I often say that the rarest wedding scenario I write for is two couples in their thirties, with two intact, happily married sets of parents. It so very rarely happens. Unfortunately, life takes its toll, people will be missing and nothing throws a spotlight on to the make up of your family like a wedding. If family illness and death have played their parts, then those people very much deserve their place in the speech. However, if divorce is a defining factor, then you should tread very carefully indeed.
I probably write as many father of the bride speeches for guys who are divorced as those that are happily married. I think I read somewhere that the divorce rate in the UK is punching in at around 45%, so it’s little wonder that so many couples can often count up to 8 people when it comes to mentioning their parents. Yes, if you have split and remarried, and so has your ex, then there are lot of people’s sensibilities to consider, and this is where it starts getting really tricky.
Firstly, never use the speech as a points scoring exercise. No one will thank you for it, and your rank opportunism, no matter how bitter the split, will remain long in the memory. This day is all about the bride, and corrupting it by dredging up awkward issues is only going to upset the very person you’re meant to be celebrating: your daughter. If you and your former partner really don’t get on, then less is more, but don’t completely omit her from the speech. Glaring omissions from a speech ring as loudly as well crafted words, so make sure the bride’s mum is mentioned and thanked for the job of raising your daughter…even if you don’t really mean every word. Your openness and reconciling attitude will always prove a hit, and very frequently it can be the trigger to melt the ice caps of discontent that froze over many years earlier.
Secondly, if your ex wife has a new partner, and he plays a part in your daughter’s life, then make sure he gets a mention too. On occasion this won’t work as the bride may have specific issues with her mum’s new man, so choose your words carefully. And let’s not forget you! You may also be sharing your life with someone new, and of course if your daughter has a great relationship with her, then she should in the speech as well. However, you shouldn’t pitch the speech from anyone apart from you and the bride’s mother; mentioning new partners in introductory parts of the speech can seem a little misplaced and ultimately cause resentment. I always bring in new partners towards the latter stages.
Of course, new partners can also mean stepchildren, half brothers and sisters, and an extended family that can takes several days to get through. Depending on time and what the relationships are like, you can mention them by name, but if you’re dealing with something that resembles the school register, you probably want to go for a more general acknowledgement.
Families – you can’t choose them, but you can definitely choose how you talk about them, and as people tend to remember wedding speeches for many years, it’s worth getting it right.