Whether you’re the father of the bride or the father of the groom, being asked to speak at your grown-up child’s big day can be a daunting prospect. But it doesn’t have to be.
We asked the wedding speech team at Speechy how to write a modern father’s wedding speech.
Unlike most of the people making speeches on the day, you’ve got a whole lifetime of memories to work from in your speech, and it may take you a little time to gather them together.
Write down some notes about things they loved when they were little, funny quirks they had or that boyband member they were convinced they were going to marry when they were 14. Collate them, and see which ones you like. Chances are, if they make you laugh, they’ll make others laugh too, and that’s what we want (and it’s so much more personal than stealing some clichéd old jokes off Google).
Yes, we know you were very proud when they got an A in their Geography GCSE, and again when they were made captain of their sports team, but unless there’s a funny story attached, maybe keep those memories to share with your son/daughter another time. For now, we want the ones that will entertain the guests, so pick ones that are surprising, or even better, ones that show they haven’t changed at all since they were five years old.
Don’t feel bogged down by traditional etiquette. Nowadays weddings are far less formal, and memorable speeches are the ones which take the audience on a journey of some kind, rather than a list of long lost relatives you feel you should thank for being there (we’ll talk more about this later).
A theme to the speech can help with the structure. Look at the collection of anecdotes you’ve gathered and see whether there’s a subject that weaves them together, especially if that subject gives us a little insight into what their new partner is letting themselves in for!
Start at the beginning with stories from their childhood through their adolescence (this is where you can really get your own back for all their teenaged antics) and ending with some observations on how they’ve grown since they’ve been with their partner.
But do skip any mention of the exes, no matter how funny or relevant to the theme you think they are. Your son or daughter may not mind them being brought up, but their partner might. Best just to forget that period of their life ever happened, for one day at least.
We advise for speeches to be somewhere within the realms of 75% humour, ending with about 25% heartfelt and emotional. The perfect speech has them rolling in the aisles, then sobbing into their profiteroles.
Let’s face it, you’ve got so much material on your child, it’s going to be difficult to keep it short, but please do! We suggest aiming for seven to eight minutes, which is about 1100–1200 words (slightly shorter than the length of this blog).
It may not seem that long when you write it down, and you may really want to keep in that anecdote about how much they loved their little pet rabbit Flopsy, but short and sweet is the key to a memorable speech. Leave them wanting more – you can always share some more stories at the bar later.
Weddings are about bringing two families together, so don’t forget to talk about what they bring into your daughter or son’s life and how you hope to integrate them into your family in the future.
Hopefully you’ve already got a good relationship with your son or daughter-in-law, so feel free to share some anecdotes about them too. What did you think when you first met them? At what point did you put your shotgun away? What have you two bonded over personally?
Sometimes it’s nice to thank Great Aunty Doris for flying in all the way from her commune in Brazil, but find out whether anyone else is planning on doing it too. No one wants to listen to three versions of the same long thank yous, but do check that the bride or groom aren’t expecting you to do it. You don’t want Aunty Doris getting in a huff and taking her wedding gift back to Brazil with her.
We find that many families nowadays have delicate dynamics, with parents who aren’t on speaking terms, or possibly won’t be attending on the day. Check with the bride or groom how they want you to manage that in your speech. Weddings can be highly emotional days, and family feuds are the last thing anyone wants stirring up with such a high volume of champagne floating around. It’s worth taking a while to really get the wording right in situations like this, and maybe even read it out to someone you trust.
Likewise, if you are no longer with the mother of the bride or groom and are no longer on good terms, a simple thank you for bringing your wonderful child into your life can go a long way.
It’s all very well sitting down and writing a brilliant, heartwarming, rip-roaring speech but remember, you’re going to have to say this out loud at some point. In front of lots of people. So practice, practice, practice.
Not just in your head, but out loud. Something may read well on the page, but be a total tongue twister when spoken. Trying it out loud will help you to remember it, see how well it flows and build up your confidence.
Speaking of confidence, not all fathers are natural public speakers. So feel free to take notes up with you to remind yourself of what you were planning to say in case you get nervous (although you should have practised it so much by then you could practically recite it in your sleep).
Remember, everyone in the room is on your side and loves the happy couple almost as much as you do. They want to hear all the funny and heartfelt things you have to say about them, so it’s almost impossible for you to fail. Just enjoy it!
A big smile to start will help the audience to relax, and hopefully you too. Then go straight in with a joke. An early ring of laughter will give you all the confidence you need to go on.
Speak slowly. We advise slightly slower than the speed you would use in a normal conversation and pick out a few people you love and trust to maintain eye contact with as you speak. Don’t just focus on one person though, mix it up throughout.
Your son/daughter will, hopefully, only ever have one opportunity to hear their father make a speech like this, and we hope that with some of these hints and tips, it will be a speech they will remember forever.
Speechy is a team of ex-BBC TV scriptwriters who now specialise in wedding speeches. Make a speech to be proud of with its quality speech templates, speech reviews and bespoke speeches.