Hints for Effective Toasting

1.  Do it in a way that is most comfortable to you. You may remain seated. Legend has it that it became acceptable to toast without standing in Britain during the reign of Charles II. The king allowed that this would be acceptable after he had risen in response to a toast in his honor while aboard the ship Royal Charles and bashed his head into a beam. A similar bashing to King William IV, when he was heir to the throne and toasted George IV while aboard a man-of-war, forever ended the custom of standing toasts in the Royal Navy.

2.  Don't mix toasts with other messages. During World War II at a banquet given by Marshal Joseph Stalin at the Russian embassy in Teheran, Stalin rose to his feet after Churchill, Roosevelt, and other leaders had been toasted. He grinned and made a quick, impromptu remark in Russian. Judging from the smiles on the faces of the Russians present, it could only be concluded that he had come up with a witty and appropriate toast. As the Americans and British grabbed their glasses, the interpreter rose to say, "Marshal Stalin says the men's room is on the right."

3.  If you are in some position where you are likely to be called on, it is a good idea to have a few short toasts memorized. A groom at his own wedding banquet was asked to propose a toast to the bride. Unprepared, he got to his feet, put his hand on the bride's shoulder and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I ... I don't know what to say. This thing was forced upon me-"

4.  Check the context of your toast if it is quoted from a known poem or prose work. Prince Philip of Great Britain was told the story of the man who toasted him at a banquet with two lines from John Dryden:

    A man so various he seemed to be
    Not one but all mankind's epitome.

Philip liked the lines and later looked up the remaining lines of the poem:

    Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong
    Was everything but starts and nothing long;
    But in the course of revolving moon
    Was chemist, fiddler, statesman and buffoon.

5.  Don't get ahead of yourself. When Queen Louise of Prussia met the conquering Napoleon she drank to him: "

To the health and kindness of Napoleon the Great. He has taken our states, and soon will return them to us." Napoleon bowed and replied, "Do not drink it all, Madame."

6.  Make sure that the toast you are delivering is appropriate to the group at hand. "Bottoms up" would be inappropriate at the beginning of a boat race.

7.  Don't push somebody who is not so inclined to propose a toast. The result may not be the one desired. There are many examples but a perfect case in point involved Winston Churchill in the 1920s after he had served as First Lord of the Admiralty. At a dinner party, someone pestered him for a toast to the traditions of the Royal Navy. "The traditions of the Royal Navy?" was his final response, "I'll give you the traditions of the Royal Navy. Rum, buggery and the lash."

8.  When proposing a toast, make sure you know what you are drinking. Basic advice, but listen to Rudy Maxa reporting on toasting in the nation's capital in the September 1986 Washingtonian: "Then there's the story, perhaps apocryphal, about an American military man toasting his Japanese hosts at a Washington dinner party. Mistaking a finger bowl for a goblet, he finished his remarks and drank deeply from the bowl. Not wishing to offend, fellow guests reached for their own finger bowls and followed suit."

9.  Don't drink with old Saxons. An Old Saxon toasting custom required that a man draw the sharp edge of his knife across his forehead, letting the blood drip into his wine cup and then drinking a health to the woman he loved.