The MANual: Wedding Speeches
The Father of the Bride Toast
Disclaimer: Welcome, Father of the Bride. We’ll put our cards on the table. 99% of this website is targeted at the man you hate, the man you don’t trust, the man who’s pillaged your family to steal your little girl: the groom. At first glance, this makes us unlikely allies. But let’s call a truce. After all, we know your enemy…
Let’s be honest. In your heart of hearts, here’s the wedding speech you really want to give: “Hi everyone. I’m the Father of the Bride. I just wrote a check for a shitload of money. And you cheese-dicks are all drinking my booze, sipping my champagne, and feasting on my steak.”
[You pause, sip your champagne.]
“To top it off, I’m losing my daughter to this guy, to this schmuck. Look at him. He’s a clown. He’s not worth my daughter’s little pinky. He’s dumber than a sack of mice, he doesn’t look trustworthy, and, if it wasn’t for my daughter, I’d castrate the guy with this rusted butter knife, so help me God. And to think that this joker, this pile of mud, is going to be raising my grandchild?!?! Jesus. There’s no hope. No hope…. To the bride and groom!”
Done and done! If you can memorize that speech you’re pretty much set. If, however, you’d like to emerge from your daughter’s wedding without ruining her day or becoming a laughingstock, follow these 10 rules for your Father of the Bride speech:
1. Honor the 3 Ups
Keep it in perspective. Your speech at the wedding reception is only the second of the “3 Ups” that the Father of the Bride traditionally must perform. It’s a simple job. The 3 Ups are to 1) Show Up; 2) Speak Up; and 3) Pay Up. Trust us. If you’re at all contributing to the wedding, your daughter and her fiancé care much, much more about #1 and #3 than they do #2. You’ve already done the hard part by writing a check and walking her down the aisle. By comparison, this part is easy.
2. You’re Like Michael Collins
Quick. The first two astronauts to walk on the moon? Easy: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Now who’s the third dude up there with them, orbiting the moon while they soaked in the glory? That would be Michael Collins,, a name only .00000001% of Americans recognize. You are Michael Collins. The wedding is about the bride and (to a much, much lesser extent) the groom, and no one really gives a rat’s ass what you say or what you do. This isn’t an insult. This is reassuring. Trust us. No one in that crowd is saying, “Oooooh.. I CAN’T WAIT to hear the Father of the Bride speech!” If you bomb, no one will really notice. That said, even Michael Collins had some basic responsibilities, so follow the rest of these rules…
3. Don’t Rattle Off Her Resume
Rookie mistake. Your daughter could have graduated from Yale, snared three silver medals at the Winter Olympics, saved the lives of 300 refugees in Burma, and figured out the identity of the Zodiac killer. Don’t drag us through every last detail. Yes, you want to convey your pride. But if you run through her resume you not only bore your guests, you do something far worse: you run the risk of making her seem unlikable. Flatter your daughter and say that she looks beautiful, and then…
4. Use a Growing up Story
These are far more compelling than resume-fodder. Think of some charming anecdotes from way back when. Drawing a blank? If you’re banging your head against the wall in search of good material, think of this one word: “Firsts.” Everyone likes Firsts. First day at school, first words, first game of soccer, first wedding, whatever.
5. Extend the Olive Branch
Let’s pretend, for a moment, that the groom’s family is comprised of the following: A) Dad who’s collected unemployment for 37 years, chews dip in your living room and spits it into the fireplace, and only takes a shower once a week to save money on the water bill; B) Mom who chronically belches and likes to say, “Oh, that one was a beaut!” every time she passes gas; C) Daughter who you actually caught stealing from your liquor cabinet. Even if this accurately describes your groom’s merry band of assholes, screw it, you need to be polite to them, thank them, and welcome them to the family. If it helps to keep your fingers crossed behind your back, do so.
6. Remember Who Did All the Work
You’re an honest guy. At your job, you probably hate those bosses who hog the glory, take all the credit, and make it seem like they were the brains behind the operation…even though you did the heavy-lifting. Newsflash. The shoe is on the other foot. When it came to planning this wedding and reception, chances are, you didn’t do squat. Thank your wife and/or your daughter’s mother. If you’re married, compliment her on her beauty, planning, hostessing, and child-rearing skills. Be gracious. Show that you’re grateful. Even if you’re separated from your daughter’s mother, if you can stomach it, try and be generous and thank her.
Speaking of Thank Yous, you also need to thank everyone, even the ungrateful bastards who should be thanking you. Thank the groom’s family (see above), guests who flew in from out of town, the groomsmen and bridesmaids (if you can pull it off, it’s a nice touch to actually name each one of these individually), best man, maid of honor, and everyone else who contributed.
7. Say Something Not-Dick-Ish About Your New [Gulp] Son-In-Law
This is hard for us to say, given how we’re a bunch of smart-asses, but we’ll level with you…it’s not really your place to dig into the groom. We know you want to. However, doing so-unless you’re especially smooth and you balance it with true warmth-will seem petty and mean-spirited. Instead? Be gracious. Be inclusive. Say something specific you learned about his character, how he compliments your daughter, and how you look forward to learning more and more about him as you welcome him into the family.
8. Stick to a Basic Structure
It doesn’t have to be revolutionary. In fact, it shouldn’t.
i.) Thank everyone for coming
ii.) Share something wonderful about the bride.
iii.) Talk about how you’ve gotten to know the groom.
iv.) Welcome the groom and groom’s family to your family.
v.) Conclude with a toast.
9. Convey Two Things: Pride and Hope
It’s easy to lose sight of this, but every daughter wants her father to be proud of her. Even if she’s strong-willed, independent, feisty…it doesn’t matter. She wants you to be proud of her. Say it. Mean it. It’s critical to her that she gets her blessing and really feels it, so toward the end of your speech, say in very clear, emphatic terms that you’re deeply proud of her, and that you wish her and your new son-in-law a lifetime of happiness.
10. End with a Toast (But Not a Quote)
If you have a knock-’em-dead quote about marriage that you’re just dying to share, fine, but be skeptical. 9 times out of 10, these pre-packaged quotes are lamer than you just speaking from the heart. Avoid the “Marriage is like a butterfly…”-type junk. Instead, just raise your champagne glass, warmly look the bride and groom in the eye, and say something to the effect of “to a lifetime of happiness, to Mary and John” or whatever. Done and done.
Need more specific advice about wedding speeches and toasts? Hit us at AskTheExpert.
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