What is the proper etiquette when making a toast?
The etiquette of toasting is highly dependent on the social context in which the toast will be given. For instance, the approach and style of toasting would be quite different if made in a pub among casually dressed friends over beer than if made at a wedding reception by a tuxedo-clad best man to the newlyweds.
In all cases, however, toasts should exhibit the following characteristics:
- Toasts have three parts: the introduction, the oration, and the toast proper. The introduction explains who you are and what your relationship to the toastee(s) is; the oration is the meat of the toast, which you will have written and learned in advance; the toast proper is the raising of the glass accompanied by language such as "to X" (where X is a person's name or to a concept, e.g. "to peace," etc.) or "cheers," etc.
- They should be recited from memory and not read, but you should practice the toast in advance so that your delivery of it sounds heartfelt and natural.
- Toasts should focus on the toastee and not on the toaster.
- The toast should be thematically appropriate to the occasion and social context but also sincere and heartfelt.
- Avoid a sappy or overly sentimental toast, as this will tend to draw attention to the toaster instead of the toastee(s).
- A toast should never be lengthy (it should not be confused with a speech); a succinct, meaningful toast is best.
- A toast should never endeavor anything other than to portray the toastee(s) in a positive light.
- Humor is appropriate for a toast so long as the other people in attendance will be open to the humor--and so long as no offense is made.
- It is best to try a toast out on one or two people other than the toastee in advance.
- It is not necessary to say "cheers" or another language's version of that if the concluding phrase is clearly the toast.
During the toast itself:
- Make sure that everyone has been served something appropriate to toast with before starting.
- Stand up to give the toast; if you can capture everyone's attention without clanking silverware on a cup, that is better, but use the clanking method if need be. Keep the toasting beverage
- Stand with good posture and give eye contact to the audience and to the toastee.
- Speak loudly and clearly.
- Hold the toasting beverage low until the end when you end the toast by saying "to X" or "cheers," etc., when you should raise the glass high.
- The audience members will then clink glasses together; you as the toaster should do the same with anyone in your nearest vicinity--but if the toastee is too far to easily clink glasses, then be sure to do an "air clink" to the toastee(s).
- Always give brief but meaningful eye contact to another person whose glass you are clinking or air-clinking.
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