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The father of the bride speech guide

10 minutes you’ll remember forever

This is a big speech. It’s not just that you’re up first, but this marks a very definite and emotional line in the sand, where your daughter is moving on to begin a new life and start her own family. Sure, she may have left home some years ago, but the father of the bride speech realises that transition and makes the passing of years and distant memories something that you need to grapple with.

  • You’re in pole position of all the speakers so it’s a speech that demands acknowledgements, thanks, tributes and welcomes.

  • You need to do all of this with a huge dollop of creativity, fun, celebration and entertainment, otherwise it’s just going to be one long list of names and thanks.

  • It’s also an emotional speech in parts, and so it should be, but the more profound bits need to be balanced with some genuine funny thoughts and observations to give it proper balance.

  • If you can make people laugh they’ll love you for it and listen to everything you’ve got to say, so sprinkle that humour right the way throughout the speech.

How to write a great father of the bride speech

Here is a short video with my thoughts and ideas on writing a great best man speech. I’ve expanded on those ideas below to give as much advice, hints and tips on writing a really great speech. Enjoy!

Opening Lines

It may seem obvious, but as you’re the first one up you need to do the welcoming. In fact, you should really be the only one that welcomes, otherwise it’s all going to get a little repetitive.

  1. The first thing you need to do is introduce yourself – use your name and what relationship you are to the bride. This may sound strange but sometimes it’s stepfathers, brothers, uncles or cousins making this speech.
  2. Also, you need to consider the use of the words ‘ladies and gentlemen’. Some people find this too formal, and I never use it when writing US or Australian speeches, as they tend to have a more relaxed wedding culture, and I rarely use it in UK speeches. Instead just use the word ‘everyone’.
  3. Family circumstance needs to be considered at this point too, because you should be making this on behalf of your wife as well. If you’re divorced then keep it simple and just address on behalf of her family instead.

EXAMPLE:

Good afternoon everyone, my name is Chris, I’m Lucy’s stepfather, and on behalf of my wife Sandra and I, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all here today.

Structure

Whilst the star of the show is undoubtedly your daughter, the speech is actually a mega mix of all sorts of people who are, and have been, important in her life. That’s why the structure needs some careful thought.

  1. First section is the welcome, and that needs to be as punchy as possible. If you can think of something funny to say after this either about your daughter, the venue, etc, then so much the better. 
  2. That welcome should then be followed by a specific welcome to the groom’s parents, and an introduction to the groom. After this you can add in a toast to those no longer with us, if that’s appropriate to your situation.
  3. The main bulk of the structure is then about your daughter. Here you want to take us along a logical, but fun pathway through her life to date. Weave in memories and stories as succinctly as possible, and acknowledge her achievements as subtly as you can. This doesn’t have to mean exam results and a glittering career, a lot of people make their mark in many other ways, and that needs to be included. 
  4. That should then bring you neatly to her meeting her husband, and then you can talk about him, including when you first met, what’s he’s like as a person, and how happy you are he’s now part of the family. 
  5. Following this you can bring in your wife and acknowledge everything she has done in raising your daughter to be the woman she is. If you’re divorced, then still do this, but choose your words carefully.
  6. Then summarise what your daughter means to you, and then it’s on to the final toast, and you’re done.

Jokes

As mentioned above comedy plays a big part in this speech but you need to make sure it’s genuinely funny, warm an inclusive. The role that the humour plays cannot be overstated enough – it gives the speech balance, and without it, it would become one big wave of emotion, and that would be pretty tough to get through. With genuinely funny lines, observations and memories sprinkled throughout the speech, you can then deliver those more meaningful lines much more easily.

  1. I like to put something funny in just after the introduction to lighten the atmosphere and let everyone relax, so your first joke has to be a good one, because if it falls flat it could be the longest 10 minutes of your life.
  2. Stories and memories should be boiled down to their funniest essence, you don’t need to take everyone through countless anecdotes, just get to the good stuff as quickly as possible.
  3. The funny parts as mentioned should be inclusive – in other words everyone should be able to laugh along with them – there should be anything private of confusing in those stories.
  4. You should avoid any of the scripted ice breaker type gags as they’re never funny enough and very worn out, instead think of something funny that directly relates either to the location, your daughter, your new son in law, or the coming together of the two families.

EXAMPLE:

This is a truly special occasion in our family’s history, not just because the celebration of marriage, but also because this means her intimate relationship with my credit card, is now very much at and end.

absent friends

Very frequently the father of the bride takes this toast, as it frees up more room in the groom speech which enjoys the lion’s share of the formalities. 

  1. This should be a very simple tribute to those no longer with us, and can also encapsulate those who cannot make it for less fatal reasons. 
  2. If there are key figures who have passed away then you should go into some detail, if there are lots of family members who have passed away you should make it a general toast and avoid reading out a list of names. 
  3. You also need to check if you’re mentioning the groom’s relatives that he’s happy for you to take on that role.

EXAMPLE:

It is with great sadness that there are some of our friends and family who are not here to celebrate with us today. I know they would have been so proud, are always in our thoughts and are much missed.

Groom's Family

You should welcome the groom’s family and friends, and if it feels appropriate make a specific welcome to his parents.

  1. If there are divorces to consider than make sure everyone gets a fair mention.
  2. If they’ve come from just around the corner or from another continent, then have some fun with the situation, bringing both sides together and joining in the fun makes for a much better speech. 
  3. Look for the similarities and differences in your families, where you come from, accents…anything, and the comedy will be pretty obvious.
  4. If you’ve come from two different parts of the country, or indeed world, think of anything which connects those two places. For instance, what connects Bristol and Birmingham? The M5 motorway. There’s comedy gold in there somewhere!

Your Daughter

It’s no easy task to talk about exactly what a person means to you, in such an emotionally charged atmosphere, and the father of the bride speech isn’t simply an opportunity to say your daughter looks beautiful. In order for your speech to be a great success, you need to paint a picture of the person she was, the person she is, and what those intervening years have involved.

  1. This is a celebration of her life thus far, so we want to know what were her hopes and dreams when she was younger? What was her character like, and has she continued to be like that? 
  2. Pepper this timeline with funny memories and observations, this shouldn’t sound like a CV in spoken form, so the entertainment factor is crucial. What you’re really looking for are stories that indicate just how much, or just how little, her character has changed.
  3. It’s also a really good idea to talk about her passions when she was growing up, because there’s plenty of opportunity to have some fun, especially with topics such as The Spice Girls and One Direction – just how similar is her husband to Harry Styles, and has she kept flying the flag for girl power?
  4. Talking about how successful your daughter has been is always a tricky area – you need to salute her achievements, but at the same time you don’t want it to look like you’re showing off. 
  5. Definitely pay tribute to academic achievements such as degrees, but always resist the urge to include grades, it can all get a bit too much. 
  6. If school and academia wasn’t your daughter’s thing, then emphasise just how great she is at her job, and how much she loves it. Maybe she’s already a parent? Then, that gives ample opportunity to talk about what a caring and devoted mum she is. There’s always something, you just have to be subtle in the way that you phrase it.

Your Son in Law

This part is really determined by the strength of the relationship that you share with him. There are many fathers of the bride who have perfectly great friendships with the groom, and so you can have a little fun here. On the other hand, there are plenty who don’t, so in that case, you need to tread carefully.

  1. Only talk very briefly about how they met, because that is one of the key areas for the groom speech and the last thing you want is to use his material and then leave gaping holes in his speech.
  2. If you like your son in law, then this easily writes itself. Talk about your first meeting, what your initial thoughts were and how good he is for your daughter. 
  3. Find some fun with his character traits and how they will come in useful looking after your daughter.
  4. However, some dads find themselves in the tricky position of not being that enamoured with the latest addition to the family, and in that case just stretch the truth a bit, say how happy you are for your daughter and keep it short. 
  5. Don’t be tempted to take pot shots or completely omit him as this will come back to bite you.

Wife/Partner

The speech should always be given on behalf of you and your wife, this is a joint enterprise and to forget her role in it, would be a terrible mistake.

  1. At the start of the speech remember to state that it’s on behalf of you and your wife.
  2. If you’re divorced then I tend to drop the ‘on behalf of’ line and go straight to the welcome to avoid any issues.
  3. You need a dedicated section that details just what your wife means to your daughter, and what an incredible job she’s done as a mum.
  4. If you’re divorced still include a tribute to your former wife, no matter how hard this may prove!
  5. A new partner should only be included if the relationship with your daughter is fully functioning!

Closing lines

This should be the last part of the speech where you summarise what a truly special person she is and what a privilege it’s been to be part of her life. When you’re finished, this is the part that the guests will remember, so it needs to be as meaningful, moving and powerful as possible. Originality is vital – avoid all wedding clichés and quotes, and say it your way.

  1. Bring together all the strands that you’ve covered in the rest of the speech and try to frame exactly what your daughter means to you and everyone else. Dispense with the usual descriptive clichés of ‘amazing’ and ‘special’. Think about the words that work for your daughter.
  2. The key here is to try not to repeat yourself and be as original and heartfelt as you like. If you feel as though you’re saying the same thing twice, combine those thoughts and condense the content. 
  3. I always avoid giving out marriage advice because as best in this day and age it’s slightly dated and at worst it can come across as slightly misplaced…especially if you’re divorced!...although that can also be quite funny too, under the right circumstances.

Other things to consider


Divorce

Divorce plays a part in many of the father of the bride speeches I write, and handling it in just the right way can not only make it go smoothly on the day, but also prevent any lingering resentment.

  1. It really all depends on what your relationship with your daughter’s mother is like. If you’re on good terms, then it’s perfectly simple: present the speech from yourself, but make sure she gets a good inclusion and plenty of praise for everything she’s done. 
  2. If you’re on more shaky ground with your former wife, then the words you choose are key, but whatever you do, don’t omit her completely. It will be a stark omission on the day, and not only will this cause your daughter stress on the day, but it will also prove ample excuse for discourse in the future. In this instance, I usually say what a great job her mother has done and leave it at that.

Length

The length is absolutely critical to the success of the father of the bride speech, and the dads normally fall into two camps: those who want to speak for about 3 days, and those who want to speak for about 30 seconds.

Things to remember: 

  1. You need to resist the urge to talk endlessly, all the best speeches do what they have to do in the most efficient way, so you should be looking at a talking time of around 7 minutes or so.
  2. Of course, you can have it shorter but you really have to ensure that everyone is included, and that it’s as entertaining as possible, otherwise it’s just going to be a procession of names and facts
  3. You are the first one up. If you start with a 20 minute epic, you’ve just made the groom and the best man’s job, much harder to land. By the time the best man gets up and hour could have passed since you started, and this needs to be avoided at all costs.

Former Boyfriends

Unlike the Best Man, there is scope to have a little fun here, trading off the fact that fathers and potential suitors often have a fairly tricky relationship. Obviously, you’re not going into granular detail, and avoiding any significant relationships. This is just a bit of fun, if it works for your situation.

  1. If there were any particularly colourful characters, you can allude to them, but never by name, and suggest what a narrow escape it’s been that she’s not marrying the juggler acrobat with a thing about processed meat. 
  2. You need no detail here just a comedic overview is fine if you think that will work for your daughter’s sensibilities.

Toasts

You should really only have one toast to make and that at the end to the happy couple. In some cases, the groom will give the absent friends toast to you, and that’s why I’ve included it here, however, don’t be tempted to go any further.

I frequently receive responses from fathers asking why I haven’t included the bridesmaids etc. this is not your job. Please don’t mention how lovely they look because it’s simply using up words for more important things or even worse making you speech unbearably long. The groom takes care of the official helpers, so don’t steal his thunder!

Things to Avoid

All wedding speeches are potential minefields, and simmering family tensions, divorce and indifferent relationships with the groom can make the father of the bride speech, trickier than most. However, there are a few things you can do to mitigate impending disaster.

  1. Avoid talking about yourself – this is the number one classic howler for all wedding speeches. So many people see these speeches as a vehicle for self-aggrandisement, and it’s never a good look. 
  2. Remember it’s all about your daughter – there are many fathers who get so carried away with scripted gags and themselves, that they quite forget to talk about their daughter. Don’t be that person.
  3. Don’t bother with any props and/or photos from your daughter’s childhood during the speech. These are only ever a distraction, and nothing beats a well delivered, efficient speech. To make those embarrassing photos work best, place them around the seating plan, and then you can refer to them in the speech.

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