They say that aside from your own wedding, one of the happiest days of your life is the wedding of your own child. Certainly, when my Polly got married last summer, I was on cloud nine. That was until, I got up to do my father of the bride speech. That’s when I slipped right off cloud nine, and fell to Earth with a bump.
I know you have your own daughter’s wedding coming up in a couple of months, and I wish to impart a little paternal advice – one father to another – to ensure you don’t do what I did.
As you can well imagine, on such a momentous day, I didn’t want to disappoint. I thought I’d make a splash by cramming my speech with impressive words that rose to the occasion – words like ‘zenith’ and ‘imbroglio’. Of course, using big words I wouldn’t usually use, made me sound less genuine that I’d have liked. In hindsight, I would have kept the whole speech relatively informal. After all, when you’re among people who are friends and family, they don’t expect you to suddenly turn into Will Self.
There were so many people I wanted to thank, and that’s why I ended up thanking so many people. I even raised a toast to the caterer’s babysitter. Looking back, I should have been more selective with my thank yous. That way they would have meant more. A good Father of the Bride speech creates tears of laughter and happiness. Mine prompted tears of boredom.
There were two more people who I thought needed thanking – me and my wife, Liz. After all, we’d forked out thousands. The couple of jokes I made about how much all this was costing, was borderline acceptable. But I should have reined it in before I got to detailing how much exactly I’d lavished on the Rolls Royce and the jazz band and the tablecloths. That got an awkward reception.
By this time, seven odd minutes had already passed, and I thought I had better crack on.
I moved on to the subject of the Bride herself – Polly. Or at least, I tried to. You think you know your own daughter, but when you start actually talking about her, you realise you can’t just do it off the cuff. Really, I should have talked to my wife, my son, and maybe even some of Polly’s friends, to see what titbits they had about Polly. I didn’t do this, and so, thirty or so seconds into waxing lyrical about my daughter, I realised there were only so many synonyms for beautiful, intelligent and loyal.
By now I was floundering. There was no substance, no meaty stories to make people laugh and cry. The one joke I did have about Polly was something I stumbled across online. And because Polly never actually had a pony, that joke didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.
Ironically, I had more to say about the Groom – and indeed I did say more about him. Well, that annoyed just about everyone. Polly, quite rightly, was put out that that I went on for five or so minutes about me and Toby going to the rugby. And I suppose I should have checked with the Best Man Paul that he wasn’t already using that infamous anecdote about Toby and Didier Drogba. Paul’s still not talking to me.
All of these faux pas I made were wrapped up in my biggest mistake of them all, and that was the length of the bloody speech – 25 minutes in all. I had to announce the toast twice, because the first time I did it, most of the room had stopped listening. How embarrassing.
My second daughter is getting married later this year. And although she’s loathe to have me do the Father of the Bride speech, it’s not like she has much choice. Anyway, I’ve promised her that I’ll learn from my mistakes. And I hope you’re able to learn from my mistakes too.
And by the way, if you want someone else’s advice other than mine, I’d highly recommend giving these chaps a call.
All the best,
A reformed Father of the Bride