Dads, it’s the article you’ve been waiting for! Your little girl is getting married and, as tradition dictates, she’ll be looking to you at the reception to give a Father of the Bride speech worthy of your love for her and which will contribute to the overall success of her big day. So, no pressure.
We know it’s hard. You’ll inevitably feel a lot of emotions after giving your daughter away at the altar. And, if you’re not au fait with public speaking, it’s probably difficult for you to imagine what it will feel like to get up and have to speak in front of a room full of people.
Expert advice on how to put together a loving and funny (and not embarrassing) Father of the Bride speech
In the traditional line-up of wedding speeches, yours will come first and will be the warm-up for the others. Therefore, it’s important you help your fellow speech givers.
To help you write the perfect Father of the Bride speech, we’ve compiled a helpful list of things to mention. We’ve spoken to some speechwriting pros to give you expert advice to remember when toasting your daughter and new son-in-law.
Most people in the room may know who you are, especially if you walked the bride down the aisle. Therefore, don’t make your introduction too robotic. If you say something like, “Hi, everyone, I’m Robert, and I’m Anna’s dad,” you will sound like you’re in an AA meeting. Make it conversational and be friendly.
Don’t start with a joke, though, says Robin of The Wedding Speech Guru:
“The first line needs to be said with confidence and it could be anything, but I advise people against coming up with a gag is because it devalues the rest of the speech. For a Father of the Bride speech to be successful, it needs to be authentic.”
This will likely be done by all the speakers after you, but that shouldn’t stop you from saying it as well. In fact, especially if you and the bride’s mother are the hosts, yours might be the most important welcome.
It’s important to your daughter that everyone in attendance is there, and it should be to you as well! So take a brief moment to welcome them and to thank them for coming along. Many Fathers of the Bride thank those from furthest afield, for example guests who have flown in from Australia. Decide how you want to welcome everyone.
Today is about her, and your speech should be about her, too. Don’t be afraid to roast her (a little bit), especially if she made you pay for the wedding! But, believe it or not, no one wants to hear stories about her running around naked as a kid. There’s a fine line between making light fun of her and embarrassing her.
“I’ve seen it before,” says Adam of Adaptable Speechwriting, “and what a dad may find funny can sometimes rub people up the wrong way and is not worth the risk.” Robin agrees, and even goes on to say that, “Anything that might embarrass her is strictly off-limits.”
Make gentle jabs at her teenage years or her poor taste in music when she was younger. But, if there’s one thing that all of the speechwriters we interviewed agree on, it’s this: do not mention ex-boyfriends.
Your Father of the Bride speech is the ideal moment to formally welcome your daughter’s new husband to the family. And, perhaps more importantly, it’s the time to put aside any negative feelings you may have about him.
If you two have a good relationship, some light joking here may be appropriate. If not, then take advice from Eddie of Custom Speechwriting. “Wedding toasts should be truthful but they don’t need to tell all of the truth,” Eddie says. “The Father of the Bride in this situation should focus on the positive aspects of the new son-in-law; if that’s challenging, he should ask his daughter what she sees in him and what he does to make her happy. Use those reasons to talk about why they will be a great couple.”
Your daughter has just married this man, therefore let bygones be bygones and accept he is part of your family.
The bride’s mother and your new in-laws
Whether or not you and the Mother of the Bride are still together, taking the time to acknowledge her and the hand she had in raising your daughter is gracious and goes a long way. You may also wish to thank her for the part she played in organising the wedding.
When it comes to acknowledging the groom’s parents, think short and sweet, especially if you don’t know them very well. “Sometimes it’s just best to acknowledge the fact they don’t know each other too well, it can also be an opportunity to say something warming towards them and get some form of a relationship going,” says Adam (Adaptable Speechwriting). Use this as an opportunity to start building bridges.
Wisdom for the newlyweds
As you are typically the oldest of the traditional speakers, it’s up to you to impart some wisdom and marital advice. This could be a good opportunity for a joke at the expense of your other half (if you’re confident it’ll go down well). But, above all, keep it appropriate!
Moreover, remember not to get too intense. This isn’t The Godfather and you’re not Don Corleone.
Finish up with a toast to the newlyweds and to their happiness. Keep it simple and loving. This should be the easiest part of your Father of the Bride speech! Be genuine.
Yours is the first of the speeches, so, as important as your speech is, keep it short. The guests will know that yours is just the first speech of several so might get fidgety. This is especially true if speeches come before the wedding breakfast! Brevity is bound to earn you praise, so try to stick to around 5-7 minutes. Time yourself beforehand just to make sure.
You’re not a stand-up comedian
And even if you are, this isn’t the time for a set. Cracking jokes is a great way to loosen up your audience and to put everyone in a good mood, but don’t let that pressure you into being funny. Nobody wants to hear a string of bad dad jokes.
Eddie from Custom Speechwriting adds: “Light-hearted jokes are fine and are welcome in wedding toasts… However, keep in mind that everyone in your audience is an amateur videographer with the aid of their smartphones. Make sure that you are willing to have anything you say recorded and uploaded to YouTube for the near eternity of the internet.”
What to do if you get emotional
We understand that the day will take its toll on you emotionally. However, blubbing your way through your speech might make your daughter worry that she’s made a mistake! Instead, we recommend that you practice your speech.
Robin (The Wedding Speech Guru) is in firm agreement here: “Make sure you say your speech out loud 10-15 times,” he advises. “Just reading it through isn’t good enough. Create prompt cards or print the speech, but in a way that’s visually memorable so if you’ve gone through it a lot, you should know it almost by heart and you can just glance at it and remember it.”
This isn’t about you
Your daughter and her new husband are the stars of the show today. Make your Father of the Bride speech about them; praise them, make little jabs at them, and wish them well. Do those things and you can’t go too wrong.
And if you get nervous…
“My absolute number one rule is breathing techniques,” says Adam (Adaptable Speechwriting). “Take a deep breath between points…It feels about four times as long when you’re stood there than what the audience will feel so take your time it won’t be noticed.”
“Make sure you have a glass of champagne to toast with and a glass of water in front of you,” Robin (The Wedding Speech Guru) advises nervous speakers. “In advance of the speech, make sure you talk to as many guests as possible…It means that the people you’re talking to have a vested interest in the success of your speech and it’s much less scary if you’re looking out at faces you know. Lastly, smile!”
Finally, if you remember nothing else, try to at least remember your last line. Remembering your intended last line will stop you from awkwardly tailing off and works as a mental chequered flag that you’ll be able to jump to in case you really blank. It’s a handy tip that all professional speakers use.