Over the remaining weeks of this spring and the early days of summer, we all may find ourselves attending several special events involving family, friends and colleagues. These may range from high school and college or university graduations, birthdays, banquets celebrating the promotion or retirement of a business cohort, to those perennial weddings. Part of your participation in such proceedings may include being called upon to offer a toast to the guest(s) of honour.
The tradition of toasting dates back several thousand years when the ancient Greeks expressed their wishes for the health of friends by sharing a decanter of wine. All would wait while the host drank. This would demonstrate that the expressions of good cheer were indeed sincere as the wine had not been poisoned. Apparently spiking wine with poison was common practice to deal with enemies and competitors. The Romans continued the Greek custom and also added a piece of burnt bread, or tostus, to make the wine more palatable by reducing acidity levels.
While in today’s world the ritual of toasting is not subject to the same extremes of ancient times, the norms of etiquette and protocol associated with such formal occasions are fraught with several pitfalls. Therefore, we at mycollingwood.ca would like to offer you a primer of sorts on the task of proposing a toast. A list of “Dos and Don’ts” so your role as toastmaster will not be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Modern protocol bows to ancient tradition to determine that on those occasions when multiple toasts are to occur the first toast must be proposed by the host of the event. But at a wedding reception, the host is usually the father of the bride. In this instance modern practice has it that the Best Man will be first to honour the bride, followed by the bride’s and groom’s fathers respectively.
Etiquette requires that the first toast may not be performed until all guests have been given a full glass. And while most will choose to participate with an alcoholic beverage, it is certainly not necessary. Fruit juice, punch, soft drinks, even water are acceptable. The toaster should always stand when ready to speak.
A toast is a speech in miniature. Therefore, it is crucial that you be fully prepared. Think about what you intend to say. It takes practice to sound spontaneous. Rehearsing your toast with a friend well before the event is a very good idea.
Your remarks should always be specific to the occasion. Eloquent, whimsical, and witty comments can be very successful if the situation is appropriate. Don’t tell inside jokes or stories that most of the audience would never understand.
Put yourself in the position of the person being toasted. Ask yourself: "If this toast were being given for me, how would I feel?" Statements like expressing your regret at the loss of a girl chasing buddy while toasting the groom would certainly offend some in the audience. And remember, these days most banquets and weddings are videotaped. You don’t want to be remembered and constantly reminded of the fact that you were the one who gave the worst toast of the evening. A toast is a tribute, not a roast.
Above and beyond all, for any toasting occasion the KISSS rule will serve you well. Keep It Short, Simple, Sincere. It is not your audition for the Comedy Channel. It is not your chance to climb a soapbox. A toast is your opportunity to offer genuine compliments and congratulations to the honouree.
And so as you consider the assignment that may come your way in the weeks ahead, we at mycollingwood.ca leave you with these words from a toast that will surely apply to all occasions. “MAY OUR HOUSE NEVER BE TOO SMALL TO HOLD ALL OF OUR FRIENDS.”
Submitted by: John "The Toastmaster" Hanlon