What should I (not) say in a wedding toast for my father?
July 3, 2008 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I am going to be my father's best man. What special considerations do I need to take into account for my toast? Any particularly good/bad examples of what to say based on experience?

This will be my father's third marriage and his fiancee's second. They're both at about retirement age and don't want it to be a Big Deal.

The background: My mother (his first wife) passed away when I was young and a couple of her siblings--with whom my father is still fairly close--will be in attendance; his second wife is someone we are very glad is out of our lives now. His fiancee (the bride) is on good terms with her ex-husband and he and his wife will probably be in attendance as well. So there are a lot of odd (but not tense) relationship dynamics at play.

The upshot of what I want to say is I'm happy for him and I like her; they have complimentary interests and I think they'll be good together. I know that it's generally a good idea to not talk about previous marriages and I intend to work with that...I'm just wondering who/what else to acknowledge. I've seen good previous general toasting advice here, but it's the generational specifics that confound me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you're planning on doing a funny toast, there's a sweet spot of meanness/love that always pays off huge.

Basically, you lovingly make fun of the person's identifiable foibles, what makes them unique and odd. You wonder how any woman is going to tolerate being around this guy, then praise his bride for doing just that. As I remember from my wedding, I was so deliriously happy that my brother got away with an incredibly caustic speech about me. I just didn't care, and I laughed my ass off.

So start cataloging all of dad's lovable defects, deliver with good timing, and abuse the fact that he's too happy and/or drunk to care.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 11:05 AM on July 3, 2008

i once went to a wedding where the best man gave a very long, rambling, alternately dull and cringe-inducing speech about some legal troubles he'd had (the best man) and finally, at the end, said, "but [groom] stood by me through it all and was my best friend during that time, so he means a lot to me."

so, don't do that.

if they don't want it to be a big deal, something warm and genuine will do the trick. also, a joke about being glad that your dad has found someone to change his depends when he gets older so you don't have to might fly in families with a certain sense of humor.
posted by thinkingwoman at 11:15 AM on July 3, 2008

Huh, I'd suggest avoiding negativity. Perhaps you can focus on who your father was as a single gentleman before he met his new bride. Talk about how her support and attention has brought him peace, strength or some other positive quality and that it brings you comfort that he again has a loving partner in his life. That sort of statement pays respect to your mother in a very modest way. I think a similar turn of phrase could also pay respect to the bride's former families as well. You could talk about the different types of love in life and how their union has a quality of wisdom and gentle compatibility that only comes with experience.

There's probably room for you to relate some nice memories of getting to know your father's new bride, and when you recognized that they were in love. Talk about a special moment, something they've done or said that makes you feel warm or laugh. Include a few jokes, but I'd steer away from anything mean. You'll have much more fun talking about something goofy-funny vs. roasty-funny. You can also work in a statement about a particular quality the new bride has that you know your father admires. Similarly, you can speak to your father's strengths as a man and how they will serve the new bride in their future life together.

Try closing with a sort of blessing or hope for their future together, give them your good wishes and soliciting other guests to join you in a toast or cheer (hear! hear!).

Practice the toast a few times, and see if you can't discuss some of the major points with someone in your family. Have a good time, and don't forget to smile!
posted by cior at 11:29 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

So start cataloging all of dad's lovable defects, deliver with good timing, and abuse the fact that he's too happy and/or drunk to care.

I'd disagree with this, though I'm no Emily Post. If you were his younger brother, and the two of you were constantly pranking each other, it might be funny. But for your dad, I worry that what you perceive as playful ribbing might come across as spiteful and rub at least one person the wrong way. (Disclaimer: my grandfather's funeral consisted of several short eulogies that all tried to playfully poke fun at him, and even at my young age, left me horrified that he had been immortalized by mockery... So I may be biased when it comes to 'playful fun' with elders. Obviously, you would know how your family would appreciate better than I would.)

I'd just stick with a sweet speech looking at how great your dad was in the past, and how because of that, you know how great the two of them will be together in the future. Maybe some sort of cute little anecdote.

If you happen to have a comical (but not deprecating to your dad!) story that illustrates that, even better: get them to laugh a little before going, "Aww." But for a short and sweet (really) speech, I don't think humor is necessary.
posted by fogster at 11:59 AM on July 3, 2008

Do you have any old emails or letters your Dad wrote you about his new bride? How did he first mention her to you? Or tell you that he was getting married? Any of these would be a great way to talk about her through his eyes, and in a way that is less likely to be cloying. My husband's best man read an email that my husband wrote after he first met me. It turned out to be funny and 'aww' at the same time and it made a truly memorable toast.
posted by Alison at 12:58 PM on July 3, 2008

There's a trope of saying how great the bride is to put up with the groom. To me it's really dumb. I think if you say one or two sweet memories of him as a dad and how he's a role model for you, and one or two sweet stories about meeting her or seeing them together, and wish them lots of happiness, and keep the whole thing at around 3-4 minutes, you'll be in great shape.

There can be teasing funny, but the teasing should be about something he's secretly proud of, if that makes sense, because otherwise it's mean. Like, tease him about being a geek if he's proud of it, but not about losing his hair if he's self conscious. If you're not sure, it's probably better to leave it; it's by no means necessary.

Avoid making it mean, long, or about you. Let your love and respect for him, and preferably them, be the main thing you try to communicate.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:48 AM on July 4, 2008

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