- When to speak: At most weddings, the father of the bride is the first to speak, usually during or towards the end of the meal. If you’re really worried about it, break with tradition and get the speeches out of the way before the meal. That way, you (and the other speakers) can enjoy the rest of the evening.
- Structure: A good speech should last 6-7 minutes. “Write down the headings you want to cover in the speech – such as ‘welcome’, ‘thanks’, bride’s early years’, ‘her career’, ‘how she met the groom’ etc,” says Gavin Matthews, of speech writing company fatherofthebride.co.uk. “This breaks it down and makes it easier to write.” Round the speech off by welcoming the groom into your family, and offer some words of wisdom on marriage. “If it’s been a humorous speech, drop in a little sentiment,” says Gavin. “Tell your daughter how proud you are of her – you’ve made them laugh, now make them cry!”
- Good taste: Be entertaining without being crass. “There are two things to remember when telling stories and jokes,” says Gavin. “Firstly, how funny are they? If you find them funny, but your friends don’t, leave them out. More importantly, ensure stories don’t embarrass your daughter. Imagine her reaction if you told the story at a family party. Would she laugh or be embarrassed? There’s your answer.” Also keep each story or joke as short as possible. If people don’t respond well, it doesn’t matter because you’ll have moved on to another one.
- Keep it friendly: Don’t approach your speech with a huge amount of formality – just imagine you’re telling a story to friends. This will also help you relax.
- Try and learn your speech: “You don’t need to know it by heart,” says Gavin, “but read it over and over again in the lead-up to the wedding so that it’s familiar. You’ll feel much more confident and relaxed.”
- Make copies: Make several copies of your speech and give them to friends/siblings. “Many people panic about losing their speech – if you have a few copies, this won’t be an issue,” says Gavin.
- Take your time: The slower and clearer your speech, the better it will be received. Gavin recommends using a microphone: “You’ll sound louder and clear,” he says. “And don’t be afraid to pause for effect after a joke or after you say something you want the audience to appreciate.”
- Watch your drink: Have one or two drinks beforehand to calm the nerves, but no more.
- Animate: ”Using your hands to help explain things will make you feel more confident and relaxed,” says Gavin.
- Have fun! You’re surrounded by friends and family – they don't care if you fluff your lines. This is your moment to be a proud father-of-the-bride – try and take in every second of it. Finish off with a toast to the bride and groom. Have a drink – you’ll have earned it!
A few opening lines from fatherofthebride.co.uk to start you off…
"Let me say that it’s an honour to stand here today. I get to speak, you have to listen – for a man who’s been married for XX years, this is a big thing. So please do get comfortable."
"I’m very proud to stand here on the day that my daughter becomes someone’s wife. I see today as not necessarily losing a daughter, but gaining a son… and a gardener, an odd job’s man, a car mechanic, and a personal decorator."
"When I saw (NAME OF DAUGHTER) this morning, she looked absolutely beautiful. I even had a few tears in my eyes – not because she looked so beautiful, but because I was thinking about how my bank manager will react on Monday morning when he sees the bill for today…"
"I must admit, I’m slightly nervous today. I’ve only had to stand up in front of this many people once before – and all I had to say then was ‘Guilty your honour’…"