Wedding Disasters Power failure and a missing bride with James Liotta  

Wedsure Team
26 June 2024

In this episode of the comedy podcast Wedding Disasters, stand-up comedian Annie Louey is joined by veteran wedding MC and comedian James Liotta. James shares his wild experiences from hundreds of weddings, including power outages, delayed flights, and why you should never let your best man be the MC. Plus, hear the hilarious story of a bride who went missing at the bar!


Episode Transcript

Annie Louey: Welcome to Wedding Disasters, presented by Wedding Insurance. This is the podcast where I, Annie Louey, chat with comedians about weddings that didn’t quite go to plan. This week, I’m joined by an award-winning comedian, actor, and presenter, who you can regularly see emceeing your favorite wedding, assuming you’re invited. It’s James Liotta. Welcome.

James Liotta: Thank you very much, Annie. Great to be here.

Annie Louey: It’s great to catch up with you because you’ve been a professional comedian and also emcee for how many years now?

James Liotta: With weddings, about 15 years now.

Annie Louey: Wow.

James Liotta: Doing weddings.

Annie Louey: How did you first get started in it?

James Liotta: It was actually through the comedy work, mainly because what started to happen is a lot of couples wanted… They didn’t want the formal emcee anymore, sort of all stiff and kind of like, “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a wedding. This is a wedding.” They wanted a bit of fun, and so comics started getting called to go, “Hey, do you emcee and do you emcee weddings? We want a few jokes, something a bit lighter.” And you do one, you do two, you do three, and next thing you know, you’re just getting calls and you’re suddenly working as a wedding emcee, but almost by accident.

Annie Louey: I’ve read quite a few websites and people do like to flex about how many weddings they’ve done, so what’s your number?

James Liotta: Okay. In the last five years, I get through 30 to 40 weddings a year, which is a decent amount.

Annie Louey: So multiply that by 15 years.

James Liotta: I left maths in year 10, so unless you’ve got a calculator, it’s a few hundred, I think.

Annie Louey: A few hundred. Does it become a blur after a while?

James Liotta: Well, in some ways, yeah. The worst part is that you meet so many wonderful couples that you emcee for and you’ll bump into them like sporadically six years down the track. “Hey,” and I’m like, “Hey, do I know you?” “You emceed at our wedding?” “I’m so sorry.”

Annie Louey: Of course. Of course.

James Liotta: It’s just too hard unless you frequent the people.

Annie Louey: So tell me about what the role of a wedding emcee is and how you like to do it. What’s your style?

James Liotta: Sure. So I keep an interactive approach to the emcee role, but I also take… I put a lot of work with the couple into the scheduling of the night, so it’s not just about rocking out. You give me the schedule, I will create the schedule with you because as you know, every wedding is different. There’s different requirements and couples want to do various things, and those things need to be scheduled in a logical manner through the evening because what we’re doing is we are actually putting a bit of a show on for your guests. It’s not just a dinner. There’s lots of different things that are happening.

Annie Louey: That’s what people don’t realize. I do the celebrant side, but then they can buy the package where you can also have me as an emcee and people don’t realize the value they’re getting by having a professional emcee because so many people get their friends and family to do it these days. So what is the benefit then? Because if you’ve got a friend who’s really good at talking, I want them to just run the night.

James Liotta: Sure. Well, the downside to that is that they also probably want to drink and have a good time, and they’ll get to a point in the evening, probably by speeches where they’re not with it anymore.

Annie Louey: That’s a very polite way of saying it.

James Liotta: Isn’t with it anymore. No. The truth of the matter is there’s a lot of skill that goes into emceeing in general and specifically wedding emceeing, and you need to know how venues run and you need to know about how to keep to time, and also how to troubleshoot when things are not keeping to time as well, and what to do to get back on track and how to move things around.

Annie Louey: There’s a lot of improvisation involved.

James Liotta: Yeah, there can be.

Annie Louey: Yeah, flexibility, keeping your cool when something’s gone wrong and you’ve got to roll with it. Tell me a little bit about what sort of things happen very frequently.

James Liotta: There are times when the kitchen runs late and it’s out of your control. At a wedding, there should never be a time where people are doing nothing. Now if they’re eating, that’s fine. They’re eating, they’re doing something, they’re eating, but if they’re finished eating, there should be something happening, whether that’s the dance floor running or a formality happening, you don’t want them sitting around twiddling their thumbs for too long because you lose the energy of the room. So, as you know, it’s all about energy and a vibe and your guests, along with your emcee and music, will create that in the evening.

Annie Louey: I think some of the worst weddings I’ve been to is when the food doesn’t come out or there’s too little food and we’re both ethnic, so that just stands out like, “Oh, that is despicable,” because they’ll go down in history. You’re going to remember it for the rest of your life when there was only a few canapes, or one of them that I was emceeing,

the food we’re all sitting there waiting for 45 minutes for food, and…

James Liotta: Oh, that’s too long.

Annie Louey: … just entrees even. They kind of had a few drinks already and now it’s dinner time and you just keep waiting there. Nothing, and the kitchen’s delayed.

James Liotta: No, that’s terrible. Yeah, you want to try and have that not happen because once you sit people down as well and you say, “Hey ladies and gentlemen, please take a seat. Your entrees will be out shortly.” Within five minutes, those entrees really do need to come out. If you are waiting longer than 10 minutes for those entrees, then that’s when the vibe of the room starts to change.

Annie Louey: That must be terrifying.

James Liotta: Because people get bored.

Annie Louey: … they’ve got hungry people, hangry people.

James Liotta: And they’re hangry, yeah. I’ve also had the opposite, Annie, where there’s been too much food and we don’t know where to fit it in. I’m like, “Where are you fitting in this third entree?”

Annie Louey: Yeah, I know that very well.

James Liotta: You’ve got five hours. Where are we doing this?

Annie Louey: Yeah, Asian weddings have eight courses, so I don’t know. That’s the easiest job for me because people are grazing the whole night. They’re being fed. I don’t really have to do much. If you announce every course, then you actually… I don’t need to give you any entertainment. I’m like, “Everyone get excited. It’s roast duck.” I can’t compete with roast duck.

James Liotta: You can’t compete with food, correct.

Annie Louey: You can’t. Exactly. Yeah. Tell me about your recent travels. You actually fly for weddings as well?

James Liotta: Yeah, I do all around Australia. So I’m based in Melbourne. Primarily, my bookings are in Melbourne, but I get a lot in Sydney as well, done a few in Adelaide, Perth, Cairns, Mildura, Country Victoria. I get to Mildura a lot as well, so I do fly around. If the price is right, we’ll go.

Annie Louey: That adds another layer though, of disaster potential because you’re going in cars, you’ve got planes, so have you got any tales of when that has just gone to shit?

James Liotta: Yeah, I do. I do have one in particular where I just scraped in, just in time. I believe it was Cairns, I think it was a Cairns one that I was booked for, and there was just delay, after delay, after delay. Now, I try to mainly get in on the day, first flight in on the day. Yes, that’s risky, but it’s also me keeping costs down for the bride and groom if I can, by not charging them another night’s accommodation and all that sort of stuff. So I’m trying to be as economical as possible, and yes, it is risky and that’s why I picked the first flight in case, but I did pick the first flight and there was delay, after delay, after delay. I landed, I don’t even think I showered, not before the wedding.

Annie Louey: Yeah.

James Liotta: I sprayed instead.

Annie Louey: Yeah, because usually with those, when it’s so far away, I try to have one night’s accommodation. Usually I pick the one the night before because you don’t want to… In case something runs so late. Right?

James Liotta: Yeah, that’s right.

Annie Louey: That reminds me of a trip I did. I flew to Sydney and I’d organized the accommodation, everything was going fine, but then the weather turned on me and I didn’t expect it would rain in the outdoor botanical gardens and all of my paperwork got soaked and I had to run back to the hotel to print off more forms in order to make sure that the couple were legally married, and that was my first true wedding disaster where I thought this was preventable. You can just plastic pocket, don’t open the book until you know you’re going to sign it, and always keep backup copies in a folder. Just, printing costs nothing. So it was easily avoided and yeah, ever since that day, I think, “Okay. You can’t just have your eye on one thing, focus on the hotel.”

James Liotta: One thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Annie Louey: Yeah. You’ve got to also be like… You’ve got to be across all the other potential, that’s problems that could pop up.

James Liotta: That’s the one thing about some disasters is that they can give you lessons in how to prevent that in the future.

Annie Louey: Exactly.

James Liotta: Not all.

Annie Louey: Yeah. Yeah. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your career as an emcee?

James Liotta: Look, it’s nothing that I believe hasn’t been said before, but don’t underestimate preparation. Yeah. Be well prepared. I also make a note of reading over all my cue cards and notes two days before to make sure that what’s printed there matches up with the initial paperwork for names and so forth. And because I like to also, when I’m doing introductions, I also like to say who they are in relation to the bride and groom, for example, “Next up, we want to give it up for, he’s the brother of the groom,” so I want to make sure that I’ve got brother of the groom correct, and I haven’t misplaced a word here or there.

Annie Louey: Yeah.

James Liotta: Yeah, so prep, because it is a one take wonder when you’re there.

Annie Louey: Yeah, we do this every day, but then for the couple, it’s there one time.

James Liotta: It’s one time.

Annie Louey: Yeah.

James Liotta: And I’m not saying that across the years I haven’t made a mistake or two, but also, that’s the skill in the recovery and how to use humor to recover the occasional mistake for a name or something that.

Annie Louey: Yeah. Do you have any lines that you can share with us?

James Liotta: Ah, look, I blame it on the bride and groom. Okay. I go, “They wrote my notes.”

Annie Louey: Ah, nice.

James Liotta: I pass the buck.

Annie Louey: Always good. Throw the couple under the bus.

James Liotta: Throw the couple under the bus.

Annie Louey: They’re spending the money, but they can just go under.

James Liotta: Sometimes they’ve thrown me under the bus because I’ve double-checked everything and they had the notes wrong, and I’ve just gone with the notes that they gave me.

Annie Louey: Do you just have to take it their day?

James Liotta: No, I let them know. I don’t want them thinking… I’ll let them know like, “Excuse me. I just want to let you know that I did do exactly as you wrote here. It turns out it was wrong.”

Annie Louey: Yeah. Do you do a template? Do you do any copy-pasting? Because that is quite dangerous.

James Liotta: That is, yes, it is, and that’s why I make an effort of double-checking. I do have a bit of a template I work with and replace. As each wedding comes along, I replace the information required, and that’s when occasional typos or things from a previous wedding slide in there.

Annie Louey: Yeah. Because I’m terrified of doing two weddings on the same day where you mix up the notes or the wrong name slipped in, and the couple, the groom’s name is the last groom’s name. Yeah.

James Liotta: That’s even worse because you do two. I don’t do two, but I don’t work as a celebrant, just as an emcee, but I’ll do one per night, but yeah, two.

Annie Louey: Yeah, I try to do just one max a day, but sometimes if it’s for a friend and they want to have an elopement in the morning or something, you go, “Okay, that’s fine.” And then you go into a bigger wedding for the night-time ones, so yeah. Especially if it involves driving, you want to make sure your car is packed and ready to go.

James Liotta: Absolutely.

Annie Louey: … the night before. Do you have to bring your own equipment as well?

James Liotta: Not many times. I do have some cordless microphones that I have as part of my carry-on system, I guess, but more times than not, I’ll use a DJ’s mic or the venue’s mic if they’re good quality. I always bring mine as backup.

Annie Louey: Yeah.

James Liotta: There’s one… I think every emcee should have a backup mic because not all mics and sound systems are fantastic. Usually a DJ’s is okay, but the venue’s ones are not always great.

Annie Louey: Yes, so very portable. You are the entertainment.

James Liotta: Yeah, pretty much.

Annie Louey: You just have your mic.

James Liotta: Yeah, you have the mic. Patch it in if I need to.

Annie Louey: Good for the listeners to know about, these are the things you should check with your emcee, what kind of equipment…

James Liotta: Absolutely.

Annie Louey: … are they bringing and do they have backup plans for some of the easy disasters that could arise?

James Liotta: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, prep and all these little bits and pieces that you don’t, couples probably don’t think about them at the start. In fact, there’s so many things that I have during our meetings where the couple go, “I didn’t think of that. Oh, that didn’t occur to me.” And I’m like, “Yeah, well, we got to think now. We’re four weeks out, we’ve got to think about these things because these are the little things that’ll make the night better.”

Annie Louey: Yes, exactly. I had a groom who wanted to emcee his own wedding and his wife said, “Can you help me talk him out of it?” So in the end, yeah. I’m like, “I don’t even mind if you don’t choose me, but please consider a professional who will also do the run sheet for you, work with the vendors, and give you lots of advice because they’ve seen it all, and yet at least you can learn from other people’s mistakes.”

James Liotta: Why did he want to emcee his own wedding? Is there a reason?

Annie Louey: I’m not sure. I think he was, I think a lawyer type who wants to control the situation and be very charismatic, but you want to enjoy what you’ve paid for.

James Liotta: Yeah. Why would you want to introduce yourself?

Annie Louey: I don’t know how that would work.

James Liotta: No, I’m not sure how either.

Annie Louey: Have you experienced something like that?

James Liotta: No. No, I haven’t had that yet. I had a mate of mine who was a best man and was asked to emcee the wedding that he was best man for, and I thought even that was a bit odd.

Annie Louey: Yeah.

James Liotta: And I just said, “Look, just have some fun with it. If the groom wants you to do it, just have some fun with it. Introduce yourself, run back in and out. Have fun with it.” But I don’t recommend it. Bridal party should not be emcees. If they’re your bridal party, they’ve already got a role, especially if you’re the bride or groom.

Annie Louey: That’s some really good advice there.

James Liotta: Yeah, that’s really good advice.

Annie Louey: Do not host your own wedding.

James Liotta: I haven’t asked you actually. Are you married?

Annie Louey: No.

James Liotta: No.

Annie Louey: Would you want a wedding of your own?

James Liotta: It would be nice.

Annie Louey: Would you want to emcee your own wedding?

James Liotta: Absolutely not.

Annie Louey: So we’ll talk a little bit about what you deem the worst wedding disasters that you’ve seen. What stories come off the top of your head?

James Liotta: Look, there’s always a number of stories, and I was discussing with you earlier that the word disaster at a wedding is very subjective. The smallest thing could be a disaster for a bride and groom, and fair enough. It’s their big day and they’ve worked very hard to put certain things together. There’s this story in Melbourne that’s floated around for years that a groom got to the speeches point, and then during his speech, as he finished off his speech, he said, “And I also would like to thank my best man for sleeping with my wife yesterday.” There were some other terms used. We’ll keep it family-friendly.

Annie Louey: Oh my gosh.

James Liotta: And so he knew, and the best man was having it off with the wife, and he went through the whole day. He got married.

Annie Louey: He got married…

James Liotta: He got legally married.

Annie Louey: … just to have his revenge.

James Liotta: Just to have that, and apparently all hell broke loose. There was a massive brawl, fights and all sorts of stuff, and this happened in the northern suburbs of Melbourne many, many years ago. But it’s a story that floats around.

Annie Louey: Yeah. It must be coming from a seed of truth, surely.

James Liotta: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard it from multiple sources. Yeah.

Annie Louey: How would you feel as the emcee of that wedding? What would you do?

James Liotta: Oh, wow. That is… I don’t know how you would control… Apparently, the wedding was done, after that speech it was done.

Annie Louey: Yeah. You can never recover.

James Liotta: There was no recovery after that. People started leaving, and I think I would just say, I think I’d honor that and go, “I think we’re done for the night.”

Annie Louey: All right, everyone, let’s wrap up.

James Liotta: Well, that’s an early night, Annie. Can we still get the main course?

Annie Louey: Yeah. Yeah. Can we get some takeaway boxes, please?

James Liotta: Yeah. I’ve never had that experience. I’ve had little miniature things that I would consider a bit. I’ve had speech disasters.

Annie Louey: I think that’s a popular one because we’re already kind of on the edge of our seats because we often know speeches can be bad. It could be somebody’s first time doing public speaking and also…

James Liotta: Which is not for everybody.

Annie Louey: Yeah. But the horror stories that I’ve heard are mostly about very awkward speeches.

James Liotta: Yes.

Annie Louey: Or, especially the parents of one of the couple.

James Liotta: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Annie Louey: Yeah.

James Liotta: I had one, a long time ago, I had a groom who did his whole speech, spoke for about 10 minutes or so from memory. At the end goes, “Thanks very much.” Sits down. Didn’t say a word about his wife, the bride, not a word.

Annie Louey: How awkward. Did he deliberately do that?

James Liotta: No, I don’t know. I don’t believe it was deliberate. I think it was just he had a few to drink and I just on mic just politely, I said, “I think it’s time. You might want to say something about your wife at this point.”

Annie Louey: Yeah. Humor is such a good tool. I think that’s the benefit of a comedian emcee like yourself is that you can get yourself out of a situation and…

James Liotta: I think so.

Annie Louey: … yeah. Lighten the mood and everything.

James Liotta: Yeah, that’s right.

Annie Louey: Yeah. Tech issues as well, they happen quite frequently.

James Liotta: Yeah. I’ve had the power go out, had the power go out completely during the introductions, so there must’ve been a circuit that broke because the power was out for us and the DJ, but lights were still on, but there was no other power, so I just continued on at just full voice.

Annie Louey: Oh, no microphone.

James Liotta: No microphone.

Annie Louey: Just projecting.

James Liotta: Yeah, because otherwise we were going to run late. I mean, you’ve got the bridal party waiting to enter.

Annie Louey: To no music at that point.

James Liotta: I got people to just…

Annie Louey: Just create a beat. Yeah, no, I can see it working.

James Liotta: Look, it can work. It got to be draining after the fifth entry, but we got through it.

Annie Louey: Yeah, that’s awesome. With a power outage, you don’t know when it’s going to come back.

James Liotta: No, no, you don’t. Look, that’s a bit of a disaster, power outage. Not pleasant for the room, for the guests, but things happen. This is the one thing, Annie, that I always tell couples, I go, “Look, we can plan right until the final dot, and we are happy to plan, but do not marry every element of this schedule. You’ve just got to be flexible. Things do happen. All kinds of things can happen, and we will just do the best we can to get over them should something happen.” And most cases are not. The nights run fine, but occasionally, you’ve got to troubleshoot some stuff that occurs.

Annie Louey: Is today’s episode of Wedding Disasters breaking you out in a cold sweat? You can’t control the power going out, but you can give yourself peace of mind. With Wedsure’s cover plan. Visit for more information. We’ve got some stories that have been submitted to us online, and I want to chat through them with you and see what you think and how you would behave in the situation…

James Liotta: Sure.

Annie Louey: … that’s mentioned, so got a couple here. I was a wedding photographer for 12 years, so I have lots of funny wedding stories. Thankfully, not many disasters. There were definitely some mishaps. At one wedding, the bridal party’s car broke down, so the bridal party went in the car the parents were in, and the parents hitchhiked to the wedding. It was pre-Uber.

James Liotta: They hitchhiked?

Annie Louey: The parents hitchhiked.

James Liotta: Where was this wedding?

Annie Louey: They offered their own car. It doesn’t say.

James Liotta: In the middle of the bush.

Annie Louey: It could be. It could be somewhere like Mildura where you are going.

James Liotta: Could be. I might need to hitchhike to Mildura.

Annie Louey: Yeah. Not every town has a taxi sometimes.

James Liotta: No.

Annie Louey: So imagine that.

James Liotta: No, Mildura has five taxis. If you don’t book them, they get all taken.

Annie Louey: Yeah. Have you had car trouble before?

James Liotta: No. No, I haven’t. Not personally. No.

Annie Louey: That’s good.

James Liotta: That is good.

Annie Louey: I’ve had, you’ve got the flashing on empty, and sometimes people say a trick is to just visualize you getting to your destination, like manifest it.

James Liotta: Manifest petrol.

Annie Louey: Yeah. Pretty much.

James Liotta: Okay, got it. That works. No, that works. That’s all about the preparation as well. I make sure my tank is full before I get to some important, like a wedding or a gig, particularly a wedding, because I’m dressed already. I go dressed in the suit. I don’t want to get out in my suit and get petrol and…

Annie Louey: Someone starts a conversation.

James Liotta: Oh, yeah. And just what if I get petrol on me or something? I always have these silly thoughts that go through my head. So, get your petrol, fill up the car.

Annie Louey: You’re a very practical man.

James Liotta: I try to be as practical as possible.

Annie Louey: Your surname tells me you are very Italian, true or false.

James Liotta: True. True.

Annie Louey: Great.

James Liotta: Yes.

Annie Louey: And do you get a lot of clients who come to you wanting you to speak Italian?

James Liotta: Sometimes. Yeah. Sometimes they’ll say… Look, a lot of the weddings I do from Italian background couples, if not at least half Italian, so Italian, Australian, Italian, Greek, something like that. I’ve had Italian Chinese before as well, so it’s all kinds of different groups. Some of them want me to speak a little bit of Italian, mainly for the older generation. They might have grandparents who don’t speak a lot of English, but I’ve had a few though where the groom in particular is from Italy.

Annie Louey: Yep.

James Liotta: Born there.

Annie Louey: They’re born there.

James Liotta: And their whole family is coming to the wedding from Italy, so they really need someone who’s bilingual. So that’s another thing that people like us two can offer as well, is that bilingual approach to weddings.

Annie Louey: I feel there’s so much pressure though when you add that language job to it as well, because often the translations, it doubles the length of the ceremony.

James Liotta: Yes, you’re right. And yes, you make a good point because I tell the couples, I say, “Look, I’m going to throw it in sporadically, I’m not going to do a translation word by word of everything that I say, because that will kill the vibe, and also it will take double the time to do everything.”

Annie Louey: And if you speak both languages, you’ve already heard the jokes.

James Liotta: Exactly, yeah, that’s true. That’s right. And usually most couples are fine. They understand that I’ll be using it sporadically. If it’s one of those cases where the whole family is from Italy, I will use it a little bit more, of course, and there’ll be certain things I might just do in Italian, but more so than not, it’s just bits and pieces that I’ll throw in. Yeah.

Annie Louey: Do you get people requesting very Italian customs at weddings and what are they, because I don’t even know.

James Liotta: The biggest Italian customs at a wedding is probably the fact that Italian guests are allowed to steal anything they want from the wedding.

Annie Louey: Very similar to Asian weddings.

James Liotta: From the wedding reception. Must be an ethnic thing then, right?

Annie Louey: Yeah.

James Liotta: Look, to be honest, our customs are very simple. We like doing traditional things like we like cutting the ribbon. Do you do the cutting of the ribbon?

Annie Louey: No, what’s cutting the ribbon?

James Liotta: Yeah, like cutting the ribbon. I mean, not everyone does it anymore, but it’s a traditional thing that used to be done a lot in the eighties, and some couples still like to do it, so bride and groom will enter for their big introduction. Before cutting the cake and doing a toast, they’ll cut a ribbon.

Annie Louey: Who’s holding the ribbon or where’s the ribbon?

James Liotta: The ribbon is usually held by the page boy and flower girl, if you have one. If you don’t, it’s held by the best man and maid or matron of honor. By the way, does everyone know the difference between maid and matron?

Annie Louey: I only found this out recently. So maid of honor is if the woman is not married yet.

James Liotta: Correct, yes.

Annie Louey: But matron, no one wants to use it because it sounds so frumpy.

James Liotta: I know, but it means that she’s married. That’s all it means. Yeah. So use one or the other. Best man is his best man. There’s no difference whether they’re married or not. So they will hold the ribbon and the bride and groom will come in, and they always have a bit of fun with this moment as well. So I’ve got a couple of gags that are attached to this kind of formality.

Annie Louey: Oh, you have to give us a sample now.

James Liotta: I talk about how the ribbon came from Spotlight and it was cheap and a couple of gags.

Annie Louey: It’s not very authentically Italian, just from the Spotlight.

James Liotta: No, that’s right. Yeah. It was off one of the cars. We had to get it off one of the cars.

Annie Louey: Is it a big fancy ribbon?

James Liotta: No, it’s just a standard white ribbon, usually it’s about that thick, just a meter and a half, and the bride and groom will have scissors. They’ll cut it. It’s like, you know when you open a new venue and you’re cutting a ribbon?

Annie Louey: Yes. So it’s starting a new chapter.

James Liotta: Yeah, correct. It’s the symbol of entering the world together. It’s just a… Yeah.

Annie Louey: I like that because there’s a lot of other ones that involve not tying as well. So you’re either tying things together or you’re cutting them.

James Liotta: Yes. And entering stuff… Yeah. So these little formalities, Italians still like to do a lot of that stuff.

Annie Louey: Do you play music that’s Italian?

James Liotta: Yeah. We have a traditional Tarantella, which is the traditional Italian…

Annie Louey: I’ve heard of that.

James Liotta: … dance. We have a lot of that. We have the chicken dance. That’s the next…

Annie Louey: Is that actually culturally Italian? The chicken?

James Liotta: It is actually because the song originates from an Italian artist and everyone just loves it.

Annie Louey: No, that’s so cute.

James Liotta: The chicken dance. Yeah.

Annie Louey: I haven’t done one at a wedding yet. Take me next time because I’m hankering for a chicken dance.

James Liotta: Yeah, look, chicken dances rock, but some brides and grooms go, “No chicken dance.” They’re like, “No, we do not want the chicken dance.”

Annie Louey: They think it’s too lame for them. Yeah.

James Liotta: Yeah.

Annie Louey: Some people request no games because they think they’re too cool for games. I like a game.

James Liotta: You would’ve played the shoe game?

Annie Louey: The shoe game. Very popular.

James Liotta: The shoe game’s popular.

Annie Louey: If no one’s heard of the shoe game, what’s the shoe game?

James Liotta: Well, the shoe game, you sit the bride and groom back to back generally, and they each hold a shoe of one another, and you ask them questions. Could be maybe 10 questions, 15 questions. Sometimes the questions are from you. Sometimes they could be from the audience or the bridal party. There’s various ways to do it, and the questions will be like, “Who said I love you first?” Or something like that. And they put up a shoe without seeing each other. They put up either one of their shoes or one of their partner’s shoes indicating their response. So sometimes it’s the same shoe, which means they’re on the same…

Annie Louey: Yeah, same page.

James Liotta: … answer. Other times it’s not and can create quite a bit of fun.

Annie Louey: Yeah. You throw it over to the audience though, that could get quite spicy. I don’t think I do that.

James Liotta: Sometimes. Yeah, sometimes. Does anyone have a question? Yeah, it can get a bit spicy. Yes, but then I didn’t say the question. They said the question.

Annie Louey: You have a character as well. Do you ever bring her out to weddings?

James Liotta: I do have a character in my comedy work, which is this Italian mama. Her name’s Maria. Everyone in Italy is called Maria. There’s 7 billion of them. My mum is called Maria, so…

Annie Louey: I was going to say, is your mum Maria?

James Liotta: … that’s where I got from. Yeah, that’s my mum. No, I do not bring her out at weddings because I feel that it’d be a little bit odd at weddings, me coming out dressed as a woman and all that stuff.

Annie Louey: Do you stuff a bra?

James Liotta: I can’t tell you those secret things.

Annie Louey: Can’t tell the secrets. Damn it.

James Liotta: All I can tell you is that there is no bra and it allows me to move what I need to move for comedic purposes.

Annie Louey: Yeah, if you want to check that out, it’s on your Instagram.

James Liotta: It is on Instagram.

Annie Louey: It’s very popular.

James Liotta: Yes.

Annie Louey: Does she have a surname, Maria?

James Liotta: Her name is Maria Pappagallo.

Annie Louey: Maria Pappagallo.

James Liotta: Pappagallo is a parrot.

Annie Louey: Oh, yeah?

James Liotta: That’s what it translates.

Annie Louey: Yeah, because I studied Italian in school.

James Liotta: But it’s a funny Italian word. Yeah, Pappagallo.

Annie Louey: Gallo is bird.

James Liotta: Yeah.

Annie Louey: Right? Yeah.

James Liotta: Yeah.

Annie Louey: There you go. Look, I’m fluent.

James Liotta: So, there you go. Maria Pappagallo. That’s her name. Look, sometimes I get, “Oh, would you…” But I’m like, “No, I don’t do it for weddings.”

Annie Louey: For the right price though, would you?

James Liotta: Yes.

Annie Louey: Yeah. Everything for the right price. Yeah, I’ve seen some emcees that have a talent and they’ll walk off stage, come back and they’ll be glammed up for a song or something like that. But you are just you.

James Liotta: I am just me. Yeah. The other thing I don’t do, Annie, is that I don’t tend to offer myself as a comedy act, like a straight comedy act for like 10, 15 minutes. There are other comedians that do it and can do it well, but in a wedding scenario, it is one of the most difficult audiences to do a straight comedy act to. You’ve got so many things against you, but also as the emcee, I find it can be a bit overkill as well, because you have this role as an emcee, but then you are also sort of saying to people, “Can you listen to me for 10, 15 minutes straight while I deliver some gags to you?” And I just, yeah.

Annie Louey: Yeah. I did one recently because the couple really wanted. I only do it if they really wanted it, but yeah, I think I’m going to start explaining to people, this is very awkward.

James Liotta: It doesn’t tend to work unless you were… Maybe it would work better if you were the special guest if there was an emcee who introduced you.

Annie Louey: Yeah.

James Liotta: And you had a moment that was the correct moment in the night, which means no one eating.

Annie Louey: Yes.

James Liotta: You know about that one.

Annie Louey: It’s almost like magic. All the elements need to be right.

James Liotta: They do, yeah.

Annie Louey: And the stars need to align, and the moon needs to be in a certain phase for people to enjoy it.

James Liotta: No kids. No kids while I’m trying to do gags, a lot of things need to align. Yeah.

Annie Louey: Yeah. It’s just much easier for you to help them…

James Liotta: As the emcee.

Annie Louey: Yeah. You have a job to make things run to time, be a bit entertaining.

James Liotta: Correct. And I use the humor just… I top and tail my formalities with a bit of humor, and I find that sporadically works through the night better than me offering myself a 10, 15 minutes to do an act where half of the people will probably not even listen to me.

Annie Louey: Yeah, absolutely. Have you ever had a crowd just get away from you? Not run away, literally, but…

James Liotta: We have sometimes tougher crowds. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Look, the strike rate’s pretty good, but there are tougher crowds where for some reason it’s working against you, no matter what you do.

Annie Louey: Yeah, because usually everyone’s in a good mood. That’s the thing I like about weddings compared to live shows, because often some people come in after a long hard day and they go, “Make me laugh.” But if they’re already in a good mood knowing they love these people, they’re here for them, it’s the best crowd, the best audience.

James Liotta: But again, a good mood at a wedding for your guests needs lots of elements to fall into play. The music that gets played while they walk in can have a key factor. The layout, which I’ve mentioned before, the layout of the room can have a factor. If you leave them too long, sitting there before you start can have a factor into their mood. So, lots of things go into play, which only people that have been in the business a long time will understand because we’ve experienced it all.

Annie Louey: Yeah. Have you had any strange venues? Worst venues?

James Liotta: Look, I have venues I would rather work at, and venues I would rather not work at. It’s venues that are… Look, I’ll tell you one thing. I really find venues with long tables very hard as an emcee. I call them just hard rooms to work for many reasons. Long tables, especially people at the back, first of all, they can’t see you. What they can’t see or can’t hear properly, people just don’t engage with. If you can’t be seen, they’re not going to engage with you. So I prefer a more traditional room where…

Annie Louey: Circular tables.

James Liotta: … tables are separated, circular or square, whatever the case is. But ones where they can flip their chairs around, turn around and sort of see you. So, those rooms tend to work best in my experience.

Annie Louey: Long tables are so in though. The rustic long tables.

James Liotta: They are. Especially at wineries, I know, but they are really, really hard and they also make the dance floor very far away from some people. So unless you work really hard at putting the guilt trip on people and telling them, “You must get up and join us,” they will not get up because the distance from the furthest person to the dance floor is like, “Ah, can’t be bothered. I can’t be bothered walking down there.” There’s a lot of psychological things that go into play. If the bride and groom are not on the dance floor, that’s a big deal. You need the bride and groom on the dance floor.

Annie Louey: What if they’re shy and they’re not much of a dancer?

James Liotta: So get over it. If you want your guests on the dance floor, you’ve got to be on the dance floor…

Annie Louey: Yeah. You got to start it.

James Liotta: … for a big part of that night if you want that dance.

Annie Louey: Well, pressure is on. That’s a lot of work for them.

James Liotta: Yeah, it is a lot of work.

Annie Louey: They’ve probably been up since 3:00 AM. Now you’ve got to dance.

James Liotta: Now you got to dance, you got to be on… I said, “Look, the trick is you get on the dance floor for a few songs. That’ll entice, that’ll bring everyone together. Then, everyone’s let loose. Then you can go and do your own thing.”

Annie Louey: Great. I love this. I’m learning a lot about my own industry through you, James. You’re a seasoned veteran.

James Liotta: We always learn off each other. We just do so many, so we find tricks. We find little ways to get the results that we need.

Annie Louey: Okay. We’ve got another story. Thank you to the people who submitted. Another wedding. The bride couldn’t be found. The groom and all the guests were waiting, and a bridesmaid came to get the wedding planner to say the bride was missing. She was found doing shots at the bar.

James Liotta: But you do that through the night anyway. Why was she… She was that nervous?

Annie Louey: Yeah. Maybe you want to get value out of your bar tab. The wedding started about 45 minutes late.

James Liotta: 45 minutes late.

Annie Louey: Yeah.

James Liotta: Well, she would’ve been tanked.

Annie Louey: How many shots can you do in 45 minutes?

James Liotta: How do you do your vows after that?

Annie Louey: Improv, I think.

James Liotta: That’s true.

Annie Louey: Yeah. And this person wants to talk about their own wedding as well. At my own wedding, my sister fainted beforehand, and then my mother-in-law-to-be with a busload of her friends and family, couldn’t find the venue. How important does a person need to be before you hold on and wait for that person?

James Liotta: Ah. Well, if it’s the bridal party and parents, yeah.

Annie Louey: There was one where the…

James Liotta: Definitely.

Annie Louey: … father of the bride was responsible for a minibus, and there was no parking in the city, so he was driving a minibus and trying to park, and after he dropped the people off, and so he was running quite late.

James Liotta: Was late.

Annie Louey: Yeah. And the bride was…

James Liotta: Can I just say, Annie, I think there are so many beautiful venues out there. Do not pick a hard venue for your people to get to. It’s a big day. Just pick a venue that they can park at. They don’t need to walk two kilometers to the venue. I know there’s some beautiful places out there where it’s a bit convoluted, but it is a nightmare for people and your guests. That’s my thing.

Annie Louey: And watch out for grass as well.

James Liotta: Oh, grass. Yeah.

Annie Louey: Heels, and people didn’t know on the invitations, and now they’re covered in mud.

James Liotta: Just pick a venue that’s got parking, please.

Annie Louey: Again, more practical tips, James.

James Liotta: Practical advice.

Annie Louey: Thank you so much for joining us. Do you have any little pieces of advice that you want to end on or anything that you didn’t get out of your system about wedding disasters today?

James Liotta: Oh, gee. Just, if you’re getting married and you’re planning your wedding, think logically. That’s all.

Annie Louey: You make it sound so easy.

James Liotta: Think logically. It’s a lot of non-logical thinking that goes into the early part. I want to do this, I want to do that. I want to have this. Not everything you see at other people’s weddings will work at your wedding.

Annie Louey: Amazing. Thank you so much. James Liotta, it was so much fun catching up with you.

James Liotta: You, too.

Annie Louey: And thanks to everyone who was listening and wanted to see a bit of insight into how we do emceeing in the wedding world.

James Liotta: Absolutely. Thank you.

Annie Louey: Thank you so much for joining me on Wedding Disasters, presented by, Wedding Insurance. I’ve been your host, Annie Louey. Please be sure to subscribe to the podcast and jump onto the Wedsure socials for the latest and visit for your wedding insurance coverage.

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