Your father of the bride speech
The father of the bride speech is one of the wedding’s highlights but it’s a daunting honour. Entertaining a room full of people and summing up a lifetime of love is no mean feat. No wonder so many poor dads resort to cliches, lame wedding gags and talking about their daughter as a baby (speech tip: all babies are the same, they don’t sleep much and poo a lot).
As ex-BBC scriptwriters, the Speechy team know how to entertain an audience, and as parents ourselves, we understand why this speech matters. We’ve written this guide so you know the speech mistakes to avoid, and how you can transform your speech into something a little less ordinary. It’s a cheat-sheet to creating a lifelong memory!
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Father of the bride speech etiquette
THE FIRST RULE – Don’t get tied down with traditional speech etiquette. Your job is simply to welcome the guests, pay a heartfelt tribute to your daughter and welcome your son-in-law to the family. Don’t feel you need to go ‘posh’. As long as you’re polite and loving, no one really cares if you address them as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ (in fact, depending on the wedding, it may seem overly formal).
THE BIG TRAP – The biggest trap fathers fall into is thinking they need to thank people. Actually that’s the groom’s job. That said, it pays to mention your daughter’s new in-laws and even if you’re separated, you should acknowledge the role the bride’s mother has had in her upbringing.
DON’T STEAL THE GROOM’S THUNDER – Do NOT get sucked into thanking your friends or family members who’ve travelled far. It’s not your day and, quite frankly, too many thank yous becomes boring. Remember the bridesmaids will be thanked by the groom (and maybe even the best man) so keep your gratitude succinct (and dance with them later).
THE FULL LOW-DOWN – If you want to get a sense of what’s being covered by the other speakers, read the Ultimate Etiquette Guide on Confetti.
Father of the bride speech structure
All speeches should be unique and tailored to your daughter’s individual story, however it’s still worth knowing the standard structure of a father of the bride speech.
- Welcome all the guests and get them laughing straight away
- Tell some funny anecdotes from your daughter’s childhood (ideally illustrating her personality today). Remember a loving tribute also involves taking the mick!
- Pay tribute to the woman she now is. The good stuff, the lovely stuff, but most importantly, the funny stuff.
- Recount meeting the groom for the first time and how you’ve grown to love him and his family (it helps if there’s an element of truth in there but it’s not essential)
- You may want to offer some funny or heart-warming advice to the married couple.
- Conclude your speech with a toast to the married couple. Traditionally it’s to the ‘health and happiness of the happy couple’ but try to make it a bit more interesting than that – something that genuinely reflects the character of the couple and echos the themes of your speech.
5 rules to writing a great father of the bride speech
Rule 1 Be Different
A heart-warming tribute to your daughter should be the focus of your speech but remember every bride is beautiful, kind and generally amaaazing. Cut the cliches and concentrate on what makes your daughter unique. Is she an indie chick, a library-lover, a technology fiend? Nailing her individual and quirky characteristics is key to delivering a great speech. Certainly don’t turn your daughter into a perfect princess. Whether she’s ditsy, gobby, obsessed with fake tan, people love her the way she is and it’s your chance to celebrate that.
Rule 2 Be Funny
Yes the expectation may be on the best man but all wedding speeches should make people laugh. Of course, being funny isn’t about finding good jokes on the internet (if only it was that easy) but rather making witty observations about your daughter and her relationships with her family and the groom. A good tip is to imagine her in a sit-com – what sort of character would she play? The high-powered career woman who can’t work the remote control? The fitness fanatic who jogs as she eats her toast? Have fun with her character.
Rule 3 Tell a story
Your speech needs to hook people in from the beginning, establish a theme and carry that through to an almighty climax. One of the fathers we worked with used the wedding venue as the inspiration for his theme. As his daughter was getting married in a theatre he recounted her ‘best dramatic performances’ – from the toddler tantrums to becoming a bridezilla. He went on to express his joy in meeting her groom and toasted their future with a standing ovation.
Rule 4 Less in More
You’re aiming for six minutes for a father of the bride speech (eight allowing for laughter and ad libs). Remember no one ever witnessed a wedding speech and said ‘if only it was longer’. Even if you feel you have a wealth of good material – be strict with yourself. Even Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was only 272 words long! Our best advice is once you write your first draft, edit it down to half the length. We promise it will make your speech a hundred times stronger.
Rule 5 Prepare to Deliver
A confident delivery is half the battle. Make sure your daughter has checked the acoustics of the venue and organised a mic if necessary (so many speeches are ruined simply because people can’t hear them). Try to memorise the speech but don’t be afraid to use notes on the day (your brain will be scrambled). Talk slower than feels natural – you’ll sound more assured. Remember everyone wants you to do well so make sure you smile. It’s scientifically proven to be infectious.
Father of the Bride Speech - Do's and Don'ts
Start writing your speech – Obvious but honestly, ideas will keep popping into your head once you start.
Get help– Exploit the family. Organise a catch up and think about all the funny things your daughter has done over the years. Feel free to mention the ‘family summit’ in the speech.
Use clever quotes – Ensure you credit the author or someone else will! Check out our Quote Inspiration guide.
Toast something meaningful – Ideally it should reflect the personality of the newlyweds and the theme of your speech. One of the fathers of the bride we worked with wished his daughter and her husband ‘the passion of Burton and Taylor, the longevity of Elizabeth and Philip and the bank balance of Kanye and Kim’.
Practise your speech and film it on your phone – Watch it back, promise yourself you’ll do something about your paunch and spot where your speech can be improved.
Hint at any financial contribution you’ve made towards the wedding – Yes it seems dads are still paying a fair whack for their offspring getting hitched (check out the average parent contribution) but that’s no excuse for moaning about it publicly.
Talk about your daughter’s exes – Again, that embarrassment thing. Even if you know your daughter would be cool with it, her husband might not be.
Resort to cliches – Really? You want to waste time telling us how little she slept as a newborn?
Ignore the feedback of your wife – It’s always worth testing your speech out on your wife but the important bit is, listen to her. If she doesn’t get a joke, don’t waste your time explaining it as you won’t be able to do that on the day.
Talk over laughter – You’ve worked hard for those laughs – don’t rush them. Always wait until your guests have settled down before continuing with your speech.
A Bit About Speechy
The Speechy team includes James, Heidi, Roger and Claire. Between us, we’ve been included in the Edinburgh TV Festival’s ‘Ones to Watch’ and featured in the BBC Hotlist. During our telly careers, we’ve worked with people such as Richard Hammond, Sharon Osbourne, Dan Snow, David Mitchell and Mel Geidroyc. Get us!
These days we’re the go-to experts for wedding speech advice – featuring in wedding bibles such as Rock n Roll Bride or Wedding Ideas Mag, or more mainstream media such as Radio 1 and Radio 2. Even Eamonn Holmes has wanted our advice on how to deliver a speech at his son’s wedding!
Of course, we love helping dads write amazing speeches and we still get excited when they tell us we’ve added a special moment to their daughter’s day.