A toast may be offered in any setting and made to an individual or a group. Increase your confidence at your next social gathering by learning the ins and outs of this ancient tradition.
Toasting to someone’s health or honor goes back to biblical times and can be found in most cultures including the Egyptians, Greeks, and Persians. The toast was usually given to honor their gods, but sometimes they would toast each other. Once toasting moved into the Roman culture, the word “toast” came about because the Romans began adding toasted bread to their wine to soak up the acidity. The bread helped improve the flavor of the wine, and it had the benefit of creating a nice, fruity piece of food. There are different theories as to how the toast was performed, but the most commonly held was the person offering the toast would take a sip of the drink and then pass the glass around for everyone else to partake. The person being honored would be the last to drink which also meant they were allowed to eat the sweet tasting toast.
Drinking vessels in the ancient world were made of pottery or metal and the traditional toast was offered by raising the tankard in the air. Clinking the mugs together did not begin until the custom of toasting spread to Europe where it was more common to use glasses that contained lead. There are two theories why people would clink glasses, and some historians believe both are correct. One thought is the hitting of the vessels was a sign of good faith. It showed the person you were with that you were not trying to poison them. The images on TV depicting medieval men aggressively smashing drinks together comes to mind. This would cause the contents of both mugs to spill into each other’s drink. If a person participated in a toast with someone they were trying to poison, that person now ran the risk of poisoning themselves because they would be drinking a portion of both drinks. A toast, therefore, became a sign you came in good faith.
A second theory is once drinking vessels became more refined with higher percentages of lead, tapping glasses became a way to add another “sense” to the art of toasting. People could taste, see, and smell wine, but now they could hear the toast through the ringing of their glasses. As time progressed the toast evolved into that of honoring another person. This is where the phrase “toast of the town” came from. We use this phrase, even today, to mean someone that is well known, and revered, among others.
No matter the history we know the toast is an ancient tradition that has continued into modern society. I personally believe a toast is warranted at every meal when you are entertaining. It is a beautiful way to bestow honor on those around you.
Protocol Of The Toast:
Giving A Toast:
1. The host offers a toast at the beginning of the meal to welcome the guests. Do this by standing and saying a few words to the entire group.
2. When dessert is being served, the host may now give another toast that is directed towards an individual or honored guest. (If you are an invited guest, allow the host to begin the toasting. Do not go before him/her.)
3. The host stands and says a few words directed toward the person being honored. Toasting someone does not have to be for a monumental reason. You might be celebrating a birthday or graduation, or you may simply want to recognize your childhood friend whom you have not seen in years.
4. A toast should be brief. No more than 30-60 seconds.
5. Once you have spoken, ask the table to join you by raising their glass toward the guest. Then, take a sip of your drink. (Just a sip! If others at the table offer a toast, you do not want your glass to be empty.)
6. In today’s culture many people clink glasses after the toast. Officially, a toast is conducted by raising your glass in front of you, but not clinking with the surrounding guests. But, since most people do like to clink, a mannerly person will follow the lead of their tablemates and host. If the host offers a toast, raises his glass to the honoree, and then takes a sip without clinking, the guests at the table follow suit. If the host clinks glasses, then do the same.
7. Always remember, toasting someone is done to honor that person. Roasting them is not recommended. Save that for another time.
Receiving A Toast:
1. If you are the one being honored there are a few things to know. Stay seated and receive the words with gratitude.
2. Do not pick up your glass when everyone is raising their drink to you. This would be like giving yourself a pat on the back.
3. Once the toast is completed, you will stand, with glass in hand, and offer a toast back to your host. You may simply say thank you, or you may say a few words. Either is fine.
Here Are A Few Things To Keep In Mind When Offering A Toast:
1. Who is being honored? Example: your son.
2. Why are they being honored? Example: 21st birthday.
3. What other guests are attending? Example: a large group with a mix of generations represented. Know your audience. Grandparents in attendance might not know the latest hip words of the 20-something generation. When speaking, make sure everyone is included in the toast. This means using words the entire group understands and not telling inside jokes that alienates a portion of the table.
4. Keep the toast short. As already mentioned, no more than 30 seconds. One minute at the most. A wedding or anniversary toast might be a little longer, but even those should not exceed 60-90 seconds.
5. Remember that you are there to honor, not embarrass, the one being toasted. If it is a small gathering of your college friends, ok, you might get a jab or two in, but this should be reserved for close friends in intimate settings.
Using the above example, my toast might sound like this:
“Son, you are one of the greatest blessings in my life. No parent could be prouder of their child than I am of you. Today, we celebrate the occasion of your birthday, and I pray God will keep His hand on you all the days of your life. I love you. Please join me in raising your glass to my son!”
Short, sincere, and heartfelt. By instructing the table, “Please join me in raising your glass,” you have given instructions to your guests as to exactly what you want them to do. A toast that leaves you hanging is like an orchestra with no conductor. Do not leave your guests wondering.
I believe much of our culture has lost the art of toasting. It is not difficult to do, and it makes such an impact. Saying a few sincere words evokes emotion in a way that allows you to show your gratitude to those gathered with you. Make toasting a priority at your next event!
Together with you,