Friday, December 9, 2011

Toasting your Father: Tips from a Best Daughter

When my dad announced he and his long-time sweetheart were going to tie the knot, I was thrilled! Just a few days before the wedding, my dad's fiance asked me to be the best man. All I had to do was hold the rings and make a toast. Sure, I could handle that--daughters can be best men, too.

I started doing a bit of research about best man toasts online, but the tips I found were bizarrely unfitting for toasting one's father and new wife. Do I really need to be reminded not to swear, tell crass jokes, and avoid discussing sex? No.

Here are some hints that might actually be of use to a best-daughter:

Do: Say something funny to break the ice.
Try: "I've never been a best man before...for obvious reasons." Or go to the mic wearing a tie and carrying a cigar, if you think the crowd will appreciate the visual humor. Sometimes the truth is the funniest thing you can say. I began by simply explaining that the best man speech tips online had been useless because "I couldn't very well begin my toast with, 'I met Steve in 1980. We both looked a mess and I was screaming like a banshee.'" You could also point out that you had to give up on the online advice when all of the ads screaming, "Anything less than the most perfect, brilliant toast will ruin the entire wedding and probably the marriage, too!" terrified you.

Don't: Tell funny stories that might bring your father's parenting into question.
Funny stories about the father/daughter relationship are totally appropriate, but think carefully about any story you want to tell. Did your dad get mad at you, yell at you, or forget to go to your important dance recital in the anecdote? Even if you know he was a wonderful dad, don't say anything that might paint him in a bad light for those who don't know him as well.

Do: Say something sweet about your father's relationship with his new wife.
I chose to point out how very different my dad and his sweetheart are, using an analogy about how sometimes the foods you don't expect to see combined taste delicious, for instance, bacon-wrapped dates, chili peppers in hot chocolate and dipping french fries in your milkshake. Maybe your dad's fiance shares his passion for eclectic antique lamps, or maybe he has finally found a permanent pinochle partner.

Don't: Say anything about any reservations you may have had regarding your new step-mother.
Thumper's mom had it right: If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nuthin' at all. If you have trouble coming up with a charming story or an aspect of their relationship you want to focus on, or you aren't all that keen on the bride, you can still give a speech to honor the occasion. Focus instead on your relationship with your father, emphasizing that you want him to be happy, and toast to many years of happiness for them both.

Do: Feel free to express emotions.
One of the great things about being a female best man is that you aren't expected to be macho in the least. Don't worry if you get teary-eyed, and don't be afraid to say "I love you" in front of an audience. The crowd will appreciate your sentiments; just remember to bring a hankie.

Don't: Let nerves get the better of you.
Not all best men (or best daughters) are going to be comfortable, skilled public speakers, and that's okay. It may be contrary to traditional public speaking etiquette, but go ahead and write down notes to read from if you are nervous talking to large groups. Even the president gets to refer to notes when he speaks! Just don't let the paper hinder your main message, and try to let the emotion you felt when you wrote the speech shine through. Finally, if your knees are still shaking when you think about delivering a best-daughter toast, try addressing just your father and his wife during your speech and pretend the guests aren't even there. This can ease the pressure and let you concentrate on conveying your thoughts to the people who matter most.

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