Friday, October 17, 2008

Miss Manners and Masters of Ceremonies

I wrote in to Miss Manners today in response to her Wednesday column , which addressed a reader's question about the purpose of a master of ceremonies at a wedding. The person wanted to know when, and in God's name, why, this had become standard practice.

Miss Manners was brief and appropriately miffed that such a thing would ever occur: They narrate the event, giving fanfare introductions, public instructions and calls for applause. Why people will pay to have a formal party with their relatives and friends turned into something between an awards ceremony and a reality-TV show, Miss Manners cannot imagine.

(Yes, Miss Manners does write in the third person, in case you gentle readers had not yet picked up that convention).

Anyway...have many weddings become circuses? Of course they have. In fact, I think Miss Manners' description (damn, now I sound like I'm HER talking about mySELF) is rather apt. And yet, I think she has a tendency to inaccurately idealize the olden days, when weddings were simple and sane warm family affairs. So I wrote in to point out another perspective. My letter follows:

Dear Miss Manners,

A reader recently wrote in to ask you about the function of a master of ceremonies at a wedding. While think your response, which expressed perplexity and a bit of annoyance at the "cross between an awards ceremony and a reality show" that many weddings have become was correct, I think there may be room for flexibility here.

Surely when wedding receptions more often featured live music, there would have been a bandleader or wedding singer to set the mood, ease transitions, etc. In recent years, that has increasingly been the role of the DJ (some of whom, of course, are more irritating than others).

Even more recently, though, many couples have opted to forgo both bands and DJs, opting instead to create a playlist of their own and pipe it through thespeakers directly from a laptop. When this is the case, and when the party is above 150 people, I think it's acceptable, even desirable, to have someone with a microphone help guide the direction of the party--if anything, it keeps the host from screaming and pointing, and limits (to a certain extent) the impatient clinking of glasses with forks.

If this person is not leading a band or playing music, I suppose he or she is effectively a master of ceremonies.For the record, I agree that having an MC in addition to a DJ, wedding singer, or bandleader seems excessive.


Miss Manners will probably be horrified that I would suggest it's OK for a wedding to be so large that a host cannot herd all of his or her own guests without the aid of a loudspeaker. But if she wants to address THAT problem, she's going to have to back a lot farther than the 21st century. Weddings, not all weddings, but weddings, have been monstrous since the beginning of time.

It's not etiquette--it's tradition.

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