So your daughter has announced her upcoming wedding and introduced you to the the person who is about to become your son or daughter-in-law. Congratulations!
Now you have a wedding to plan. It’s important to support your daughter, so it’s time to begin lining up venues and vendors. You also need to start thinking about what to say during the reception, which is one of the most important jobs you have during this time.
Yes, you’ll need to give a father-of-the-bride speech. Whether you want to do it or not, it’s important to show your support by breaking out of your comfort zone and work on your presentation. This is the time to expose your feelings about your daughter, even if you're the kind of guy who keeps your emotion to yourself.
Plan Your Speech
Even if you’re the type of person who enjoys speaking “off the cuff,” it’s always a good idea to plan the speech for your daughter’s wedding. Otherwise, you might ramble or run the risk of saying something that might embarrass her. Remember that once you say something, you can't "unsay" it.
It’s actually a good idea to write the entire speech so you can tweak it and practice it before the event. If you follow tradition, your speech will be the first one after the wedding and at the beginning of the reception, so set a good example for others to follow.
Here are some tips for planning your father-of-the-bride speech:
- Ask your daughter if there is anything she doesn’t want you to mention. This is important because you don’t want to cast a shadow over her special day.
- Jot a list of topics you’d like to cover. If it's long, like over a half dozen, pare it down to keep your speech from lasting too long.
- Go over your list several times before you actually plan your exact words to make sure it is all relevant and appropriate.
- After you’ve listed all the topics you want to address, go ahead and write your speech. Try to limit your presentation to approximately five to 10 minutes, or you’ll lose everyone’s interest. It's nice to add a bit of tasteful humor to your speech so your audience doesn’t start yawning.
Basic Father-of-the-Bride Speech
Be familiar with your entire speech and know what all you want to cover. Even if you don’t use the words you’ve written verbatim, you’ll at least have something to fall back on. If you choose not to write it all out, at least have an outline to jog your memory.
Bring your speech or outline to the wedding and keep it handy as you present it. Even if you’ve practiced dozens of times, you don’t want to draw a blank. Just having it there can calm your nerves and keep you on track.
Here are some basic things you should cover in your speech:
- Introduce yourself. It’s okay to make a joke, as long as it’s clean and appropriate for everyone at the wedding to hear.
- Now it’s time to bring up your daughter and mention how you are proud of the woman she’s become. You can inject humor here as well, but don’t embarrass her. If you’re not sure about something ask her during the planning stages. It’s fine to toss out a few funny quips, such as, “Now I get my bathroom back.” Something as innocuous as that will get a few chuckles without crossing the line of humiliation.
- Talk about the good qualities of her character, such as her inner strength, compassion, or seeing all sides in a situation.
- Bring up one or two specific memories of things she did to make you a proud pop. There is nothing wrong with expressing emotion, but don’t let it get the best of you.
- Welcome your new son or daughter-in-law to the family. Mention something specific about him or her, such as the first time you met, the moment when you knew your daughter was in love, or how happy he or she has made her. Finish this part by showing support for their union.
- Welcome your daughter's partner's family and mention something about the two families becoming one. Say something pleasant to put them at ease.
- Offer some advice on how to have a happy marriage. You may crack a joke here because you might need some levity after the emotional part of your speech. Something like, “When she’s right and you’re wrong, admit it. But when you’re right and she’s wrong, don’t say a word,” will get some laughs and maybe a few amused eye rolls.
- Offer a toast to celebrate the newlyweds.
- Introduce the next speaker—either the maid of honor or the best man.
What Not to Say
As the father of the bride, you know more about your daughter than most people at the wedding. And some of what you know isn’t appropriate to say at this time. You also don’t want to dampen the joyful spirits of the guests, so keep it positive.
Here are some things the father of the bride should avoid saying or doing:
- Although you should have your notes with you, don’t read them word for word. Use them to stay on track.
- Don’t mention anything about the cost of the wedding. People know how expensive weddings are without having to be told, and bringing it up may make some people feel awkward or guilty.
- Don’t bring up any of the bride’s former boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives, fiancés, or other past romantic relationships.
- Avoid any mention of politics because this may create tension at a time of celebration.
- Don’t mumble. Speak clearly and loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear you.
- Don’t say anything overtly negative about the bride or her partner. While it’s fine to have some humor, keep it tame and not mean-spirited.
- Although a show of emotion is expected, try to keep from sobbing. This is supposed to be a happy time, and it's much harder for a sobbing father of the bride to get a speech out.
- Don’t make your speech too long. There may be other people who have something to say, and you don’t want to bore people who are there to celebrate and have a good time.
Remember Your Place
As the father of the bride, it’s your place to show support for the bride. Your speech should reflect that. Remember that this is her special day, and while you may have contributed financially—or paid for the whole thing—it’s still all about her and her partner.