A reader writes:
"Me an my fiancé are getting married. My daughter, who is 15, wants to make a toast at the reception... I can't find any wedding toast [for kids].
"Do you have any suggestions for her to use? Because he is the only dad she has. He raised her and she calls him Dad.
Two thoughts are racing through our head.
One: congratulations. It sounds like this wedding is a long time coming and that you will be very happy. This is the feel-good story of the year. At the very least, this is the feel-good story of our lunch break.
Two: Again? No, really, again?!? We're a bunch of dudes. We created this site for other dudes. And dudes write to us all the time. Then something strange happened. We were a little weirded-out when we started getting a couple of questions from brides, then lots of questions from brides, and now this is the norm. And now, with your email, a question about moms and daughters? Whoa. Excuse us while we step out and watch some quality Mom/Daughter movies to put us in the mood.
[10-hour pause. We're watching Terms of Endearment, The Joy Luck Club, Thirteen, Stepmom, and Real Women Have Curves.]
Okay. We're back. Now we're in the right mindset.
And actually, all kidding aside, this issue has nothing to do with gender. Toasts are toasts, kids are kids, and stage fright is gender-blind.
The following can help anyone with kids:
1. Know that there are no expectations. Zero.
Even if your daughter read a grocery list, recited her math homework, or read aloud the first chapter of Twilight, the crowd would chuckle appreciatively and lap it up. Wedding crowds are predisposed to like kids.
It doesn't matter if she fumbles, stutters, draws blanks, or bombs like Bridget Jones' big literary speech in Bridget Jones Diary. (Just for you, a chick flick reference!) Her speech will go over well. It just will.
2. Boil it down to a basic, ABC structure.
In basketball, some plays are extremely basic yet extremely effective. Like the pick n' roll. Think: John Stockton and Karl Malone. (Yes. We included this just to offset the Bridget Jones reference, sorta like how oil companies have to do green-projects to offset carbon emissions.)
There is a basic, no-frills structure that will guarantee to work. It's an easy ABC strategy:
A) "I'm so happy for my Mom and my new Dad."
B) [Why she's happy.]
C) "I'm so happy for my Mom and my new Dad. Congratulations!"
Don't laugh. That's all any kid needs. If she wants to dress it up, add nuance, sprinkle in some wry introductions and conclusions....she caaaaaan, but it's not necessary. The above structure will work. The real trick is Step B, Why She's Happy, and that's covered with the next item:
3. Tell specific things you've done together.
It doesn't need to be fancy. And your daughter probably won't even think of them as "touching stories," but they'll appear that way to the crowd. For example: "He makes hot dogs the good way--using lots of butter in the frying pan." Simple stuff. If she just gives a few things that she likes about him--or, better yet, things you do together as a family--that's more than enough to get the grandmas crying.
No embellishment is needed. No flowery language. No oratorical flourishes. The sight of a 15-year-old standing up, earnestly, and saying that her mother's new husband makes her happy... sometimes, simple purity is the best oration.
By the way, this structure works for any kid--toddlers to teenagers. Your 15-year-old will naturally use a bigger vocabulary, she'll be more articulate in the "Why She's Happy" section, but the building blocks are the same.
Good luck. She'll do great.
Now if you'll excuse us, we need a chaser. We're off for a double-header of Braveheart and Conan the Barbarian.