Making a Successful Father of the Bride's Speech
The father of the bride's speech is the moment where, as Rowan Atkinson said in his famous sketch, 'the man who paid for the damn thing is allowed to speak a word or two of his own.' In days gone by, the cost of the wedding was often in direct proportion to the length of the bride's father's speech. Today, the bride's father is (mercifully) not always called upon to pay for the whole thing himself. The shape and structure of the family is changing so much that several people may help to fund the ever increasing cost of the wedding, thus limiting dad's right to hog the time for the speeches.
Tips for the Father of the Bride
Act as the warm up man
A good tip is to suggest that the groom or best man will soon be 'entertaining us' or 'treating us to their words of wisdom' or something similar. This creates an air of expectation and anticipation amongst the guests, and to some extent takes the pressure off the bride's father with the implication that 'the best is yet to come'. I've already said that it is not a good idea to say things like 'Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking' or 'I'm not very used to this' or to put your speaking skills down, but it's possible to say much the same thing by hinting that the best speakers are coming later.
This is the relatively easy bit, where you can beam proudly at the assembled group and say how you feel. Yes, it really is that easy! Subjects you talk about which will make you look like a seasoned professional speaker include:
Confirm what everyone already knows by saying what a lovely day it is, or how disappointing it is that the photos had to be taken under umbrellas. Either way, everyone will agree with you.
Welcome the guests and say how nice it is to see everyone. Try to mention anyone who has had to travel a long way - they will appreciate it and like you even more for it.
So far so good
Assuming everything has gone to plan, say how well everything is going so far. Say what a lovely or moving service it was at the church or register office, comment on any nice remarks that were made by either the minister or the registrar - and again you will find that everyone agrees with you.
So you will have gathered that the trick here is to make relaxed comments about things that people agree on. Do this right from the very start. It is a useful speaker's ploy which helps to get everyone onside straight away.
Welcome the groom's family
Part of the father of the bride's duties is to welcome the groom to his family, and the groom's parents to the wedding celebrations. Of course, most of us are unable to choose our friends, but the marriage of your daughter becomes one of those occasions when new friends are 'forced' upon you.
Part of your speech should be dedicated to talking about the groom and his parents and to saying how genuinely pleased you are to have met them all. This will go a long way to oiling the wheels of inter-family relationships for at least the next few months. If you really aren't too keen on the groom's family, then at least sing the praises of the groom himself as this will be received well by everyone from his side of the family. Again, if you are aware that a long lost relative of his has come a long way, make a point of highlighting it.
Get the groom's name right
And, for that matter, the names of the guests. In researching this book, I was quite surprised to discover just how many people had reported that the bride's father got the name of the groom wrong. As you can imagine, this has potential for embarrassment for a number of people - not least of whom will be the bride, the groom and (when he realises his mistake) the bride's father. On the plus side, this does tend to get a good laugh.
Do not embarrass your ex-wife
Just as we find that many people use their wedding speech as an opportunity to show off their, often non-existent, comedic skills, many brides' fathers use their speech as an opportunity to have a go at their ex-wife.
Your wedding speech is a time for celebration, and holding the microphone does not entitle you to hijack the proceedings. Far better is to always say how proud you are of your daughter, and if you have helpful advice you want to share on the secrets of how to have a happy marriage then let's hear it.
Look to the future
Just as you have talked about the past, it is also good to look to the future. A wedding is a great opportunity to do this, and it helps guests to imagine and think about what may be in store for the happy couple as the years go by. Again, getting the audience to use their imaginations is a trick used by many professional speakers, and it helps people to remember what you are saying.
The father of the bride has the unenviable responsibility of being on first, warming up the guests by setting the tone and pace for the speeches, welcoming everyone officially and proposing a toast to the health and happiness of the bride and groom.
A tough act to follow by any standard!