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
As you’re in pole position of all the speakers it’s also a speech that demands acknowledgements, thanks, tributes and welcomes, and 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.
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!
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. The first thing you need to do is introduce yourself – use your name and what relationship you are to the bride. Very often, due to family circumstance, it’s an uncle, brother or sister making this speech, so set that out at the beginning, and simple is great. 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. Instead just use the word ‘everyone’.
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.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, 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.
As mentioned above comedy plays a big part in the father of the bride speech but you need to make sure it’s genuinely funny and well delivered. I like to put something funny in just after the introduction to lighten the atmosphere and let everyone relax, so you’re first joke has to be a good one, because if it falls flat it could be the longest 10 minutes of your life.
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 your two families.
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.
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. 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. 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. You also need to check if you’re mentioning the groom’s relatives that he’s happy for you to take on that role.
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.
You should welcome the groom’s family and friends, and if it feels appropriate make a specific welcome to his parents, if there are divorces to consider than make sure everyone gets a fair mention.
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. Look for the similarities and differences in your families, where you come from, accents…anything, and the comedy will be pretty obvious.
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!
The trick to writing a really entertaining speech is to make the whole thing a story, rather than dragging the audience through endless stories. Recounting anecdotes is really hard to do because they require a lot of detail and all the time you’re getting to the punchline without making them laugh can prove really counterproductive. Of course, this can all pay off if you have a killer punchline, but all too frequently they aren’t that ‘killer’ and require you to have been there.
Instead take out the good bits from the stories and condense them, even embellish slightly into one neat burst of comedy…
1. Now as he embarked on adult life Nick was to learn the hard way just what it is to be a man, and the number one rule is: if you are going to offer to buy the drinks in happy hour, it’s best not to drop the entire lot down yourself as you get back to the table thus meaning you have to go and buy it all again just after happy hour’s finished. Also you should only ever do a runner from a restaurant via the roof if you HAVEN’T actually paid the bill. Leaving Prezzo’s this way one evening after settling up and leaving a good tip, still doesn’t make any sense to anyone.
2. Anyway when Mark wasn’t failing to hit the top spot in the classroom he was also finding it difficult to do that on the sports field as well. However, with a modest talent and even less interest, he did the only sensible thing to do: saved up all his skill and enthusiasm for one split second of genius. Quite how he managed to catch the impossible cricket ball as it left our sports master’s bat, is still completely unknown. But with, uncharacteristic razor sharp reactions and gazelle like agility, he did just that, and won his side the match. Literally seconds after this Mark retired from all forms of competitive sport – at the very top of his game.
3. There weren’t many highlights to being on minimum wage in the frozen section of nobody’s favourite supermarket, in fact if I remember rightly, there was only one. Nick had been asked to use his initiative to dispose of a 2 litre tub of chocolate ice cream – no big deal you might think. Well, Nick decides to take it into the staff toilets and empty it into the loo. Ladies and gentlemen, a big tub of melting chocolate ice cream can make a big impression when poured into a toilet and can only ever give the next person in there the wrong idea. And it did. From then on half the people thought he had dodgy guts the rest thought he ate on the toilet. Both of which, are in fact, true.
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.
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. Find some fun with his character traits and how they will come in useful looking after your daughter.
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. Don’t be tempted to take pot shots or completely omit him as this will come back to bite you.
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. 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.
The key here is to try not to repeat yourself and be as original and heartfelt as you like. 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!
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.
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.
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.
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. 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. You need no detail here just a comedic overview is fine if you think that will work for your daughter’s sensibilities.
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 form fathers asking why I haven’t included the bridesmaids etc. this bis 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!