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Savvy Toasting Etiquette

 Savvy Toasting Etiquette 

1. Why make a toast?

There are many reasons to make a toast. Toasts are always appropriate to acknowledge an occasion, welcome a new colleague, launch a new business, or welcome an important visitor. A toast is a compliment and acknowledgment of the event and guests.

2. What makes for the perfect toast?

The perfect toast is short, funny, and heartfelt. Three minutes is the perfect toast length. 

It should follow a basic formula:

  • Begin by standing up if you are at a large gathering or sitting at a table with a dozen or more guests.  (Do not clink your glass to get their attention; simply raise your glass toward the center of your room to indicate you are about to begin.

  • The hook:  Start with something compelling about the person being toasted. (It is not about you.)

  • Brief background: Why you are giving the toast—how you are connected to the person you are toasting

  • A story: One or two stories or anecdotes about the person you are toasting. Funny is good, but avoid stories that would embarrass the person or make the guests uncomfortable. The stories or anecdotes should be appropriate for the occasion.

  • The finish: Ask the audience or guests attending the event to raise their glasses with you to the person being toasted.  (You can ask them to stand if you choose to do so.) Not raising a glass to the person being toasted gives the impression that you do not agree with the toast.

3. What is your advice to someone who’s never given a toast?

It’s natural to be nervous about giving one’s first toast, but it is an honor to give a toast; and if one realizes that the toast is not about them, but about the person they are toasting, it should help.

  • Prepare the toast ahead of time. 

  • Write it down and rehearse it. 

  • Read it a number of times.

  • Do not, however, read your toast when the time comes to make it.

    You can put your toast in bullet points on note cards to take with

    you in case you freeze when the time comes to make your toast.

Do not say: “I am not a great speaker” when you get up to propose your toast; or apologize for having to look at your notes. It is not the way to begin a toast; and will make your audience uncomfortable– not uplifted– which is what they should be.

4.What are some toasting faux pas you suggest avoiding?

Some toasting faux pas include:

  • Toasts that are too long

  • Toasts that include jokes or stories that are inappropriate for the audience

  • Toasts that are embarrassing to the toastee

  • Toasts that include private jokes

  • Reading your toast

  • Rambling; going on and on

  • Talking about yourself too much—rather than the toastee

  • Drinking to oneself*

*Protocol for receiving a toast: When toasted, the recipient of the toast does not stand, nor does he drink to himself. All the recipient need do is sit and smile appreciatively; and after the toast is made, say “Thank you” and take a sip of his drink. In some cases, the person being toasted, or guest of honor, would reciprocate by proposing a toast to the host or thanking all of the guests in attendance.

5. When is the appropriate time for making a toast at a dinner party?

There are two traditional toasts given by the host at a dinner party:

  • A welcome toast.

  • A toast to the guest of honor at the dessert course. The guest of honor would then reciprocate by proposing a toast to the host.

6. To clink or not to clink?

Traditionally, the clinking of glasses was a custom thought to drive away evil spirits. Today, that is not a concern for us. The custom of clinking actually varies by culture, as well as the occasion. At a formal dinner party, clinking is frowned upon in certain circles. If others are clinking, however, by all means clink, rather than risk offending them. It is not necessary to clink with everyone at the table; simply clink with the person on your right, and then with the person on your left. 

Note: Be sure to hold your glass by the stem when you pick it up to take a sip of your champagne.

7. What is the appropriate toasting protocol on a night like New Year’s Eve?

On New Year’s Eve, the host of the party should either start the toasting or be the last one to speak. The host’s toast can be as simple and traditional as, “Happy New Year.”

If attending a party on New Year’s Eve that is hosted by a person or couple,  proposing a toast to him or them is a nice way to show your gratitude for bringing everyone together for such a special celebration.

8. What is the appropriate toasting protocol for weddings?

Making a toast to the newly married couple at a wedding reception is one of the most anticipated and traditional events of the reception. The protocol is as follows:

  • Although traditionally, champagne is the preferred choice for wedding reception toasts, toasts can be made with whatever beverage a wedding guest has in front of him or chooses to drink.

  • The best man is expected to give the first toast. He can be the only one to make a toast, or he can be joined by the fathers of the bride and groom to welcome each other’s families. The maid or matron of honor or other members of the wedding party make also propose a toast is they wish to do so.

  • Everyone, except for the bride and groom, should rise for the toasts being made to them. The bride and groom would then smile and say, thank you.

  • When the bride and groom make their toast they would both stand, but would not speak together. They would each give a toast or speak one after the other the lines of a joint toast.



By: Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick

December 2016


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