Giving a toast is an honored tradition at many types of special events, including weddings, dinners, retirement parties and more. When asked to give a toast, many people hesitate. After all, public speaking is one of society's most common phobias. Making a toast puts the speaker indisputably in the spotlight, if only for a brief moment. With these tips, however, you will learn how to give a toast that is effective, meaningful, and memorable.
How to Give a Toast: The Occasion
Different people are asked to give toasts at different occasions. Family members may toast an honored birthday guest, parents and attendants toast the bride and groom at both the rehearsal dinner and wedding reception, coworkers toast retiring employees, and parents toast graduating children. Many toasts can also be spontaneous, such as a formal dinner on a cruise ship, an intimate romantic dinner, or simply a friendly dinner or party. The type of occasion often dictates the formality of the toast as well as its length and content. A more formal event generally calls for a more sophisticated sentiment, while a casual gathering may prompt a short, spontaneous toast.
Setting Up a Toast
Before a toast, the speaker should always check that other people are prepared - their wine glasses are filled, they are paying attention, and the most prominent people (usually whomever is being toasted) are present. The time-honored tradition of clinking cutlery against the side of the wine glass to gain the group's attention often sets the mood - people know what to expect. At larger events, such as crowded wedding receptions, an MC or host may make an announcement to insure that everyone is aware of the impending toast.
When giving a toast, words are only half the ceremony. The entire presentation is part of the toast, and all eyes will be on the speaker. In order to give a toast, follow these initial guidelines:
- When in a group, stand. This guarantees that everyone can see you and helps your voice carry to the crowd. In small settings (a single table, for example), standing is optional.
- Clearly enunciate your words without mumbling or rushing.
- Limit the toast length. Make it a minute or two at most, particularly if there are other people who will make toasts.
- Do not read from a note card or other prompt. The toast should never be so long that you cannot memorize it.
- Maintain eye contact. The first and last person you look at should be the individual(s) you are toasting, but always look to the rest of the audience. This shows you are a dynamic, connected speaker.
- Hold your glass at waist height throughout the toast. This is a visual clue that you are, indeed, giving a toast rather than a prolonged speech.
- Do not gesture with your glass. This could create sloshing or spills that ruin the presentation.
- Use a clean glass, if necessary. Lipstick stains or multiple smudges are easily visible and detract from your message.
- Raise your glass to eye level at the end of your toast in the direction of the person you are addressing. It is acceptable to move the glass slightly to encompass more than one individual.
- Avoid cliché phrases such as "here's to you" or "let's raise our glasses" and opt for more individualized comments.
- The speaker may be the first person to drink; only take a sip of wine at the end of the toast.
With proper presentation, your toast will be elegantly delivered and memorable in its sophistication.
How to Give a Toast: The Words
For many people, the most frightening part of giving a toast is actually deciding what words to say. There are a number of books available that offer standard phrases for a multitude of occasions, but the best toasts come from individual and heartfelt expression. While some books offer standard speeches with blanks to fill in with personal information, memorable toasts follow these guidelines:
- Be personable. If necessary, briefly mention how you know the individual you are toasting (best friends since third grade, coworkers, etc.).
- Mention the individual by name at both the beginning and end of the toast, particularly for longer speeches.
- Include a personal reminiscence about the honored guest with a small anecdote or inside comment.
- Draw on your personal experience about the event at hand (wedding, birthday, retirement, etc.).
- Avoid any potentially hurtful comments such as embarrassing anecdotes, nicknames, or inside jokes unless the honoree is aware and approves of them beforehand.
- Be sincere in your wishes for the individual or couple you are toasting, and close your toast with those sentiments.
If you would like to look sample toasts as sources of inspiration, a few resources you may want to review include:
- EmilyPost.com: Toasting tips and sample toasts
- EtiquetteScholar.com: Business toasts
- KeepAndShare.com: Free wedding toasts
- Public-Speaking-Advice.com: Examples of toast speeches
- SpecialSpeeches.com: Sample anniversary toasts
Many people choose to pre-write their toasts and practice them before the actual event, particularly if they will be toasting in front of a large crowd. While this is a good plan, always be sure to memorize the speech. Reading off a card or paper simply shows that the speaker is unprepared. If necessary, you can create a "cheat sheet" with key points to lay on the table or podium in front of you for emergency reference.
Giving toasts are key events for many celebrations, particularly wedding receptions, retirement parties, and other significant events. Many people do not initially know how to give a toast, but with proper presentation and an appropriate speech, the toast will be both memorable and meaningful.