Making the Father-of-the-Bride Speech

Published: 16th November 2006
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Preparing the Toast for your daughter's wedding.

Congratulations. How wonderful to be alive and well at your daughter's wedding. Enjoy!

After following my advice, I promise that you'll make a wonderfully memorable speech. Your guests will leave your daughter's wedding with very positive impressions about her as a woman, and as a future mate for her new husband.

As the father of the Bride your role is simple and clear

In your brief address to your assembled guests, you need to:

? Welcome everyone, and thank them for making the day so special.

? Provide insights into your daughter as a unique and wonderful person.

? Formally welcome your new son-in-law into your family and tell the guests how happy you are about the marriage.

? Propose the Toast to the newly married couple.

That's it. Very simple. Very straightforward but in my experience, rarely done well.

Even within that very simple framework and even adhering strictly to the time limit, you can make a speech that everyone will remember as being wonderful.

To propose a Toast that will be truly memorable, read on

Two unbreakable rules when proposing a Toast.

1. NEVER tell stories that embarrass people

I'll be very cross if I hear that you chose to tell anecdotes that you think are absolutely hilarious, but they're actually stories which make your daughter cringe with embarrassment. I repeat: telling stories that embarrass other people is never funny. Multiply that truth by one hundred when the embarrassing anecdote is told in public. Multiply it to infinity when it's (a) about your daughter and (b) it's at her Wedding.

2. NEVER tell the guests about how wonderful YOU are.

You'd be surprised how often that happens! Well, you won't be surprised if you've been to a few weddings. That's why it's there as a rule. We don't want to hear how generous you are as a person and a father, and we most certainly don't need to hear about your success in business, your own marriage ? except in passing. You are not the centre of the day.

Content of your brief speech

In your Toast you want to tell all the Wedding guests one or two things your daughter has done that make her unique.

Start by recalling and telling your guests how you felt when she was born, how you felt when you first saw her. Then provide only anecdotes about her early childhood which will reflect well and positively on her as a wonderful human being.

No, we're not interested in her High School exam scores. Really. I mean that. We may be interested in her school efforts if she had to overcome some barriers to achieve what she did.

To find examples that will make people really sit up and remember her as a unique human being, ask yourself the following questions:

? Has Monique ever volunteered to help other people?

? Does she stand out as a very generous person?

? What skill(s) does she have that sets her out from the crowd?

Yes, I know that you know her very well, but at an occasion like this, you want to do your best and sometimes it's hard to put into words how wonderful your daughter is. Don't be afraid to ask one or two of her friends to help you out. They'll be thrilled and honored to help.

All of those questions answer the fundamental question: Has the world been made a better place because your daughter is in it?

You know that is definitely the case. So you have to now tell your guests one or two anecdotes which illustrate why you know that to be true. Let them know some of her attributes as a human being that make you proud and happy to know her.

Create a portrait of your daughter's uniqueness through your words

That automatically means that you must make the effort to avoid using cliches. Particularly those that are so cliched, they've become recognised acronyms ? GSOH, great sense of humor. If you absolutely must tell us, that like 99.3% people on the planet, Monique has a GSOH make it real and unique by choosing a very brief anecdote to back it up. Instead of using that most over-used word at Weddings ? ?amazing?, be specific when you tell your guests why you love your daughter's

? Optimistic take on life. Give examples.

? Loyalty to family and friends, and

? Determination to create and follow her own path through life.

That last special quality is a way for fathers to give positive recognition to daughters who, for example, vote Democrat when the rest of their family votes Republican - and vice versa.

Let me repeat: if you must tell us that she's ?an amazing woman?, please qualify what you mean by ?amazing?. I counted 'amazing' 27 times in one speech at the most recent wedding I attended. It described the Bride, Bridesmaids, friends, parents, siblings, guests and even the catering.

?We have the whole Universe. But we must fit it into our words.?

You may quote me on that one! Yes, words are sometimes difficult and inadequate to convey important emotional messages. Please relax. Use your preparation time to find the words to make us realise how Natalie has changed your life and your wife's life for the better. Talk to your wife/partner (ex-wife/ex/partner) about that, and come up together with your stories.

Side note: divorced, separated or deceased parents

If you're divorced or separated from her mother and her mother is present, please acknowledge that her mother has been a wonderful parent. Your daughter's wedding is a time for recognizing what was and is, great about her mother ? regardless of your partnership breakdown. If Death came too soon and wrapped her mother in her cloak to take her far from us all, please use your judgment and emotional readiness to decide whether or not to mention your deceased wife/partner. Ask your daughter beforehand if she wants her mother's name mentioned.

Format of the Toast

1. Open with a welcome and vote of thanks to all the guests

Every person at the Wedding is a special guest and you need to convey that to them, by thanking them. A sincerely spoken, Ladies and gentlemen, Or Men, women and children, (choose whichever you feel more comfortable saying). It's my pleasure, and a great privilege to welcome each and every one of you here this evening. OR It is with great pleasure and an even greater sense of parental pride that I welcome you all here this evening/afternoon.

We are here to celebrate the marriage between my (eldest/only/youngest/second) daughter Monique, and Michael ___. We're doing that by sharing with Monique and Michael their first meal together as husband and wife.

Your presence here has made our celebration of Monique and Michael's marriage an event we'll never forget. So thank you one and all for being here. A very special thank you to all those who traveled from interstate or overseas to be with us?.

2. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to mention special guests

Keep the list of those special guests to four or five at the maximum. Preferably one or two. It's always better if those special guests have something in common which all guests will want to acknowledge and to celebrate. For example, if your grandmother is there, then obviously Monique's great grandmother is in attendance. No one will be offended that you singled her out for special attention.

Your boss does not get a mention ? except if s/he happens to be the King of the country, the Governor of the State or the President.

Look, even then. Let's forget your boss. At a Wedding, the real focus is on the Bride and Groom. As you'll see in the sample speech, mentioning special members of the family keeps the focus on the happy couple. If you mention your boss, no matter how important s/he is, why not their spouse and children? If you mention the local District Attorney, why not?you've got the picture. Oh alright. If the Queen/President/Prime Minister is in attendance, please show due courtesy.

General rule of thumb: only single out a person for special mention if they're relevant to the Bride and Groom.

3. Introduce your Toast simply and directly

Before proposing the Toast to Monique and Michael's future health and happiness, I want to say a few words about Monique. Valerie (her mother to whom you may or may not still be married) and I have spent some time lately discussing some of the many wonderful ways that Monique has enriched our lives, and I'll share just a couple of those memories with you.

Side note: Calming your butterflies

If you're not used to making speeches in public, it's more than natural and very normal, that you'll be a bit apprehensive. Frankly, you may even be terrified. Even if you're normally the most confident person on Earth. I recommend that you consider investing in my downloadable program Public Speaking Success e-Program: at the extremely long web address of In my program, there's an entire section dedicated exclusively to proven ways to overcome nervousness, and to get those butterflies flying in formation.

4. Learn your anecdote(s) by heart but bring your notes to the Big Day

In my e-program, I recommend that everyone should know their opening lines for any presentation by heart. For your presentation which should be five minutes at the most, make sure that you also know your anecdotes by heart.

As to the remainder of your brief speech, write your talk out in full, including the introduction and even the names of your new in-laws. Read out that written version of your complete speech and be absolutely ruthless with timing. If you're running close to ten minutes when you read out your speech at rehearsal, cut it back to four minutes. I know I said that you can have five minutes but on the day of the Wedding, you'll have reduced your complete speech to useable notes. You will not be reading your speech. Absolutely not. You'll be using your notes only as a quick reference, a quick reminder, so it's important for you to feel confident that you know your anecdotes well and that they're well-timed. On the Big Day, your notes will be a reminder to you, so in effect, you'll be speaking ad lib, or looking as if it's all off the cuff. In those circumstances, you're sure to embellish. You'll definitely pause to listen to the laughter, and you'll pause to accept the applause. Ten minutes at practice means at least twelve minutes at the event.

That is not acceptable behaviour. Only joking. Well, a little bit.

But if you aim to be as brief as possible, that is no more than five minutes, I'm hoping you'll be as brief as your guests want you to be. Or as Dorothy Sarnoff the great keynote speaker, writer and speech Coach to US Presidents, put it:

?Make sure you've finished speaking before your audience has finished listening?.

Please remember: your guests are not there to listen to speeches.

Sample Wedding Toast with one main anecdote

I'm providing the following to give you a concrete idea about how to frame a story so that it is concise and comprehensive, whilst still fulfilling its function: that of conveying a positive and unique insight into your daughter.

Valerie reminded me of a time when she and Monique were in our front garden in Maine. Monique would have been maybe two or three at the time. (Sets clear timeframe and context). Valerie had just laid some snail bait around her newly planted flowers and she thought she'd better warn Monique not to touch the little green pellets. She explained as best she could without going over the top that the green pellets were not for people to eat. (Change your tone to capture the fact that this was spoken to a little child) ?They're not for you to eat. They're poison to kill the snails who'll come along and eat all Mommy's/Mummy's flowers?.

Valerie said that she recalls walking towards the front of the house while Monique stood near the floor bed obviously deep in thought. Just before Valerie reached the front steps, Monique called out: ?Mummy/Mommy?. ?Yes, darling? replied Valerie never anticipating what she was going to hear from such a young child: (Creates a sense of anticipation for the punchline).

?Mummy/Mommy, do you think it might be good to plant more flowers? Then the snails don't have to be deaded and we can still have lots of flowers in the garden??

Needless to say, Valerie was flabbergasted. She had to admit that that was a particularly unusual but intelligent suggestion. When she told me that story again, I recalled it too because of course we talked about that evening ? as we used to??what did the kids get up to today?? I remember that we were both equally struck by the fact that we seemed to be learning from the child rather than the other way around. As I recall, we took Monique's advice because as has been the case so many times since, it was truly inspirational.

I've chosen to tell you that anecdote because for me and for her mother it captures so much of the person Monique is, and always has been. As you know, she's a Civil Engineer by profession so we can assume that she thinks rationally and within accepted frameworks. But Monique is and has always been someone who can think laterally. I think the jargon term might be ? outside the envelope. More than that, so much of her thinking is inspired by her profound generosity of spirit and her genuine concern for the welfare of other living things. Most of you know for instance that Monique has been a vegetarian for most of her life. Today's wedding breakfast however caters for people ? her family and friends who are not vegetarian. And that's the greatest gift that Michael has won in gaining Monique as his wife. She is one of the most tolerant and non-judgmental people I've ever known. If you need more evidence of that let me tell you that she never upbraids me for being a staunch and loyal Republican, although as we all know Monique supports the other team.

I can't take full credit for the wonderful person she has become today. Although she definitely has my wicked sense of humor, she has her mother's brains and beauty. (particularly nice to say, if you're divorced).

Mention of special guests linked back to Bride

There are three very special people here today without whom Monique would not be the person she is. I am of course referring to Valerie's mother Dot, and to my mother Lily. Monique's two grandmothers with whom she has spent many, many weekends. The other very special influence on Monique is Dot's mother, Valerie's grandmother, and Monique's great-grandmother, Elizabeth Durrell who is probably better known to you all in her capacity as one of our most famous Architects.

This next part of your Toast is optional.

So before I propose the Toast to Monique and Michael may I ask you to be upstanding to toast the health of Elizabeth Durrell, Dot Copeland and Lily Brady without whom none of this would have been possible.

5. Make a positive welcoming reference to the Groom and his family

Valerie and I are thrilled to welcome Michael into our family. That's not just because he is a great Physiotherapist and we're getting old and clunky. He is a splendid person and a great credit to his parents, Marie and Paul.

Obviously, I can say to Michael that longevity is in our genes, so we can readily wish him a long, long life of married happiness. And on behalf of everyone here, I do sincerely wish Monique and Michael a happy marriage. Based on my own marriage to Valerie, I also wish them a relationship together that has just enough conflict in it so that the resolution of that conflict forms the basis of a relationship made stronger and stronger by finding ways to respect each others differences, as well as their similarities.

6. Propose the ToastOn behalf of her mother Valerie, her brother Tom, her sisters Michelle and Rose, I would ask you now to be upstanding to drink to the health and happiness of Monique and Michael.

To Monique and Michael.

Count your words to gauge your pace

In that short speech, including the introductory welcome, there are approximately 820 words.

If you speak at an average of 155 words per minute, even that short speech will take you just over five minutes. That time estimate doesn't allow for pauses for laughter, or the Toast to your grandmother. You may be tempted to add another anecdote, but if you keep your Toast to around five minutes you'll earn your guests' gratitude. The criterion by which to decide about the extra anecdote is simple. Ask the following two questions:

1. Does it tell us something very different from the first anecdote? And

2. Is it something most guests do NOT know already?

If the answer to both questions is a resounding YES, and if your wife agrees that it's essential, include the second anecdote.

Most people who are guests at your daughter's wedding know her well. There will be partners of guests who've never met her, but they account for perhaps ten to twenty percent of the guests.

Most of your guests know that Monique broke her arm when she went into the elephant enclosure at the local zoo. They absolutely know that she was in the cheer leading team for her local soccer club.

Your job is to tell a story about your daughter that only a few people know.

A story that illuminates her best qualities as a human being.

Please don't be tempted to take advantage of your position to bore the guests. That's right. Even if you are the most scintillating speaker on the night, and even if you have a huge reservoir of compelling and interesting stories about your daughter, please remember:

? Your guests came to enjoy themselves, not to listen to speeches for an hour or more. In fact, they don't want more than twenty minutes of speeches. The Best Man and the Groom also have to speak. These days, even the father of the Groom and the Bride sometimes say a few words.

? Again, let me suggest that half as long is always twice as good.

? You can control the length and tone of your Toast but the Best Man may waver into lengthy mumblings.

The Best Man's speech

Assuming that you found my advice to be useful, please consider sharing it with the Best Man. You may or may not know the Best Man well. If he's the Bridegroom's brother or best mate (friend), then no doubt you've met previously. Then again, you may live in a different State or country from all concerned ? including your daughter.

The Best Man will usually be twenty-five or thirty years younger than you, except in Hollywood where your daughter could be marrying someone older than you. Under normal circumstances, he won't have had the same opportunities to speak in public as you've had, so make allowances for that. Again, depending on your occupations, he may have had a great deal more experience than you.

Depending on how well you know him, let him read these few pages saying that you found them useful. I'm assuming here that there may be a Wedding rehearsal or at least a couple of casual meetings to arrange the day. You could certainly take the Best Man aside and over a cup of tea or (more likely) a beer, let him know that you're there to help. Tell him that you always find it helpful to jot down some notes of what you'll say and that it's even more helpful to practise at least once beforehand. You'd be surprised at what a surprise that is to most people ? of all ages. Remind him, or reassure him that his role is straightforward. His formal role is to thank the Bridesmaids and/or Matron of Honour and the pageboy/flowergirl, and to propose a Toast to them. Suggest to him that he makes sure he knows the names of all those important people, and that he has the correct pronunciation of their names.

His secondary role is to tell us about what a wonderful person his brother/best friend Michael is. At most Weddings the Best Man forgets his real role and spends far too long telling embarrassing anecdotes about getting drunk in Junior High. Please, do remind him that embarrassing anecdotes are off the agenda. Be prepared for the fact that unfortunately, you cannot control that.

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