Waistcoats for Bridegrooms
Most Bridegrooms are fairly confident that they will need a two-piece suit for their Wedding Day, but when it comes to waistcoats they often seem to be at a loss. It must be said that a waistcoat is a very important part of a wedding suit and is probably the most hard-working part of your outfit. As well as keeping your errant shirt in check or ensuring the waistband of your trousers is covered, it has a much more important role to play and can’t be overlooked.
Visit Guest blog from Sharon Cousans, Chimney Menswear.

Hunting Pink Livery
In the late 19th century, a Toastmaster of repute by the name of William Knightsmith was becoming increasingly frustrated at being addressed as a waiter by members of the assembled companies that he was attending. Having explained this to his wife, she suggested that he change the colour of his coat to make him stand out.
William Knightsmith started to wear a scarlet jacket, much to the amusement of other Toastmasters, who ridiculed him and thought it a joke. He was seen by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), who led applause and approved of the colour; within a year virtually all Toastmasters in London were wearing it. Soon after, the ‘hunting pink’ tailcoat became the adopted form of dress for Toastmasters. The name is derived from Mr Thomas Pink of Jermyn Street, the tailor who designed it.

Raffle Tickets
If you are selling raffle tickets it is usual for several officials to visit the tables, selling tickets singly or in strips of five. Another method is to place five random tickets in an envelope with the counterfoils stapled to the envelope, one for each guest, and leave them on the table well in advance of the function. The guests then remove the tickets and place £5 in the envelope, which is than collected with the counterfoils by the officials.
A word of warning, however: if selling tickets from more than one book, make sure you are using books of different colours. I have seen confusion reign at a supper quiz when two books with the same colour tickets and the same range of ticket numbers were used(!).

Grace and Loyal Toasts
If your wedding breakfast follows a religious ceremony, it is recommend that you precede the meal with Grace as most of the guests will probably expect it. The officiating minister, if a guest, should be invited to deliver an appropriate blessing. A Jewish wedding breakfast or Bar/Bat Mitzvah dinner will most certainly start with Hamotzi and conclude with Birkat hamazon.
If you are ever called upon to deliver the Loyal Toast: stand, raise your glass and just say: “The Queen”, not “God Bless Her” or anything else. By the way, if you are ever introduced to the Queen, she is first addressed as “Your Majesty” and thereafter, “Ma’am” to rhyme with ‘toast and jam’. At Jewish functions you may be called upon to propose a toast to “The President and the State of Israel”.

Wedding Cheese Cake
Me: Wedding cake?
Bride: We’re having cheese.
Me: Cheesecake?
Bride: No, tiers of cheese to be cut and served during the evening.
Me: Okay – whatever!!
After the dessert had been lifted and before the speeches, I invited the Bride and Bridegroom to come forward and cut the cheese carefully – very Caerphilly (sic).
Search internet for wedding cheese cake ideas

At wedding celebrations, we as Toastmasters are mindful to check the wedding cake and knife. I served as MC at a Bar Mitzvah recently and checked that the plaited bread (known as a challah) for the blessing was accompanied by a knife. However, when the Rabbi attempted to cut the bread (unsuccessfully) I realised that a cake knife had been provided, not a bread knife with a serrated edge, and quietly suggested that she tear the challah with her hands. Toastmasters take note.

Wedding Speeches
Traditionally, there are three speeches at a ‘standard English wedding’: Father of the Bride, the Bridegroom, and the Best Man, in that order. Other speeches can be slotted in as required, for example, the Father of the Bridegroom would follow the Father of the Bride, and the Bride herself would follow the Bridegroom (so that she has the last word!).
When delivering your speech, talk more slowly than you would normally. Also, take longer pauses between sentences, giving the guests time to laugh or wipe away a tear before you start in on the next sentence. Avoid pauses mid-sentence, and if you cannot tell jokes, do not tell jokes!
The six S’s of starting a speech: Sit, then Stand, Smile, Scan the room, wait for Silence, take a deep breath and then – and only then – Speak.  Read more…

Mixed Faith Wedding
“From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. When two souls who are destined for each other find one another, their streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.” Ba’al Shem Tov
Creating your own wedding ceremony, when one of you is Jewish, gives you the freedom to choose what you want to do and say. With a bit of careful planning you can have a gorgeous interfaith ceremony which incorporates elements from both your traditions in a way that everyone present feels fully included.
For information about mixed-faith weddings, visit
If you would like information about the legalities required in order to have a Celebrant led Wedding visit

Cutting the Wedding Cake
Here’s a tip for the Bride and Bridegroom (and their photographer) when cutting the wedding cake. Remember, the traditional convention is for the Bridegroom always to be on his Bride’s right; after all, he is her right-hand man!
The Bridegroom takes the knife in his right hand and places his left arm around his wife’s waist. The Bride places her right arm across her husband’s shoulders and places her left hand on his right hand. She is now proudly displaying her wedding ring for a close-up photograph before they cut the cake together.
For traditional photography, with a modern twist, visit 

Thirteen Candles
The ‘Ceremony of the 13 Candles’ is a wonderful way for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah to acknowledge and honour the important people in their lives. The ceremony requires a cake with 13 unlit candles, and up to ten guests, who have been offered the mitzvah of lighting one or more candles. Each candle represents a particular attribute of a Jewish person. As the name of a guest who has been offered the mitzvah is called, that person lights a candle on the cake. The last three candles are lit by the Bar/Bar Mitzvah and the parents. When all the candles are lit, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah makes a wish, blows them out and cuts the cake.

Who Goes Where at Weddings
The convention at weddings is for the Bridegroom to stand, be seated be or photographed on his Bride’s right; after all, he is her right-hand man!
For anything larger than a small, informal reception, a wedding seating plan is likely to make a significant difference to the success of your reception. In the UK, the Bride and Bridegroom would traditionally sit in the middle of the wedding top table flanked by the Bride’s parents, then the Bridegroom’s parents and finally by the Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid. So from the guests’ view, sitting left to right: Matron of Honour, Bridegroom’s Father, Bride’s Mother, Bridegroom, Bride, Bride’s Father, Bridegroom’s Mother, and Best Man.
A useful source for table planning can be found at

Bridal Favours
At many weddings the Bride will hand out Bridal Favours during the wedding breakfast, or leave them on the tables next to the place card of each lady. Traditional Bridal Favours are five sugared almonds in a box or mesh bag, and given as a good luck gift to the lady. A wish is associated with each sugared almond: long life, fertility, happiness, wealth and good health. There is a short poem that accompanies the Bridal Favours, which I will be pleased to recite during the wedding breakfast.
Bridal favours and bombonières can be found at 

The History & Role of Toastmasters
I recently had great pleasure in delivering a talk entitled: ‘The History and Role of Toastmasters’ to an appreciative meeting of the Jewish Association of Cultural Studies in Harrow, Middlesex. Dressed in my hunting pink livery I spoke about the history and the guilds, and the training required for me to become a Fellow of the Guild of Professional Toastmasters. I described the different types of functions covered including weddings, civic and corporate functions, peppering my talk with ‘tips of the trade’ and amusing anecdotes.

Address to the Haggis
I had great pleasure in delivering the Address to the Haggis at the Farmhouse at Redcoats on Burn’s Night 2019. I also had great pleasure in presenting an essay entitled “Dux Magnus Gentis Veteris Saginati” describing the life cycle of the haggis, an ancient creature that inhabits mountainous regions of the world, including Scotland. The paper was well received by the guests, many of whom wore clan tartans and enjoyed an excellent dinner – and a wee dram.

John Ashmele FGPT
Fellow of the Guild of Professional Toastmasters
Graduate of the Professional Toastmasters’ Academy
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