I can give you lots of advice on how to give a memorable mother of the bride speech, but how you apply this will very much depend on your reason for speaking in the first place. All these scenarios require different approaches and very different speeches. Once the approach has been established you can make use of my more general tips.
Scenario One: You Are Speaking in Place of Your Late Husband
This is often an emotional speech. A key factor will be how much focus you give to your daughter’s father and their relationship. You want to avoid turning it into a eulogy so it’s crucial that you get the balance right. As difficult as it might be, I suggest you keep references to him as light and fun as possible, and you refer to the fun times and his evident pride in his daughter rather than long descriptions of the family’s grief.
Scenario Two: You Are Standing in for an Absent Father
If there is a lot of negativity and hurt surrounding his absence, experience suggests that it is probably best to avoid any mention of him. If you feel that this would not be appropriate then I suggest you keep it brief. Feel free to talk about him in the third person: ‘her father’ if it makes life easier for you. Obviously a decision needs to be made between you and your daughter as to how significant a mention he merits, but experience suggests less is more.
Scenario Three: Your Husband is Too Shy to Speak Himself
Yes, there are some fathers who are reluctant or too uncomfortable to give the speech themselves. In this scenario you can refer to him in the first person plural: ‘us’ and ‘we’ to ensure he feels involved. A tongue-in-cheek reference to him ‘loving the limelight’ will go down well and diffuse any confusion.
Scenario Four: You Are Speaking as Well as Your Husband
Good on you! I am all in favour of confident, punchy speakers. However, it is important that you don’t let your daughter’s wedding turn into the equivalent of the Oscars or the European Parliament, with an endless stream of meaningless speeches; if you’ve attended a Swedish wedding you’ll understand what I mean! So keep it fun, short and, whatever you do, coordinate with your husband so you don’t run through the same list of platitudes or stories.
More General Tips for a Mother of the Bride Speech
Welcome the Guests
It’s nice to mention those who’ve travelled a long way and anyone of a particularly significant age – the very old or the very young.
Although your primary purpose is to talk about your daughter, don’t make the mistake of forgetting to mention your new son-in-law. Love or loathe him, half the guests are there for him and they’ll be wanting to know how happy you are for them both. Welcome him to the family and talk about the ways he’s added to your daughter’s life.
Welcome the In-Laws
This is not the time to offend your daughter’s in-laws! If you’re mentioning your own family, it would be courteous to mention how welcoming the groom’s family have been to your daughter and your extended family. This is also the time to thank them for any contribution they’ve made to the wedding.
Keep it Short
Your speech is quite likely to be the first (and the first of a few) so don’t let it drag on too long. Make sure it’s no more than 10 minutes (timed when speaking slowly), which on paper is a little over 1,000 words.
Minimise the Gush
A mother-daughter relationship is a very special one, so a bit of sentimentality in the speech is expected… up to a point. Too much and it starts to sound sycophantic and dull. It’s fine to tell the guests how close you are and proud you are of her, but try to pepper the gush with some lighter teasing to balance it up.
Avoid the Job Application Speech
Feel free to mention some of your daughter’s achievements, but weave these around the speech rather than listing facts and figures, grades and graduations in a chronological order.
Ask your daughter’s friends for stories from school, college or work, your other children for their version of events from the early years, her fiancé about his first impressions of her, and your husband (if appropriate) for any memorable stories, to get good, mixed content.
Consult the Other Speakers
Your biggest risk is covering ground that will be repeated later on in the other speeches. I would strongly recommend that, however original you think your speech may be, you have a quick chat with the groom and best man to ensure there is no frustrating overlap.
Don’t forget to take a glass with you to make a toast to the bride and groom (assuming there isn’t a father of the bride who will be doing this first). If that toast isn’t relevant then you may wish to plump for ‘friends and family’.
Factoring in the above tips should help you create a cracking speech and ensure you have a proud and happy daughter at the end of it.
Guest post by Lawrence Bernstein of Great Speech Writing
Image from Emma Lucy Photography