Planning a wedding isn’t simple. There is no Wedding 101 guide with the perfect solutions to painful problems. No Magic Wallet with never-ending dollar bills. And certainly, there’s no Fairy Godmother who’ll make every detail perfect with a wave of her magic wand – from that lovely dress to the smooth emcee with a great punchline every time.

Now, let’s not knock the emcee – his role is important. He decides if your party gets “the roof on fire” or puts the mood into deep freeze.

Having played the role of a wedding host for a few friends, I’ve learnt two things: couples are stumped by whether they really need an emcee; and does he need to be a professional?

Who do you call?
Yes, you need an emcee. His job isn’t just to set the mood of your party but also to clue guests in on the type of celebration you want it to be.

Professional emcees will certainly make things lively; after all, they are paid to do a job that they do well.

Friends you get to help as emcees may not sound as smooth, but they know you, and that becomes meaningful when they represent you as “host” on the stage.

That said, using a friend as an emcee comes with its own set of problems. Does he have the right personality? Is he good at handling a crowd? Or, is he charismatic enough to lead, yet is a good team player at the same time?

A man’s gotta do…
If you do have a friend like that, and you want him to be your compere, your first problem might be to convince him if he hasn’t done it before. Asians tend to shy away from public speaking, so promise your friend a big hongbao or sponsor his wardrobe for the night. If all else fails, pull out the “my-life-depends-on-it” act.

Next, you’d have to deal with his nerves. As your big day draws near, your friend will have second thoughts – unless he’s an entertainer at heart or has secret ambitions to be on TV. Practice is the only way for him to get over the jitters. And if he’s a good enough mate, he will learn to deal with this. Trust me, a guy finds it hard to let his buddy down once he has agreed to help.

Help yourself by helping your friend. Run through the reception schedule with him and work out a script together. The script is necessary; it helps remind him about planned activities during the reception.

The script should have information regarding what’s happening at what time, who’s involved, when to announce what, and any issues that should not be aired. (Jokes about family members and ex-partners should be banned.) Once a script is finalised, give your friend some time (say two to three weeks) to practise on his own; then get him to do a dry run with you.

From there, meet up once every two weeks so he can practise with you. Do this for three months before your wedding and he’ll be a pro come the day.

Another advantage of rehearsing so often is that your friend would become so familiar with the script that should anything go wrong on the actual night, he’ll have more “brain space” to deal with it better.

That said, you should try to finalise as many details (for the evening’s events) as possible – at least a month before the wedidng – so that you can update your friend better.

The general in the house
Logistically, an emcee plays a bigger role than what people give him credit for. Not only must he be able to entertain, he has to be able to coordinate and pull things together as well. In part, he must be able to act on your behalf whenever you and your spouse are tied up with offstage activities (such as dressing up or welcoming guests).

Which is why he should meet the other coordinators – the banquet manager, band leader, videographer, etc. This way, if there’s a glitch during the dinner, he will know to liaise with them and help smooth things so that your big party is not disrupted.

To help, you can prepare a list of names, mobile phone numbers, and a brief description of the tasks each person is taking care of for his reference.

The backup plan
The final thing your friend should do is come up with a backup “armoury” of additional jokes, games or music to use for buying time when necessary. But even if not needed, there’s no rule saying he can’t use the extra material – as long he ensures the party continues to swing to the right beat.