How to Propose a Toast 101

Timing: Although a toast can be offered at the midway point or the conclusion of the meal, perhaps the best time to do it is at the beginning. (This way you'll be able to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.)

The Introduction: Look around the table or, at a larger event the room, to make sure everyone is seated and has a glass of something to drink. Wine or champagne is traditional, but water is fine. As long as it's liquid.

Stand in some prominent place and get people’s attention. If you prefer, you may remain seated and gently tap a spoon against the side of your glass.

Hold you own glass in front of you a little above waist level.

Face the guest of honor as you speak, but also be sure to include the other people at the table in your gaze.

Introduce yourself briefly, if you aren’t already known by everyone present. Say something about why you’ve gathered. Are you celebrating a successful project or period of time? A recent win? A newly formed partnership? The achievement of a big goal? Or are you honoring a particular person for what he or she has done? Say so.

Keep these introductory remarks brief — no longer than a minute.

The Toast: Raise your glass to eye level.

State a hope or a wish for the future of the person being honored or for the parties gathered at the event. Use the subjective form, “May…”

Make it no more than two or three sentences. Keep your remarks in the spirit of the event, appropriate to the mood of the gathering. Don’t be light and breezy at a formal gathering or stiff and serious at a casual event.

A successful toast is one that has been well-planned and rehearsed in advance. Mark Twain once said, “It usually takes three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” A toast is no different. Think about the message you want to convey and say it in as few words as possible. As Liz Smith put it in the New York Times in 2002: “A toast is like a precious mosaic. And every little bit of mica or glitter counts. You want to be precise.”

A toast is not to be confused with a roast, and the shorter the toast the better. This allows the party to continue with the natural flow and will not distract or disrupt ongoing conversations.

Clink Glasses: When clinking glasses at the end of a toast, look at the person whose glass you're touching. Never look at the glass or at the other people at the table. Look them straight in the eye. Smile.