is time to do so. I typically start by welcoming the guests to the reception, introducing myself and my role, and then inform them that the Grand Entrance is about to take place.
Making this initial announcement prior to the Grand Entrance will provide enough buffer for your guests to take their seats, and will also cue the wedding party to meet you or your assistant outside in the hallway.
It would also be helpful to make sure that the wedding party is out of sight from the audience while forming the line outside the reception hall. Use your Best Man and Honor Attendant to help you gather the wedding party.
Tip #8: Use music to add to the excitement and sparkle of the moment:
Music will go a long way toward building anticipation for the newlywed’s big reveal moment. Be creative with your musical choices. For example, each couple can have their own unique song that matches their personality.
For the flower girls and ring bearer who are between toddler to 8 years old, I will sometimes play the theme song to Sesame Street or Charlie Brown. For the parents and grandparents I will use something a bit more regal or distinguished like the theme song to the Olympics.
Just make sure that the music compliments the announcer’s voice, and does not compete with it. You don’t want the music to drown out the announcer. There is nothing more irritating than trying to listen through the music to hear what is being said.
There are few techniques to prevent this from happening. First, fade the volume of the music track as the announcer is speaking, and immediately adjust the volume accordingly at the moment the announcer speaks the name of the couple.
Second, make sure that the announcer speaks over the instrumental part of the song, and not over the lyrics. Radio station DJ’s will typically speak over the intro of a song, and will end the announcement at the precise moment the recording artists starts to sing.
This is known in the industry as a "talk-over", and speaking over the song’s lyrics is a known as a "walk-over" (the second biggest sin in radio).
To add a final flourish, use a timpani drum roll immediately preceding the announcement of the newlyweds to add a final flourish. This not only raises the level of anticipation in the room, it also serves as a subliminal cue for the guests to stand.