Give the Perfect toast
By Chelse Benham
“A well made toast can make a simple moment special, as few things in life do.
This gracious gesture can be delivered by anyone. All it takes is a little
forethought, practice, and a familiarity with some toast etiquette and protocol.” –
Into Wine, A Guide to Toasting Web site
The history of the toast dates back thousands of years. It has been used to
celebrate the achievement of others, mark joyous occasions and unite those
“I think the most important thing to remember is the person or persons being
toasted. A toast is a compliment to that person or persons. Let it come from the
heart,’ said Dr. Dora E. Saavedra, University Honors Program director and
adviser to the Silver Tongued Orators Society at The University of Texas-Pan
American. “Therefore, think carefully about what is special about the person(s) to
be toasted. Is there a special story that you can tell that illustrates one of his/her
(their) qualities, e.g., their generosity? Once you identify that quality or qualities,
the rest is a piece of cake.”
Few people know the history of the toast, but it was born from perilous
beginnings. The Into Wine Web site offers a concise and brief history of the toast.
“As early as the sixth Century B.C., the Greeks were toasting to their
friend's health for a highly practical reason — to assure them that the
wine they were about to drink wasn't poisoned. To spike the wine with
poison had become an all too common means of dealing with social
problems – disposing of an enemy, silencing the competition,
preventing a messy divorce and the like. It thus became a symbol of
friendship for the host to pour wine from a common pitcher, drink it
before his guests, and satisfied that it was a good experience, raise his
glass to his friends to do likewise.
The Romans, impressed by the Greeks in general, tended to handle
their interpersonal problems similarly. The term toast comes from the
Roman practice of dropping a piece of burnt bread into the wine. This
was done to temper some of the bad wines the Romans sometimes
had to drink. The charcoal reduces the acidity of slightly off wines
making them more palatable.
In time, the Latin tostus meaning roasted or parched, came to refer to
the drink itself. In the 1700s, party-goers even liked to toast to the
health of people not present — usually celebrities and especially
beautiful women. A woman who became the object of many such
toasts, came to be known as the ‘toast of the town.’"
“I think the most common mistake is the inappropriate use of humor. Another
pitfall is trying to impress rather than speaking simply and sincerely. Finally,
there are toasts that go on forever. Keep them brief,” Saavedra said.
Toasting and doing it well can be an enormous facilitator in helping you stand out
from the crowd especially at business gatherings. However, there are some
general guidelines to follow when making and receiving a toast. At
money.cnn.com tips for the perfect toast are available. The following are outlined
• Never drink or stand when a toast is being offered to you. However,
you should always stand up and respond to the toast, even if this
means just thanking the toast giver for the gesture.
• Let the host be given the first opportunity to make a toast to the
guest of honor. If it appears that the host has no intention of
offering a toast, it would be polite to quietly request the host's
indulgence to do so yourself.
• You should always stand when offering a toast unless it is a small
informal group. Standing can help you to get the attention of the
group and quiet them down.
• It is not a good idea to push someone to make a toast who does
not want to.
• Never refuse to participate in a toast. It is more polite and perfectly
acceptable to participate with a non-alcoholic beverage or even an
empty glass than not at all.
• Be Simple. Keep your toast short and to the point. Avoid use of big
words. The simplest words often sound the most sincere.
• Be Brief. Avoid more than just a few sentences. Don't use the toast
as a soapbox.
• Be Prepared. A good toast is a speech in miniature. Any good
orator will tell you, it takes far more work to craft a short message,
than a long speech. It takes practice to sound spontaneous. It's not
a bad idea to have two or three short toasts memorized for when
the opportunity presents itself. If you're quoting a well known work,
know the context of the lines so as not to leave people reading
something else in, between them.
• Be Done. End on a positive note. Clearly define the end by saying
"Cheers!” asking your audience to "Raise your glass," or some
other accepted gesture.
According to advice found at the Advanced Public Speaking Institute Web site,
the polished public speaker should have a few short toasts ready to go if and
when the occasion arises. Here are a few toasts, for a variety of occasions, to
• To your birthday, glass held high. Glad it's you that's older not I.
• Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you diet.
• Here’s to a full belly, a heavy purse, and a light heart.
• Happiness being a dessert so sweet, may life give you more than you can
• Here's to a friend who knows me well and likes me anyway.
• May the friends of our youth be the companions of our old age.
Banquet speech ending:
• Good day, good health, good cheer, good night!
• Here's to your health. You make age curious, time furious, and all of us
• As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never face up.
• May your luck be like the capital of Ireland, always Dublin.
• May misfortune follow you the rest of your life, but never catch up.
• As Groucho Marx would say, “Marriage is an institution, but who wants to
live in an institution.”
• May you both live as long as you want, and never want as long as you
Jill Bremer, owner of Bremer Communications, insists that it’s important to know
how to make a proper toast when the occasion presents itself. In general, there
are two points during a meal when a toast can be offered; both should be
initiated by the host.
The first toast is offered before eating and serves to welcome the guests. "I'd like
to welcome all of you to the banquet today. Bon appetit!" A toast to the guest of
honor is made after the dessert course when the wine glasses have been refilled
or the champagne has been served.
This toast is more like a short speech (one to two minutes) that needs to be
prepared and rehearsed ahead of time. It should be light, warm and humorous in
tone and include personal anecdotes and words of admiration for the honored
guest. Conclude by quoting a short, formal toast (like the ones above.)
Be sure that you don't jump in with a toast before the host has an opportunity to
offer one himself. When there is no guest of honor at an event, a toast can be
made to the host by one of the guests.
Bremer offers these toasting techniques at www.bremercommunications.com
• To get the group's attention, never bang on a glass; simply stand, holding
your glass in the air.
• Don't hold your glass in the air during your toast. Set it down after you get
their attention, make your toast, then raise your glass and ask the others
to raise theirs for your formal, final words. You can also ask the group to
stand for the final words.
• Guests respond by taking a sip of their drink, not draining the glass.
• The guest of honor often returns the toast, thanking the host for their kind
words and then proposing a toast of their own to the host.
Additional toasting tips found at www.sideroad.com are:
1. Keep the toast no longer than three minutes and maintain eye contact with the
person being toasted as you deliver it.
2. Make sure all glasses are full before you begin.
3. First thing, announce your relationship to person being toasted. Everyone may
4. Don't give a long string of characteristics. Rather choose a few adjectives,
hitting the high points, i.e., she's lovely, vivacious and generous.
5. Use tasteful humor and don't do "in" jokes that only a few will get. You want to
include, not exclude others in the toast.
6. Stay PG-rated. It's your responsibility to make sure you do not offend anyone.
7. Practice your toast a lot beforehand. This is not the time to "wing it" especially
if you plan to be imbibing beforehand.
8. Don’t give a toast if you have had too much to drink. If you know that you are
to give a toast it is best to drink very little beforehand. Remember, people are
watching and listening to your every word.
“The imprudent man reflects upon what he has said, the wise man upon what he
is going to say.” – Anonymous