Cheers: The Holiday Toast

        At my brother-in-law’s wedding, the maid of honor was exceptionally attractive. The best man was single. The bride’s name was Nancy and the maid of honor’s name was Eileen. When it came time for the toast, the best man was quite eloquent until he ended his congratulations to the happy couple by saying, “We toast you, Larry and Eileen!”  This brought hysterical laughter from everyone, and the best man never lived that embarrassing moment down. Incidentally, 30 years later, the best man is still single!    

          The toast is the perfect way to top off the celebration at a holiday banquet, reception, party, or gift exchange. If you have the opportunity to offer a toast, here are some suggestions to avoid the experience of that mortified best man.

          The word “toast” originated with the Romans, who browned their coarse bread in a fire. When the bread became too hard to chew, they soaked it in wine. The meaning of “Toast” expanded to include the drink in which the bread had been soaked and then the person in whose honor the drink was consumed. The toast is an affirmation of a person or event with words.

          Here is how to effectively toast. Offer the toast early in the celebration so that no one has had too much to drink. Make sure everyone has an appropriate glass and liquid to participate in the toast. Check to confirm that everyone has someone close by who can clink glasses together at the appropriate moment.

          Begin with “I propose a toast.”  Give the occasion for the toast and why the toast is appropriate for the celebration. The body of the toast is putting in words how you feel about the person, the event, or the time of the year. Be brief, concise, and direct. Two minutes is the maximum for a toast.

          The toast is one of the few times when a manuscript is in order. At the least, plan ahead. Do not do an impromptu toast!  Avoid this disastrous introduction: “I didn’t really have time to prepare anything, but I want to say.…” Print your words on a note card. Hold the card(s) in your left hand, so that when the time comes you can raise your glass with the right hand to touch glasses with a companion as you conclude the toast. Your last words are the object of the toast.

          I sometimes like to include a quotation within the toast. If you are toasting people you might include the anonymous “May you live as long as you want and may you never want as long as you live.” 

          Create a dramatic flourish as you end. You want people to know when you are finished. Raise your glass at the end of your toast, “clink” with a partner, and take a sip.

          May you all have a great holiday season! In the toasting words of Bob Hope: “When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things—not the great occasions—give off the greatest glow of happiness.”



Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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