Expert advice on how to put together a loving and funny (and not embarrassing) Father of the Bride speech
Okay dads, this one’s for you. 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.
We know it’s hard. You’ll inevitably be feeling a lot of emotions and 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 after having given your daughter away at the altar.
Photo by Penny Young
But it’s also important for you to remember that, in the traditional line-up of wedding speeches, yours will come last and will be the speech that leaves a lasting impression on everyone there, so try to make sure it’s for all the right reasons!
To help you write the perfect Father of the Bride speech, we’ve compiled a list of things to mention and to bear in mind when toasting your daughter and your new son-in-law, and we’ve spoken to some speechwriting pros to give you expert advice.
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What to Mention
…As non-robotically as possible. Saying something like, “Hi, everyone, I’m Robert, and I’m Anna’s dad,” will make you sound like you’re in an AA meeting. Make it conversational and friendly, especially as most of the guests will probably know who you are anyway. After all, you were the guy who walked the bride down the aisle.
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 FOB speech to be successful, it needs to be authentic.”
Start by welcoming everyone
This has probably been done by the Best Man and the Groom before you (or at least it should have been), but don’t hesitate to re-iterate the sentiment, especially if you and the bride’s mother are the hosts.
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.
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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.
Make gentle jabs at her teenage years or her poor taste in music when she was younger, sure. But if there’s one thing that all of the speechwriters I interviewed agree on, it’s this: Do. Not. Mention. Ex. Boyfriends.
“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.”
So there you have it, dads. Ignore these pointers at your own risk.
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Your Father of the Bride speech is the opportune moment to formally welcome your daughter’s new husband to the family, and, perhaps more importantly, 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.”
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 here to acknowledge her and the hand she had in raising your daughter is gracious and will go a long way.
You may also wish to thank her for the part she played in organising the wedding – even if you’re the one who paid for it. You can be sure that she had to do a lot more planning and deal with a lot more of your precious daughter’s Bridezilla moments than you had to!
When it comes to acknowledging the Groom’s parents, short and sweet will do the trick, especially if you don’t know them that well. In which case,
“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 between you.
Photo by Paul Keppel
Wisdom for the newlyweds
As the oldest of the three traditional speakers, it’ll be 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 that it will go down well), but keep it appropriate!
According to Kye of Speech Builder,
“When it comes to advice all couples will walk their own road. There are no shortcuts and newlyweds will find their own way. The best thing you can do is explain the joy of that journey and add a little levity.”
Stuck for how to do that? The Wedding Speech Builder has an online tool to help you out.
Finally, 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!
Photo by Nicola Jane
Important Things to Remember
Yours is the last of the speeches, so, as important as your speech is, keep in mind that the guests will be getting fidgety, especially 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
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…And even on the off-chance that 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. A string of bad ‘dad’ jokes doth not a Father of the Bride speech make.
Eddie from Custom Speechwriting adds:
“Light-hearted jokes are fine and are welcome in wedding toasts… However, just keep in mind that everyone in your audience is an amateur videographer with the aid of their smart phones. 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
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“It can be tough; it is a very emotional day, especially for a father seeing his little girl become a woman with a family of her own,” says Kye on emotional dads.
“But this isn’t Les Miserables and you haven’t just dreamed a dream. This is one occasion when a little stiff upper lip is required. One simple tip is to be really familiar with your speech. Practise, practise, practise.”
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 notes or the printed speech, but in a way that it’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; praising them, making little jabs at them, and wishing them well. Do those things, and you can’t go wrong.
Photo by Ryan Goold
And if you get nervous…
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“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 will work as a mental ‘finish line’ that you’ll be able to jump to in case you really blank. It’s a handy tip that all professional speakers use.
Photo by Jenny Hardy