Since I put more work into writing this than I did most other stuff, I am putting it here.

I don’t know how the hell I thought those first lines were in iambic pentameter. They aren’t.

I was quite nervous and so I lost my notes delivering the whole thing from memory – hence the places I have queried what I said.

 . . . and one more thing – Since Jan 2024 I have started putting my essays on Substack and with audio too! Please follow me there and give it likes and shares. Pretty please all that good stuff.

My Daughter’s Wedding

Good friends, pray welcome to this happy feast! 
Now let us celebrate the mystic force
that gathered these young hearts with us today
to witness and to bless their vows of love.

In case you wonder why I speak like this . . . Fear not!

I’m not going to make the whole of this speech in iambic pentameter. But I thought the gravity of the event justified the creation of that one quatrain.

And Michael, Michael, Michael. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you. 

Truth is that Cat is so besotted with your son, that I was beginning to wonder whether he was the product of a virgin birth or perhaps descended to earth from a cloud. So I’m delighted to discover his relatives are real living breathing humans. 

According to tradition, I shall now give a special welcome to the mother of the bride.

It would be ridiculously pompous of me to welcome Wendy who has done so much to make this event what it is when I have done nothing but just drop in . . . but that’s no problem. I can do ‘pompous’. 

Wendy!  Welcome to your daughter’s wedding.  A third of a century ago with grey rings under our eyes we brought a sweet smelling floppy little bundle home from hospital, unwrapped it on the kitchen table and wondered what to do next. 

I got a book out of the library and learnt that wedding speeches should be short funny and filled with pithy wisdom.   If that’s the case, I can hardly wait to hear what I’m going to say!

I stole that joke from the best man’s speech at a wedding long ago and I have waited these forty years for the chance to use it. I didn’t really read a book.  I know how to make a speech: 

  • Tell em what your gonna tell them.
  • Tell them.
  • Then tell em what you told them.

I won’t be delivering that last component  Don’t expect a summary at the end.  So if you need to take notes, this may be your last chance to catch up. 

Now – Tell em what you’re going to tell them.

So here’s my agenda:

  • After welcoming the bride’s mother, the father of the bride shall give a bit of history about the bride.Then he shall touch briefly on the selection of the mate. 
  • Then give some wise advice to the happy couple and especially the new son in law.
  • . . . and toast the happy couple. 

So first up: The Bride. 

Ah sorry an interruption. Is there a Mrs Richard Martin in the house?

Cat is my firstborn. I don’t know what that means to you, but for me it’s massive. That shock of success in genetic reproduction was an explosion for me.  An explosion of awareness of what life on this planet is really about. Why we as a species even have to survive to sexual maturity at all. So please don’t expect me to be logical or dispassionate about my daughter.  For me, Cat’s existence was and remains today the first and strongest manifestation of the reason for my own existence. 

Now I realise that I have been writing this speech on and off for Cat’s whole life. Maybe longer. So forgive me if it’s a little longer than it should be. The good news for you is that it’s much shorter than it was a week ago. 

Cat, we decided to take you to see the world, and because we are British, that means France. In fact we got to Spain too. So when Cat was old enough to have her three month injections we had them done by the British National Health service, probably believing that foreigners wouldn’t be able to do that kind of thing. And then with our precious cargo safely immunized, we swaddled her up and put her in a laundry basket to go travelling through Spain and France, and then we all came back to live in Bishops Castle, in lovely sleepy rural Shropshire.

Bishop’s Castle is a little market town which could have been painted by Laurie Lee or Thomas Hardy. Unlike most towns, Bishop’s Castle  for some reason lies half a mile away from the main road, and it always has done.

So its high street is on a line to and from nowhere but the church and the town hall and forms an undisturbed haven for street parties and processions.

Every weekend during those lovely summers, Sue Harris and her imaginary friend Martha Rhoden (and lots of real friends too including the black faced Shropshire Bedlams) used to dance up and down the high street followed by the Ladies of the WRVS (or was it The St John Ambulance?) and the bugle playing old men of the so called “Boy’s Brigade” band. 

Her very first word I don’t remember – but the first word I do remember my daughter saying was when I used to get up on a Sunday morning early and we would toddle together to the swings on the recreation field. Cat couldn’t get enough of that swing and if ever I stopped pushing, she used to say “more” 

Whenever offered a choice of food, she wanted it all and asked for a “mixture

Her first sentence, I recall clearly.  It was after her first experience of playschool . “I’m going again at play school

You get a pattern here? From the first, our little girl has always been a bundle of positive enthusiasm.

And the first time you hear your firstborn sing a nursery rhyme that you didn’t know yourself. You realise that the little dot that you made  . . . she already has a consciousness that is wider than your own. That’s a tearjerker. A bit like watching her get married!

Fast forward to the age of about nine or ten. We had pulled off the main road because I had seen a sign saying Kilpeck, and I recalled that St Davids, Kilpeck was the name of the seminal example of a Norman parish church.

We enjoyed sweet milky tea and cream scones in the garden of a picture-postcard-perfect cottage in the village.

The tiny church was exactly how I imagined it too.  And with all the didactic smugness of an old man in his mid thirties, I pointed out the semicircular arch and its nail-head embellishments to my daughter.

Cat, with the magical charm of her age, replied “Dad – I can’t be doing with watching church arches.

That choice of verb “to watch“, normally reserved for events, but here applied not to an event  – but something that hadn’t moved an inch for over eight hundred and fifty years  . . . and pricking my pompous bubble so beautifully . . .

It took a while but we brought her ’round.

I do feel proud of pushing my daughter in the direction of masonry. January 2008 was only just over eight years ago, and she was already a qualified sculptress in fine art, when one winter we went for an early morning walk together through a London cemetery. I still have photos of the sharp shadows of that blue sky frosty morning and of a poster advertising a masonry sculpture course.

Stone is a rich medium. Heavy and damp and immortal and yet perishable: here are a few random words Ivy, Flaky, Sedimentary, Lichen, Earth, Salts, Dank, Granular, Oolitic, Magnesian, Ancient. Rough, Soft, Hard. Polished, Flawless . . .

Stone is the fabric of the planet we live on and the surviving medium of some of the most beautiful creations of human kind. 

And I am truly proud that Rich and Cat are maintaining and adding to that cultural catalogue. 

Probably partly because we don’t see much of each other, and partly because of that firstborn life thing I mentioned, Cat has a unique romantic place in my heart. So far as I can recall, we have actually never argued these past three decades.  So I was a bit worried when I saw her hurt reaction to an unguarded something I sent on a WhatsApp message just a couple of months ago, and I sent an apology.

Cat’s response came back: “It’s alright.  I just didn’t like your choice of words. But I’m over it!”

Our first argument in thirty years. And resolved just like that.

That’s my girl. Now completely grown up and able to have settled her father’s awkward mistake in a dozen words.

That’s my girl?  Your girl now, Rich!

Agenda item No 2 – Brief Comment on the Selection of the Mate

Well he’s lovely isn’t he?  Good specimen. Handsome strong wise dynamic romantic  

(I believe he sent her on a surprise day at a spa last week)

And Dylan. I met Dylan for the first time a month ago and found myself explaining something to him complicated. Normally when I do this, people show their appreciation of my wisdom by looking gradually upwards as their eyes glaze over –  and then usually they wander off  . . . leaving me talking to myself. But Dylan waited to the end and then thanked me for explaining. What a fantastic diplomat!

I just have that silly tee shirt slogan ringing in my head. “Guns don’t kill people, fathers of daughters kill people

(Actually I think I said: “If anyone has seen Hotel Transylvania. I do get that occasional thing that Mavis’ father has and Cat, I know you have noticed this.”

I should get over this – grow up a little, Nick.

Here’s an example of my prejudice.  Maybe the therapy of sharing with a few friends gathered here will help to dispel it. 

I can’t get used to Rich calling Cat “Catherine” Now Catherine is a beautiful name – and you were named after a Catherine who was called Catherine, because I liked the sound of the name Catherine. So I can’t complain about that. 

So, really if that’s the best objection I can come up with, I’d better just accept the fact that my baby has grown up and made a great choice. 

Rich, with absolute sincerity and with the love of a father,  I bless this marriage and welcome you to my family. 

Agenda item No3: Advice from the Elder Statesman at this Event to the Happy Couple 

So. Just the same as I earlier trawled back to the best joke I heard in a wedding speech. I naturally cast back to the advice I received from my parents in law, and I asked myself, “Did it work?

Ron Cadman offered me this surprising statement on 1 January 1977

Marriage” he told us in his speech “is hard work.

Frankly, I was surprised he said this in a wedding speech. It felt a bit uncomfortably personal, and at the same time it was a statement of common knowledge  . . . but I also felt it was wrong in our case because we were special and didn’t need that kind of stuff.

Marriage to Wendy was indeed happy and easy. It was hardly any effort at all being married and we did after all stay together seventeen years.

But I messed up, and the truth is I didn’t work hard enough at that marriage. 

I didn’t realise that it was up to me to make the effort  voluntarily – I thought Ron was warning me that it would be hard and it wasn’t  Maybe he was actually trying to advise me that I had an opportunity and a duty to put a bit of hard work in voluntarily because his daughter was worth it. 

So Cat is Rich worth it? 

Rich is Cat worth it?

Management of people at work is a learned skill and management of ourselves and our most precious relationships is much the same, and something we should cultivate. 

We might think that love is so fey – so magical –  that to express it in words will bring it down from the clouds and destroy it. But the opposite is true. Love should be expressed in words and deeds and actions. Every day.  We are all of us a little insecure and we all of us love to hear a word of positive endorsement from the one we love. 

And every day I owe a debt of thanks to Ania for her leap of faith in trusting me not to make a mess of this one.

So moving on to Wedding No2 – What advice did I get from my new in-law?  Well that took a bit more of a circuitous route. You see Ania had the bright idea of not inviting her mother to our wedding.

Nevertheless after that shaky start I have the sweetest relationship with Danusia. Probably 80% of this happy situation can be attributed to the fact that we only share half a dozen words of language.  You can’t really fall out with someone over a question like“Would you prefer a coffee or a gin and tonic?” Especially if addressed in sign language and smiles.

However there is a lovely Polish tradition of breaking communion wafers and giving kind wishes at Christmas.  These, like all Danusia’s words of wisdom  are translated for me by Ania.

So although not at my wedding, I have received very significant advice from my mother-in-law through the medium of Ania’s translation (actually I never know how much it comes from Ania and how much from her mother!) 

It’s the best. Very clear. Very specific. Very focussed and honestly very helpful. So it’s this advice that I will share with you today, Rich.

This knowledge has been a simple creed for me. It has supported me in times of darkness and I pass it on and share it with you in a positive spirit of love and support.

Here translated from the Polish by my wife is my loving message to you.

If you cheat on my daughter, I’ll cut your balls off.

Thank you. 

Ladies and gentlemen.

Please join me in raising your glasses to bless this union and wish lifelong health happiness and togetherness to Mr and Mrs Richard Martin.

Nick James      Posted in:



July 2016 Written Muscat, Delivered How Caple Court, Herefordshire

Header Image:

Catherine on her wedding day