I think my favorite part of any formal or even informal celebration is the spilling of heart-felt sentiments from some well meaning, overly emotional, partially intoxicated celebrant. The curling of my upper lip into a smirk is almost a Pavlovian response when I hear that tap, tap clinking of some metal object against glassware. I know that in a few short moments someone I know, and most likely love, will be making a complete moronic spectacle of themselves. It’s interesting that I get some form of sick satisfaction from their soon to be blunder, but the fact that so few of us are ever really ready or practiced in giving a proper toast makes this scenario a fairly reliable event. Perhaps it’s my compulsive nature that makes me enjoy any consistently dependable behavior, but in truth, I just basically enjoy the spectacle. At the risk of thwarting a simple pleasure, I’ve done a bit of research on how to give a proper toast. There are actually conventional rules to this act of tribute. Take these “pointers” to ensure your next public display of homage will come out as sparkling as the wine in your glass!
First and of course foremost, you don’t have to use sparkling wine to give a toast. Any beverage is acceptable, but naturally I highly recommend any Prince Michel or Rapidan River product. This ensures your listening public will enjoy raising their glasses (FYI, make sure they all have one and it’s filled!) and drinking to the honoree.
In more formal situations, the succession of “toasters” is as meticulously detailed as succession to the British throne, but in this brief treatise I’m focusing on the “spontaneous/I just gotta say this” type of toast. Your next, big decision with toasting is whether to stand or sit for your big delivery. Some experts herald the necessity of “stand and deliver”, but I find the situation dictates the posture. If toasting in a small, more intimate situation like a dinner party, standing abruptly with glass in hand would only incorrectly prompt the hostess to inquire of some digestinal irregularity. This situation in my expert opinion dictates that the toaster stay seated. The “toastee” in turn should remain seated as well. As for the stand and deliver approach, it is universally agreed upon that this method is appropriate for anyone giving a toast in a large, more formal setting.
Clear voice, good posture, and soundness of mind and spirit are also agreed upon as necessary. These three attributes do unfortunately reduce my enjoyment of any toast, but from my astute research, they are right and proper. Skills such as simplicity of words and brevity are also right and proper in giving a toast. The one minute limit is considered a toasting standard, and the 50 words or less is an A+/Michelin Star guarantee. Also, keeping the toast positive, polite, and inoffensive are golden rule absolutes.
While giving the oration stage of the toast, look the toastee (love that word) in the eye and assume some sincere and esteemed expression. If the toast lasts more than a few words, you may extend your gaze to the crowd in an attempt to keep their attention. All participating in the toast should keep their glasses at hip level until the toaster finishes and assumes the universal stance for “I’m finally done” which is of course raising his/her glass to eye level and making some quick reference to the toastee or to the celebrated occasion. For example, “To George and Martha” would be a good salute. Participants are to then mimic the glass raising gesture and can decide for themselves if they want to add their own “to George and Martha” or the basic “Cheers”.
Now the big conundrum—should you clink your glasses together at the close of a toast? There are of course the staunch “non-clinkers” who own fine stemware and crisp white linens so often soiled by the red wine sloshing of the rival “clinkers”. There is now an alternative sect of “air clinkers” who please everyone with their subtle gesture to remain subservient yet involved. It is agreed upon however that all toasting participants look to the toastee at this point and acknowledge their existence with good eye contact and a respectful smile. A quick sip of the celebrating beverage is then necessary. A clear point should be made that at no time should the toastee take a drink from his/her glass. This is considered the ultimate “three cheers to me/I’m so fabulous” faux pas. As a toastee, the best advice is to smile graciously and make all efforts of appearing unmortified. Some toastees can seek revenge by offering a reciprocal toast. I find this behavior most enjoyable.
After all is said and done, it is not considered customary to applaud any singular or succession of toasts. I do however find it exceedingly difficult to refrain from cheers and applause at particularly bad and thereby thoroughly entertaining tributes.