As if planning the wedding, helping your daughter choose her dress and liaising with the caterers and the idiotic local mobile disco provider isn’t difficult enough, you are also delivering a mother-of-the-bride speech! Understandably you are nervous: it is likely that you are not an experienced public speaker and you are acutely concerned not to do or say anything that might spoil your daughter’s special day.
So where do you start?
What is the purpose of your speech?
What tone should you seek to strike?
We’ve spoken to Lawrence Bernstein of Great Speech Writing to help put together some handy tips and advice to help you out on the big day.
Remember that a mother-of-the-bride speech is fairly uncommon. You should start by reflecting on why you are giving the speech and what people will be expecting from you.
Making your Mother of the Bride Speech
You might be speaking:
…On behalf of your late husband
Obviously, this is likely to be a real emotional challenge. It may bring potential problems in terms of delivery and reception. Ensure you focus on your late husband’s relationship with your daughter. Refer to his love for her, his pride in her achievements and the closeness of their friendship. Be careful though. You do not want to risk being unable to get through your speech or upsetting your daughter publically by uncovering the family’s grief. So tread carefully and discuss the content of your speech with your daughter beforehand so she is prepared.
…Instead of your ex-husband
Again, this is a delicate one that needs to be discussed in advance with your daughter. You may decide between you that it is best not to refer to him. Keep any comments positive and be sensitive. Your daughter’s wedding day is not the place to open old wounds.
…Instead of your current husband
Fear of public speaking can be crippling for some people. Your husband may genuinely feel that he will spoil the day for his daughter if he gives a poor speech. Or it may be that he fears that emotion will get the better of him and affect his delivery. If this is the case, your speech should be presented as a collaborative effort: “we are proud of our daughter”, “she means the world to us” and so on.
…In addition to your husband
If done properly, separate speeches from a bride’s mother and father can be a great innovation (and a nice way of spreading the speech-making burden). Co-ordination is the key here. The speeches must have different functions: don’t just repeat the same “thank yous” and tearful tributes! Keep it fun, focused and short!
The Speech itself…
- Introduction: You are probably hosting the reception. It therefore falls to you to welcome everyone. Extremely elderly or infirm attendees, the very young and long distance travellers all merit a special mention. If 94 year old Great Uncle Albert has journeyed from New Zealand for his favourite niece’s wedding day, he deserves a special mention!
- Be positive about your son-in-law: OK. He’s not what you had hoped for. He’s not a Windsor, a billionaire or a dashing young surgeon. His family have arrived in flat-backed lorries and he has “MUFC” tattooed on his arm. But your daughter wants to spend her life with him and you can’t let her down. Welcome him to your family and express your happiness at their marriage. If you must cross your fingers while talking about him, do so behind the table!
- Acknowledge the in-laws: You may well be sharing Christmas dinners and grandparent duties in the years ahead. So however peculiar they might appear, it is important you are gracious and welcoming to the groom’s parents. I’ll bet they love your daughter too so you have that in common. They may well have made a specific contribution to the cost or organisation of the wedding day – make sure you thank them for it.
- Economy is the best policy: Chances are that you will be speaking first. At least two other speeches will follow. So the kindest thing you can do for your audience is to keep your speech short. Aim for about 7-8 minutes: approximately 800 words. This is a manageable length: easier to write and deliver than some sprawling epic!
- Channel your emotions: Your daughter means everything to you. It is natural and right that you want to tell your daughter how much you love her, how beautiful she looks and how proud you are. However, don’t overdo it. Too much emotional content might reduce you to a blubbering wreck. It can also become a little dull for your audience, some of whom may start coughing awkwardly or heading for the bar while you cry your eyes out!
- Don’t recite her CV: No doubt your daughter has achieved amazing things in her life. And it is OK to include some of these in your speech. But do so sparingly. Too many facts, figures, accomplishments and awards are, to be blunt, boring to listen to (remember sitting through the endless awards ceremonies when you were at school?). You may also risk alienating your audience and any less gifted family members!
- Research: No-one knows your daughter better than you right? Probably…but your view is only a single (naturally biased) perspective. Her friends work will see her differently. If you have other children, ask for their insights and memories. Ask her husband-to-be about his first meeting with her. Ask the bride’s father for stories that are especially meaningful to him. What you hear about her might surprise you! And your speech will be all the richer for it.
- Liaise with other speakers: There is a risk, (particularly if your speech is too long) that you will encroach on topics that other speakers might be discussing later. This can be easily avoided by consulting with the groom and the best man well in advance of the wedding. Discuss the purpose and content of the three speeches in broad terms. Identify any possible points of overlap. There’s nothing duller than to hear variations of the same anecdote or joke three times: particularly if it’s not that entertaining in the first place!
- Toasting the happy couple: Assuming there isn’t a father of the bride speech, it will be your final duty to propose a toast to the bride and groom. But avoid the temptation of a taking a nerve-steadying drink before you speak. Alcohol dulls the brain, slows reactions and in extreme cases leads to slurring of words. Don’t let yourself become a public spectacle!
Note from Ceri
If you have any questions about writing YOUR Mother of the Bride speech, Lawrence is happy to answer them. Just post in the comments box below and I will forward them on!