Raise Your Glass…5 Simple Steps to Deliver a Memorable and Wonderful Toast … And a few “do nots.”

It’s June. It’s getting hotter. Summer is beginning. It also can be the beginning of new things for different people. So folks plan a party, celebration, or a ceremony. We’re all so happy. Perhaps your best friend is getting married, graduating, having a baby, retiring, getting an award, celebrating a milestone anniversary or service to an organization. People will tell funny stories about the bride, groom, grad, parents-to-be, honoree, or retiring colleague. Others will say all the wondrous things they’ve done. And you have been asked to give The Toast.

5-steps to prepare and deliver a toast that will provide a smooth start to the occasion:

Greet the audience, attendees and the honoree.

  1. Why are you gathered?
  2. Who are you honoring?
  3. Why?
  4. What have they accomplished?
  5. What do you wish for them?

Consider your audience when you prepare the speech (for that is what it is). Write out a few sentences about the person(s) and the occasion. What’s funny between you and the honoree may not be funny in front of 200 people. Do not “wing it” because you’ve known the person for 20 years. Find out where your toast will be on the agenda. Know who will introduce you. Know who will take over after the toast.

What to say:

  1. Why: “A wedding is a joyous time and today we are here to celebrate the partnership of …”
  2. Who: Their name, their title, your connection with them. This connects the guests to you. Be brief. This is about the honorees, not you.
  3. Why this person(s): Share positive qualities about the couple.
  4. What they have accomplished: This can be the place for a brief personal anecdote that highlights the positive bond of the honorees. Humor is appropriate if that’s your style. Be different if you can pull it off. Some toasts have been sung, but only if you are really good at singing.
  5. What you wish for them: This is the actual sendoff. To the attendees: “Please stand and raise your glass.” (Make sure everyone has a glass of something even if they do not drink alcohol). Then, facing the honorees, say their name and your wish. Working in 3’s has a nice rhythm. “May  you have …” “Health, happiness, and love.” Or more concrete 3’s. “Words of kindness, days filled with smooth sailing on your beloved lake, and brilliant sunsets as you head home.” Or 2 serious wishes and 1 humorous. “Lots of hugs, shared laughter, and fresh coffee in the morning.”

Then, the simple toast that the guests repeat. “To Dyanne and Jo, I wish you _____” Say something clear and easy for guests to repeat.

Practice your toast numerous times with a smile.

Standing, either holding your glass waist high or having it in front of you on the table, or in your hand if you are at a podium. Say your toast looking at the guests and honorees as appropriate. At the “To ____ and ____”  pick up and raise your glass to the honorees, say your final words. Look at the guests holding your glass up as a hint for them to do the same, they repeat the words. Applaud.

Do not “wing it.” You’ve been chosen to do this as something special. It requires more than a wing.

Do not read your toast. Practice until you know the speech. Keep a small index card with notes if necessary.

Do not tap the mic or ask, “Can you hear me?” Test the mic before the reception. You will be there early, right? At the very most, ask, “If you can hear me, raise your hand in a happy hello to ___ .“ If folks don’t respond, they can’t hear you. Know who can fix the mic. Be prepared to have the mic in one hand and your glass in the other.

Do not apologize for anything. NO “I’ve never done this before.” “I forgot my notes.” “I’m really nervous.”

Do not ramble. 3-5 minutes unless you have a specific skit planned. Then do the skit and the actual toast is still 3-5 minutes. Be prepared. Be brief. Be seated.

These simple guidelines will have the honorees and guests breathing easy, smiling, and ready to enjoy the event.

Need help? Contact Ethel.

Twenty years in Toastmasters International, seven years as a professional speaker and attending “I’ve lost count” number of conferences, dinners, weddings, celebrations of life, and award ceremonies, qualify Ethel Lee-Miller to share these simple steps for giving a toast. Enjoy!