The Big Toast: Giving Away Your Little Girl

As the father of the bride, you’re traditionally responsible for everything from inspecting and passing entirely irrelevant judgment on the prospective son-in-law, to footing the bill for the nuptials. Yet no single role you play in your daughter’s big day is as important – and irrevocable – as your toast to the happy couple on their wedding day.

As unfair as it may seem, after all your gracious acceptance of the groom’s faults, not to mention his family’s faults, it falls on you to make sure everybody is happily eating and drinking up your estate.

So here are some tips to make the most of your big moment.

Understand You Are Setting The Tone

You can toast the happy couple many ways: With humor, with wonder that your little girl has grown into a woman, with a religious invocation, with remembrances of the bride and groom as a couple, even with anecdotes from your own marriage. You may take elements from many themes. Or, your speech can be brief and to the point, as long as it does not come across as curt or perfunctory.

What is most important is to understand you are setting the tone for the whole reception. Your few moments of having the floor will weigh down or propel forward the remainder of the day your daughter has dreamed about for years, and for good or ill, will be remembered by the happy couple for years to come.

No Pressure.

You Buy, She Flies

In keeping with the above, bear in mind that you don’t own or control this day: you just (in many cases) pay for it. And while you may pay for it for years to come, she has dreamed of it for many years already.

For example, If she is a devout Wiccan and you are a committed Christian, do not choose a religious tone, since it would be bound to create friction for the remainder of her big day. A focus on the couple’s growth together and a caring, charitable life together may be the closest you can reasonably expect to come to a religious toast.

Or the bride and groom may both feel strongly that they must make as much money as possible, while you and your wife are free spirits. Don’t dwell on differences. Remember, it is her day, not yours; she is in many ways entering into her truly adult life – not presenting you one last opportunity to lecture her as you would a child. Use your toast to honor her choices, her beliefs, and her husband, not to promote an agenda.

Yes, You Thank Them

A great traditional opener to your big speech is to thank all in attendance, and everybody who has helped bring off the big event. When you transition to your main points, if you use humor, do not go “over the top.” That’s the best man’s job. Your role is as the family patriarch now, not the mischievous upstart. If you’re blessed with a puckish nature, save it for a less formal event.

You Really Do Wish Her All the Happiness in the World

Be sincere, you big lug. Say what you truly feel in your heart – all the joy and all the hope you can wish your little girl will be cherished, appreciated, and remembered. Close out your big toast with what you feel deep in your heart and want to convey to the bride and groom. Pass along your sincere best hopes and wishes for the happy couple to close out your toast.

Practice Makes Perfect

When you have put together your toast, “focus group” it with your wife or with friends. Ask them what they think, and work on anything that might not be quite right. You are the final authority on your own toast, but critique from others can be valuable; after all it will be others – not you – who hear the toast. When you have your toast done, practice, practice, practice. You will not want to read from notes.

Keep the Game Tape

If you have more than one daughter, you’re in luck – once the big day’s over, you’ve got “game film!”