Toasting to love, friendship, health, wealth, and happiness has been practiced by almost every culture from the beginning of recorded history. The longstanding custom of the dinner table toast dates back earlier than the 17th century – offering a toast at the table was considered both good manners and a way of enlightening the evening. To this day, a well-made toast can make a simple moment special. This gracious gesture can be delivered by anyone. All it takes is a little forethought, practice, and a familiarity with basic toast protocol.
While there are no hard-fast rules to toasting, what follows are guidelines to get you started:
Toasting should begin when first drinks are served at the beginning of a meal. Traditionally, the first toast is offered by the host as a welcome to guests. It has become common practice at formal occasions for toasts offered by others to start at the dessert course over champagne.
While traditionally, the host or hostess should be the first to offer a toast, especially in a formal setting, the more informal the occasion the less this tenet applies. If it appears that the host has no intention of offering a toast, ask his or her permission to do so yourself. Around a dinner table with friends, a guest can offer the first toast as a way of thanking the host for bringing everyone together.
You should always stand when offering a toast unless it is a small informal occasion. Standing can help you to get the group’s attention. It is best not to signal for quiet by tapping on a glass. Instead, simply stand tall and begin. People will take notice. If absolutely necessary, say in a loud projecting voice, “May I have your attention please.” Repeat as needed.
A toast is a miniature speech. Craft your lines; know what you plan to say before speaking.
Be Brief, Stay Simple
Keep your toast short and to the point.
Make Use of Eloquence and Whit
Know when to stop and take your seat. End on a positive note.
Clearly define the end by saying “Cheers,” asking your audience to “Raise your glass.”
Never stand or drink to a toast, when it is being offered to you. Do give the speaker your full attention, make eye contact, and give thanks when the toast is complete. This is the most gracious way to receive the compliment.
If there is a large group of people toasting an honoree, the clinking of glasses is not performed. Instead, while holding your glass by the stem, simply raise it to shoulder height in front of you, gently gesture toward the honoree, and take a sip. If it is a small group of people, and you are clinking glasses, you should always look the person in the eyes when doing so.
Never refuse to participate in a toast. It is perfectly acceptable to participate with a non-alcoholic beverage or even an empty glass than not at all.
The beverage being used or the clink of the glass is not as important as the bestowing of honor. The power of acknowledgment contained in a raised glass can be portrayed most eloquently by the words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So, join me now in raising a glass to well-executed toasts!