I’m sure none of us is a stranger to the longstanding custom of the dinner table toast. Its origins date back earlier than the 17th century! But when it comes to reacting to toasts or giving them yourself, the waters can be murkier than you might think. To avoid any awkward moments, I’ve put together some basic guidelines that I’ve gathered over the years:
Who. It is generally polite to give the host or hostess the opportunity to make the first toast. This almost always holds true for formal occasions, but the more casual the occasion, the more leeway you have. For instance, if you’re at a wedding, wait your turn. But if you’re at a summer dinner with friends, you can play it by ear. If it becomes clear your host doesn’t plan to give a toast, it’s best to lead the way by offering a toast in honor of the host. Bonus: Extra brownie points.
When. The toasting should begin when the first drinks are served at the beginning of a meal. It’s completely appropriate to toast after the wine has been poured for dinner, but it has become common practice at formal occasions to wait for champagne at dessert.
How. I’m sure we’ve all heard someone kick off their toast by clanging their silverware against their glass–please, refrain from this noisy technique. Instead, simply stand tall and begin. People will take notice. Meanwhile, if you’re the lucky lady being toasted, remain seated and do not drink during the toast. 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.
Where, What, & Why. If you plan to give a toast at a formal event, be prepared! I cannot stress this enough. Don’t drink too much before you speak and keep your comments short and sweet. We’ve all seen rambling, irrational toasts. Gross. Remember that you want to be spectacular, not a spectacle. Opt for thoughtful words from the heart and give your toast consideration before you take the stage. If you’re going to take the floor, what you say should be meaningful and well thought out. The more casual the occasion, the more acceptable the off-the-cuff toast is, but it never hurts to think before you speak. (This last tidbit really applies to all areas of life!)
Now that we know how to a give good toast, what’s the worst toast you’ve ever witnessed?