Stand Up and – Toast! And I Do Mean 'Toast!'

The holiday season means gatherings of friends and family – and with that, many opportunities to toast to love, health and the new year.)

A formal toast at a gathering does not mean drinking-inspired ditties such as ““Over the lips; Over the gums; Look out stomach; Here it comes!” It should also be more than the “Cheers” (or “Prost” or “Salud” or “Skaal” or . . .) most of use to clink glasses at the bar. 

Instead, a toast is an opportunity to honor a guest of honor, for example at birthdays and weddings. Or to highlight the significance of an event, including a thank you to attendees at a fundraiser – and, of course, wishes during a New Year’s Eve celebration.

If you are giving a toast, keep in mind these do’s and don’ts:


  • Briefly identify your connection with the honoree or event. Especially at larger gatherings for New Year’s Eve or weddings, guests typically only know a few attendees. You don’t want the guests to spend the entire toast wondering who you are and how you are connected with the honoree.
  • Keep it short. You’ll need to get to the point early, be it praise or congratulations or a word of thanks. Everyone is there to gather and enjoy the festivities, not to hear a keynote presentation. Keep it to no longer than three minutes.
  • Use a story to illustrate your point. The story can be humorous or sentimental. Keep in mind that these stories should be about the person(s) or event being honored – the focal point of the story should not be you!



  • Bring up past stories that can cause embarrassment. It is very likely that there are family members and colleagues at more formal events; being tasteful and appropriate is key. We’ve all witnessed – and cringed at – the fraternity brother that discusses parties and situations involving prior girlfriends.
  • Be a stand-up comedian. While some humor in a story about the guest of honor keeps everyone engaged, this is not the time for a series of one-liners.
  • Be generic. Attendees can spot disingenuous stories. It is sometimes tempting to pass off an urban legend as your own experience, but with so many of us online, someone will have read it. And at an annual roast, I’ve even heard the same speaker use the same script to roast the guest of honor that he had used the previous year - to roast someone else.


And of course, make sure that you hold off on too many practice toasts before the real thing!

Wishing you a wonderful New Year!


Find out more about clubs in District 4 Toastmasters: http://www.d4tm.org  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Atul Nayak December 28, 2012 at 12:34 AM
"And at an annual roast, I’ve even heard the same speaker use the same script to roast the guest of honor that he had used the previous year - to roast someone else." - that's ghastly! Not an outgoing District Governor Roast I hope :)
Claudia Cruz December 28, 2012 at 01:18 AM
So a toast shouldn't be a stump speech? Hee, hee! Question: how much preparation should one do (let's say you don't know the groom/bride's family very well that is, and you are a maid of honor or best man?)
Birgit Starmanns December 30, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Thank you for your note, Phyllis, and I'm sorry to hear about the flubbed toast....but that's always a learning opportunity for next time!
Birgit Starmanns December 30, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Hi Atul, no worries, it was not an outgoing District Governor Roast :)
Birgit Starmanns December 30, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Hi Claudia, true! I would definitely recommend preparing almost the same way as preparing for a "normal" short talk. I like your example of the wedding and the new family you don't know well - it's worth asking 2-3 people who are familiar with the other side of the family to make sure you're not stepping into any landmines or sensitive topics. The rule of thumb is if you have any doubts about whether something will go over well, it's safer to leave it out. In your example, I'd focus the main story more on the person in the couple that you know, then bridge over into a short comment on a common experience with the new significant other. Practicing aloud ahead of time, potentially in front of a few other bridesmaids or groomsmen, will also make you more comfortable, and make any humor smoother. You may also want to check whether or not you'll be speaking into a microphone (for example at large weddings) so that you can figure out ahead of time which hand will hold the mic and which one the glass for the toast, which is something that most of us don't think about ahead of time!


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