The genial gesture of toasting can be delivered by anyone, anywhere at pretty much any time. Particularly appealing about a toast is that it may make a simple occasion special to those around you, and especially the one being toasted. A little forethought and practice are generally all that’s required, though spontaneity also goes a long way. As long as loosely based protocol and etiquette are followed, there are really no hard-fast rules to toasting. A few guidelines, mentioned later, may help to direct you in the not-so-fine art of proposing the perfect toast.
Giving a toast and raising a glass before you drink will add a special touch to any experience. The person proposing the toast must be able to deliver a good-natured, openhanded and possibly amusing compliment to the receiver. Consequently, the receiver must be able to accept the toast graciously, with benevolence and goodwill. Think of days gone by and movies with leading men like Humphrey Bogart: the suave toaster exhibits his social grace and good breeding; while the woman swoons and hangs on his every word.
Toasts need not always be quite that dramatic, but when delivered with flair and good taste, the person receiving them, as well as others in the group, likely will treasure them for a long time to come. They can turn an otherwise mundane get-together into something humorous, touching or even risque.
Toasts — by definition — are memorable celebratory lines that convey many things; most often friendship, love, humor, life, congratulations or health. The term “toast” supposedly dates back to Roman days when mortals dunked burnt toast into wine to reduce its harsh acidity. Somewhat later, the clinking of glasses apparently came into fashion when eliminating your enemy was as easy as slipping a vial of arsenic into his wine goblet. A conscientious host gained your trust by presenting his glass to you. In turn, you would pour a splash into his glass and he would take a swallow to assure his integrity. Returning the gesture to show you trusted him, you would simply clink his glass when he presented it. Now that wine has improved and poisoning enemies has become illegal, the art of toasting has taken on an air of graciousness, fostering a sense of camaraderie.
With legend and tradition comes etiquette. Remember these guidelines when making a toast:
Babbling is tedious, keep it simple, and be succinct. Keep your toast short, sweet and to the point. Less is usually more when it comes to wordiness; the aim is to sound sincere.
• Appear spontaneous, but be prepared. Think it through and memorize if that’s what works for you.
• Toasts should come from the heart and sound like it. Look into the eyes of the person you are toasting.
• Be witty, amusing, eloquent, or suggestive — make the toast fit both the person being toasted and the occasion.
• If you are receiving the toast, don’t drink with the others, but be sure to thank the toaster.
• Standing is optional, though certainly less rude than banging a glass with silverware to get attention.
• Deliver with enthusiasm and gusto. End it on a positive note and a “Cheers.” or the like. Clink when you drink — it is customary to clink glasses after a toast is delivered but before you take a drink. Clink gently — the custom may not have its desired effect with one or both parties winding up with a wet lap.
The easiest toasts to remember and convey are the short one-liners, from different languages. Some of the most common are: English- “Cheers!” Spanish- “Salud!” French- “A votre sante!” or simply “Sante!” Italian- “Salut!” German or Dutch- “Prost!” or “Prosit!” Scandinavian- “Skol!” or “Skoal!” Japanese- “Kanpai!” Hebrew- “L’Chayim!”
Longer toasts, whether sentimental, wistful, humorous or inane can help celebrate any occasion. Be brave and try some of these universal favorites the next time your gathering needs some enlivening: “Here’s to great friends — they know you well and love you just the same.”
“May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.”
“As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.”
“May you live all the years of your life.”
“Accept that some days you’re the pigeon and some days you’re the statue.”
“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.”
“May you work like you don’t need money, dance like nobody’s watching, and love like it’s never going to hurt.”
“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you’ve gone to far.”