This is a topic I am constantly asked to revisit. I believe there are a lot of fathers of the brides who don’t even think about ‘the speech’ until the last minute. So, I’ll go over the basics, and you can take it from here.
The Welcome. The bride’s father usually is the first to stand up after the guests are seated, and says something like Good evening family and friends. (His wife’s name) and I would like to welcome you to a very special night, and express how happy we are to share it with you. Then, if appropriate, introduce the officiant, and ask the rabbi, priest or minister to give the blessing before dinner. If no officiant or blessing is preferred, he may invite everyone to enjoy their meal and dance to the band. Dad then sits down with the guests and enjoys the meal.
The Speech. Now, at any point during dinner, the bride’s father may stand up and give ‘the speech’—but it’s usually as dessert is being served. His speech starts by talking a bit about his daughter and her groom, his pride in their accomplishments, and their (his and his wife’s) joy that the groom will now be a part of the family. He proposes a toast to the bride and groom, by saying something similar to this: Family, friends, please lift your glasses as we toast this new couple and wish them all of life’s happiness and none of its troubles.
After Dad sits down, the best man stands up introduces himself, and asks for toasts to the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the parents of both the bride and groom, and if appropriate, the venue and its staff. When the best man starts to talk about the groom, he can get humorous, but never risqué—and of course, nothing coarse or vulgar. A cute, but close-to-the-edge toast I heard recently went like this: Yes, Mike and I have been through a lot and have shared a lot of adventures. And speaking of shared, we also have shared the same parole officer, drug and alcohol counselor, psychiatrist and our mother’s recipe for peanut butter Rice Krispie treats. Please join me as we toast my dear friend and his wife, and wish them the best of everything because they’re the best there is.
At this point, the best man will introduce the groom by saying, I think the groom (by his first name) may have a few things to say…
The groom then will want to toast both pairs of parents separately, the groomsmen and the bridesmaids. Then, he will address his bride, using his own words, and ask for a toast for the woman he’s chosen to spend the rest of his life with.
Now comes the tricky part, as the groom has to say something to indicate the end of toasts and speeches. One way to do it is by inviting the guests to stand around and him and his bride as they have their first dance as man and wife. The music should then start, and the newlyweds should proceed to the dance floor. This action makes sure that no alcohol-induced toasts are given, and that nothing less than stellar is said—no fraternity brothers relating ribald stories about drunken or embarrassing escapades, or long, windy mush fests by bridesmaids.
There are books on this subject, and there is a tremendous group called Toastmasters you may look up online, but I think usually words spoken from the heart have the most impact and ring with the truest expressions of love.