The term to toast means to raise a glass, speak a few words, and take a drink in honor of a person, couple, or group being celebrated. It can refer to the entire ritual or specifically to the words spoken. It is a common tradition in Western cultures at weddings, anniversaries, and other celebrations and achievements of life. It is a ritual that shows honor and respect. Toasts are used to offer congratulations and to wish good health, happiness, and a hopeful future for the person or persons the toast is directed toward.
How Toasts Are Made
A toast can be among many people or between just two people. The first step is that everyone has a glass filled with a beverage. The host or the person making the toast gets everyone's attention. The person making a toast raises his glass and proposes a toast. He speaks a few words identifying the person or persons being honored by the toast and why.
Others raise their glasses or touch their glasses together in agreement with the toast and take a drink. The person being honored generally does not take a drink but replies with a thank-you. The honoree may take a sip after that.
It is wise for the guests to only take a sip as more toasts may follow the first toast. Other guests or the person being honored by the first toast can propose further toasts.
If toasts are being given at a meal, the host usually proposes a toast at the beginning of the meal. Other toasts may be offered at different points of the meal, especially right before dessert is served
There is no formal etiquette as to whether the person making the toast is standing or seated. It depends on the size of the gathering. The other guests generally remain seated unless the person making the toast requests that they stand up.
Kinds of Toasts
While toasts are generally sentimental and encouraging, they may also be humorous, serious, and depending on the event, rude or insulting. Some toasts are silent ones and just raising a glass to someone is a gesture of acknowledgment.
Many popular toasts are very short ones:
- "Hip, Hip, Hooray."
- "L'Chaim" (which means "to life")
- "To your health."
- "Live long and prosper."
- "I drink to you."
- "Here's to cheer."
- "May God be with you and bless you."
- "Let us eat, drink, and be merry."
If it is a formal occasion, a longer and more personalized toast may be appropriate. Keep any toast under three minutes. Try to limit yourself to just a couple of sentences or a short paragraph at most. While it is appropriate to note your relationship to the person you are toasting, keep the toast about that person rather than giving a lengthy story about yourself or focusing on your feelings. Keep the toast appropriate for the audience.
The best man typically makes the first toast at a wedding reception. The father of the bride and father of the groom may then make toasts, as may other members of the wedding party.
For a wedding or anniversary toast, you may want to modify an old Irish drinking toast, which has been used in the movies "Leap Year" and "Hitch."
"May you never lie, steal, cheat or drink. But if you must lie, lie in each other's arms. If you must steal, steal kisses. If you must cheat, cheat death. And if you must drink, drink with us, your friends."