A lifetime's Work in One Speech

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.

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Opening Lines Jokes Absent Friends Groom's Family The Bride Son in Law Mother of Bride Closing Lines Length Delivery Toasts

How to Write a Great Father of the Bride Speech

In this short video I’ve summarised my thoughts on writing a great Father of the Bride Speech. I’ve expanded on those thoughts and ideas on this page, as well as included a lot of hints tips and advice.

STRUCTURE

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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. 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.

EXAMPLE:

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.

Jokes

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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.

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 Freinds

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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.

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.

The Groom's Family

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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 Bride

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Yes, she is the star of the show and the centre of this speech, so now you finally get the opportunity to talk about your daughter. This needs to be handled in just the right way: too little on her and it’s going to look odd, too much emphasis on accomplishments and it’s going to grate. You should celebrate the amazing person your daughter is in the mist subtle, understated and fun way. Don’t be tempted to list out her A levels results, or go into detail about her promotions at work; most people will know how successful she is, and even if they don’t, it’s not going to improve the speech. We want to know what she’s like as a person, what she was like as a child, and the fun you’ve had together.

Start at the beginning and take us through her progression from pigtails to Price Waterhouse. What was her character like when she was little? How much has it changed? And what fun can you have with those comparisons? This is an ideal opportunity to talk about siblings, relatives and friends, and the part they’ve played in life so far.

Education, work, driving tests and boyfriends can all be areas where her character, triumphs and disasters can all be talked about for comic affect.  Obviously with boyfriends you don’t go into detail, it’s really saying that her brand new husband is the first one who didn’t exclusively breathe through his mouth, and also knew how to use cutlery.

Holidays are also an area ripe for stories and bringing back some tear jerking memories, and should be exploited as much as possible. Everyone loves to think of the bride as a 4 year old splashing though rock pools and getting excited about Disneyland.

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Your Son in Law

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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.

Wife/Partner

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This is where it can get a little tricky if there any ex wives and new partners to throw into the mix. If you’re still happily married to the mother of your daughter then happy days! Just say what a great mum she’s been and what a great wife as well. If you’re divorced always say what a great mum she’s been to your daughter, you don’t have to go into detail but no matter how difficult the family set up, always include her. If you have a new partner then you’ll have to make the call whether she’s sufficiently part of your daughter’s life to warrant an inclusion, and that goes for your ex wife’s new partner.

Closing lines

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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!

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Other Things to Consider

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. 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.

Delivery

Delivery is key to achieving a successful speech. Here’s a short video on the three main methods and which one you should really choose.

Ex Boyfreinds

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.

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 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!