Mother of the bride

Usually tradition is that the father of the bride gives the speech, but sometimes circumstances dictate or you’re the best person to give the speech…
Picture of Oliver Lucas

Oliver Lucas

Published 08 Sep 2023

Bride and brides mother dressed in white with an orange background

When it comes to weddings, it’s finally beginning to dawn on people that, other than ‘tradition’, there’s no reason why it should always be the men who get to speak. So if you find yourself with the responsibility of giving a mother of the bride speech, then you’ll be far from the first. Whether it be because dad is not around, both parents are having a go, or that you’re simply the best person to talk about your daughter you’ll want your words to do the moment justice – and then some.

But how do you do this? No one knows your daughter quite like you but how do you get across the love and pride you feel for her – to the woman herself and the rest of the room? That’s where SpeechMate can help. We take the time to find out about you, your daughter and the relationship you share. Then we pick through all the many swirling ideas and thoughts in your head and sift them into a heartfelt, flowing speech that everyone and their mother will love!

Whether you want humour, sentiment, nostalgia or all of the above we have you covered. Of course not everyone wants others to know they have had help with the speech, so don’t worry as far as we’re concerned mum’s the word……

Wdding ceremony raising a toast

YOUR RELATIONSHIP

As the saying often goes, daughters are little girls who grow up to become your best friend. While this is true of many, each mother and daughter will have a unique bond and relationship and this is what we want to get across. You’ll share certain memories, jokes and interests – the trick is to present this to guests in a way they can relate to so your words will resonate with them.

Is there a theme that runs through all of this that knits everything together nicely? For example, do you share a job, such as teaching, where your speech could be an extended report card in which you grade her on matters such as punctuality (lateness) and (dis)organisation.

There are many elements of a mother of the bride speech that are similar to father of the bride – reflecting the fact that you are both parents. But also there’s room to give it your own flavour as even the same set of parents will have their own different perspectives on their daughter. Now let’s talk about how to best share that perspective!

GETTING STARTED

Rule one is avoid the temptation to sit straight down at a computer (or with a piece of paper for old-schoolers) and start writing the speech. The first step is to have a bit of a brain storming session. It can be on your own or with someone else who knows your daughter well – maybe one of her siblings or even one of yours. Then ask yourself questions about your daughter and jot down the answers.

What are her main personality traits? How have these changed from child to woman – and which have remained? Speaking of her early years what funny and embarrassing things did she do or say as a youngster? While as an adult, what of her achievements and what makes you most proud of her? Along the way there must have been some special moments and memories you’ve shared. It’s all about mapping out the key points on the journey from being a helpless baby to a fully-fledged independent woman who is about to get married.

Before long you should have plenty of material and hopefully are beginning to see how your speech can take shape. The next steps are to get structuring and writing to give it that shape.

STRUCTURE

There’s no absolute right or wrong for this, depending on your personality some people like to throw away the rule book and go maverick. But there is an established speech structure that will cover all the necessary points while allowing flexibility to put your own stamp on proceedings. This is one area where mother and father of the bride speeches have a large cross over. Essentially the structure is the same, you may just have a different approach to the various parts.

An introduction is always necessary. It’s probably obvious who you are but you’ll want to be known by an actual name rather than (bride’s) mum or (groom’s) new mother-in-law as you will be initially to some guests. Plus it also allows you to welcome everyone and thank them for coming. This leads nicely into a few specific thank yous. Care is required here to not ‘double-up’ too much with other speakers and a lengthy list can bore people so forget about including the caterers, waiting on staff and the venue’s pet cat.

What should be the focus is those who have played a big role in your daughter’s life. The obvious one would be dad, but other relations such as grandparents could have been a large influence or possibly a friend who has always been there for her. In terms of those with significant roles on the day there may be a friend or family member who made a spectacular cake but typically others will tend to thank the majors players (for eg the best man). The possible exception is bridesmaids as some of these may also merit a mention for the role they have played in your daughter’s life generally.

The key is thanking people for what they have done for your girl and happily this provides a link to the main subject of your speech – the bride. This part is where you get to say how you feel about her and why. Real life examples always work best so, for instance, if your daughter is one of those people who always puts others before herself tell guests of an occasion where this happened. It’s all about paying tribute to her and letting people know why you think she’s brilliant but also why everyone else should too. Peppering this part with humour, such as  funny stories mentioning the bride’s quirks, is more than allowed. But the tone is very much laugh with, not at, her.

Not everyone likes their daughter’s choice of husband (for example, you’d imagine, Melania Trump’s parents) but it’s his day too and he needs to be mentioned. A few kind words about his qualities and why he will be a good husband will go down well – remember half of the guests will be there for him. Most mums tend to like their daughter’s partner but even if he’s not your ideal choice you still need to say something positive about the groom.

Finally there is the toast to the newly-weds and perhaps a little bit of advice. This could be from your own experiences of marriage or some famously romantic words. Perhaps even a combination by adapting a quote to suit your daughter and her husband. Funny, poignant or both will end on a memorable note before raising a glass to the happy couple.

WRITING

Hopefully by now your head – and notes – will be bursting with ideas and things to say about your daughter. And so it’s time to get them down into a cohesive, emotive speech that will wow your daughter and all the guests. First thing to do is get sifting. What things do you definitely want to include, which can be given lower priority and which, sadly, will have to be canned. As mentioned above it can help to think in terms of a common theme or thread that links the content together and can give that flow you are looking for.

Once this is decided look at ordering things within your structure in a way where ideas develop and the next part reinforces the last. Keep each part snappy so the speech progresses and takes the audience with it. The important thing is for you to sound like you, use the words and little turns of phrase you may do normally – it will sound more natural, heartfelt and original.

Another point to bear in mind as far as originality is concerned is to steer clear of well-worn jokes and phrases. An extreme example is the gag about it being such as emotional day even the cake is in tiers.  Once a brilliant witticism, now a cliché. Likewise, there’s a saying about the key to marriage being about finding someone you can’t live without not someone you can live with. A little less of a cliché, and a nice sentiment, but still something that will have been heard before.

Actually getting to grips with all this and writing the speech is the part people can often struggle with. Attempting to give order and sense to many thoughts, so those listening know exactly what you are trying to say, can be tricky. We’re here to help.

DOS AND DON’T’S

Here’s some handy pointers to keep in mind.

Do:

Plan – ask yourself the right questions to think of material to include in the speech before writing.

Mention dad – unless he has never been on the scene there’s likely two very proud parents who love their daughter.

Use real life examples – don’t just tell everyone your daughter’s brilliant, tell them why and illustrate the point.

Link the parts of your speech – find a common thread to make one part flow into the next rather than abruptly jump from one thing to another.

Practice – and practice and practice. We can’t emphasise this enough!

Don’t:

Forget the groom – it’s his big day too, his family will be there so say something positive and don’t damn with faint praise.

Fall in the ‘had to be there’ trap – stories and memories involving your daughter are great, so long as they are recounted in a relatable way.

Endlessly thank – yes express gratitude, but remember others will too so a lengthy list will drag.

Resort to cliché – you’ve known your daughter for years and have your own unique relationship, so express your feelings don’t recycle other people’s.

Drink away those nerves – no more than a couple to get steady, instead prepare, practice and have a speech in front of you that gives you confidence.

LENGTH

A lot of advice over speech length is pretty prescriptive, the usual guidance is no shorter than six minutes, no longer than 10. We think a little more flexibly and say if, and only if, you have the quality of content let that dictate your quantity. It’s fine to go a little over this 10 minute barrier, the belief that your guests want short and sweet isn’t necessarily the case. What any audience want is to be kept engaged – whether that’s by being made to laugh, moved or interested to hear more. If you’re doing some, or all, of these no one will mind a speech of 11 or 12 minutes.

It may be that you’re part of a father and mother of the bride joint effort, or both doing separate speeches. While we talk in more detail about joint speeches elsewhere, the basic premise is you do get more time. However, it’s not so simple as twice the people, twice the length; altogether you should probably aim for not much more than 15 minutes.

DELIVERY

So the big moment has arrived, how are you feeling? Even the most seasoned speech-giver is not immune to nerves so if you have a few butterflies that’s fine. The first thing to point out is you have a very generous crowd. No one’s turned up to heckle the mother of the bride, in fact they will be rooting for you to succeed and there will be a lot of goodwill towards all speakers.

Still, public speaking can be slightly daunting and the single biggest thing you can do to get over this is prepare and practice. A lot. Start with speaking it aloud on your own and as confidence grows graduate to practicing in front of someone you trust who can give you an honest appraisal. Essentially, the more familiar you are with your material the more comfortable you will get with it and the more natural you will sound.

It can be a big help to have a copy of your speech with you, or at least distil it down to prompt cards. This will give you some peace of mind because you know that should your mind go blank there’s the means to get back on track. If at all possible try not to simply read your speech, the words can sound a little wooden. Familiarity means you can mostly just speak, in the same free-flowing way you would chatting to your best friend over coffee.

Other tips would be to keep a glass of water within easy reach to lubricate your throat should it get dry and work out beforehand where you need to hold the mic so you can be heard but without deafening your guests. One final, very important, point: easing the nerves with a glass or two of your favourite bevvy is fine. That’s the limit though, a half-drunk speaker is never at their best.

WHY YOU ARE SPEAKING

Although mother of the bride speeches are becoming increasingly common, weddings that include one are still in the minority. So generally there may be a specific reason one is necessary. Dad not wanting to speak could be one, or dad realising you are better at it could be another.

However, it could be that the father of the bride has passed away in which case a reference to this is necessary. It needn’t be long, speaking at length could reduce yourself and the bride to tears, it just needs to be meaningful. Let people know he is missed by many, raise a glass and move on.

Otherwise, it’s up to you whether you reference the fact it’s a little ‘different’ that you, as the mum, are speaking. It needn’t be necessary but there can be an ice-breaking joke made. Ultimately though, your gender is unimportant. Whether you are a mum or a dad the main thing is to let everyone know why you are proud of your daughter – and to make her feel the same way about you!