Father of the Bride

Ladies & Gentlemen,
It is traditional on occasions such as this for the Bride’s father to make the first speech and that, apparently, is because he is considered to be the host for the day, welcoming you all and especially the Groom’s family, who have travelled such a long way to be with us. So, speaking as one who inhabits the arctic wastes of Essex, it is indeed a very great privilege for me to welcome you, John and Lorraine, to your home county of Kent! Lovely to see you here. And of course I extend that welcome to every one of the guests. I’d like to make a special mention of Janet’s mum and my dad, neither of whom go out much these days, but have made a particular effort on this occasion.

On the spur of the moment, I invited the assembled company to sing Happy Birthday to my dad, who was 92 last Sunday. My then 3 year old niece, not quite sure what we were celebrating, sung it to him 30 years ago at our wedding. He was tickled pink both times!

Now of course this is a very proud day for Janet & me. It is my pleasant duty to sing the bride’s praises, and this could indeed be a very long song. I would like to spend a few moments telling anyone who isn’t aware of the fact that we’ve got a wonderful daughter. She has many talents: she is a 4th generation teacher in a line beginning with my grandmother; she is a born organiser, a trait she no doubt inherited from my mother, at whose funeral a couple of years ago Ellen spoke so movingly. Who else but Ellen, in their first term at University, could have arranged a 4-course Christmas Dinner for 20-odd students using Tesco ingredients and Halls of Residence cookers and come away not having poisoned anyone? A couple of years ago she was the driving force behind a surprise party we organised for Janet, in which 26 people sat down to eat the terrific meal that Ellen had masterminded and cooked, using three different cookers in different parts of Southend.

So, Ben, if you are into intimate candle-lit dinners for two, or even three dozen people, then you’ve married the right woman.

Ellen is witty, charming, creative, beautiful and intelligent, but with Janet as a mother one would expect nothing less. I recall one Christmas, when Ellen was about 14 years old, my mother instigated a game of I-Spy. There had been the usual round of tinsel, balloon, christmas tree, candle, fairy light etc when it was my mother’s turn. “I spy with my little eye something beginning with G F”, said mother, expecting the answer “gas fire”.

“Geriatric fool” came Ellen’s instant response, demonstrating in one fell swoop both her wit and her charm.

Now Ellen is politically very astute and quite an environmentalist. The excellent meal that we have just enjoyed, for example, consisted very largely of locally-produced food and of course buying locally is one of the greenest things you can do as it reduces the amount of fuel required for transport and so on. And you may not be aware that Ellen has chosen a very environmentally-friendly husband. For example, last Christmas my then son-in-law-elect’s present to me was some packets of veg seed, 2 broom handles and some of his old clothes, recycled, so that I could construct a scarecrow. The scarecrow never was constructed, but we still have some of the vegetables that Ben’s present produced.

Another example of Ellen’s environmental credentials is that she has made a conscious decision never to learn to drive, preferring to be chauffeured around everywhere, which of course means a halving of the vehicle’s emissions as they are shared between two people rather than being attributable to her alone. Indeed, when she was at Warwick University she took this anti-car sentiment to extremes, walking out like some kind of latter-day suffragette in front of a moving vehicle and breaking its windscreen with her head. That was, to put it mildly, a harrowing day for Janet and me but luckily she sustained no injury to warrant her staying in hospital. According to the A & E staff in Coventry, Ben, you are taking on a woman with an unusually spherical cranium. Well done!

Ellen is an excellent portrait artist as those of you who have seen her picture of my father will agree; a fine musician, having performed with, amongst others, the Jimmy Jones Band in Canterbury; and, of course, she is a talented chess player, having been part of a National Schools’ Champion team and representing Essex at both Junior and Adult chess, but never quite landing a British Junior Individual title, coming second by half-a-point on about 4 occasions. But more important than any of these, she is loyal and loving, and she is great fun to have around, always being quick to laugh at even my jokes, especially after she has had a few drinks.

No Bride’s Father’s speech is complete without the cliché about not losing a daughter but gaining a son-in-law and of course Ben is a very remarkable chap with an excellent taste… in beer, so rare with the younger generation these days mumble mumble. Handicapped as he was with a childhood infatuation with Moira Stewart, he overcame all this to achieve great things. Who can have anything but the greatest respect for a man who can walk all the way from John O’Groats to Land’s End and still be on speaking terms with his companion to the extent that he asks him to be his Best Man? And his Marilyn Munro impersonations at fancy dress parties have to be seen to be believed… I almost fancied him myself.

I must conclude with a word of warning to Ben: there are other men in Ellen’s life. In the first case, like Ben, he’s good-looking, athletic, intelligent, suave, and excellent company. However, unlike Ben, he’s never caught a squirrel, in spite of having expended a lot of energy in their pursuit. And unlike Ben he loves chewing his bone, he comes when you whistle and he chases his balls all over the park and brings them back in his mouth.

In the second case, Ellen has shared her bed with the whole of Bexley.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in drinking to the future health, happiness and prosperity of the new Mr & Mrs Crozier, Ben & Ellen.

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