At some point in your life, you’ll need to give a toast. You might get advance notice as a Maid of Honor or host of a retirement celebration. Or it might occur to you suddenly, in the middle of a gathering of your best friends, that “this calls for a toast!”
Here’s a secret about toasts: The best ones come from the heart. Try not to worry about being eloquent or memorable or perfect—focus on letting the person or people you toast know they matter.
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We’ll start with a few FAQs:
Should you give a toast?
Sometimes it’s easy to know: You’ve been asked, you’re in a wedding party, you’re the host of a gathering. But sometimes, the gathering is less formal. A few simple etiquette guidelines:
- The host of a dinner might start the meal by toasting the guest of honor or the group.
- If they don’t, guests can suggest a toast to thank the host—or wait until after the main course is over to raise a glass.
- In a gathering, read the room. Is there a good reason to grab everyone’s attention? Can you do it without changing the mood of the event? Is this something everyone needs to hear? Then go for it.
Is this the time for a quick wish, a sincere compliment, or some good stories?
If you’ve been asked to deliver a toast, you can ask about expectations. If you’re raising a glass to start a meal, speaking on a whim, or are one of many speakers, shorter is sweeter.
How do you actually do it?
Just simply stand up, raise a glass of whatever you’re drinking, and take focus. You don’t have to ding your glass with silverware—just confidently ask for a few moments of attention or say, “I’d like to propose a toast.”
This is the part most likely to make people nervous. But remember: The most moving toasts are heartfelt and sincere. They use real-life language, true stories, and genuine emotion.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a few notes or practice. Absolutely do. If you’re offering a toast at a formal or special event, being comfortable with what you’re going to say will put everyone else at ease, too.
Here’s a simple formula to create a great toast:
- Start by announcing who or what you’re toasting—the person, group, organization, or occasion—and the reason for the gathering.
- Give the audience context by letting them know why you’re making the toast: your relationship, connection, or a little about yourself.
- Share stories, anecdotes, or compliments about the subject of the toast.
- Wrap things up with a thank-you to the hosts, if appropriate, and a wish for the honoree.
Or, if some of those things are well known, you can keep your toast super simple:
“Raise your glasses to (person, people, or organization) because (reason or occasion).
(Add a compliment here.) Cheers!”
Looking for more help making a toast on a big day? We’ve got help for that, too.
The Challenge: What to say at your parents’ 50th wedding anniversary
The Tip: Before the big bash, ask your parents (separately) about the secrets to their success, how they met, their fondest memory, their partner’s best trait. Then incorporate their stories into your toast. Be sure to mention what they’ve meant to you as parents and your admiration for their partnership. A good ending: “So here’s to my parents—my first, and best, example of how love can last a lifetime. Cheers to both of you.”
Skip: Sibling rivalry! If your brother shows up with a 20-minute slide show, don’t alter your speech for the sake of competition.
The Challenge: What to say at your son’s high-school graduation party
The Tip: Highlight what his graduation represents: the joy and pride he has brought to his family, his dedication to his education and the promise of his future life. Consider, “We know that he’ll take the university—and soccer field!—by storm and become the kind of adult who will benefit the people and the world around him.”
Skip: Gushing—you don’t want to mortify the kid. And don’t go on and on about his good grades; it comes off as bragging.
The Challenge: What to say as matron of honor at your friend’s second wedding
The Tip: Include the groom and mention how much he has brought into your friend’s life. Try starting with, “I’ve known Mary since childhood and always knew she needed someone to match her smarts, strength and loyalty. Fortunately, she found her equal when she met Jon.” Give examples you’ve seen, or your friend has shared with you. Keep it short—three to five minutes.
Skip: Any references whatsoever to her previous spouse, boyfriends, or romantic dry spells.
The Challenge: What to say at your best friend’s milestone birthday party
The Tip: Let the compliments flow. Want help putting it into words? Ask the party guests to write compliments—or memories, or short anecdotes—on 3×5 cards. (You can send them in invitations or make them available at the celebration.) You can read them aloud or ask others to help. Afterward, put all the cards in a jar or book as a gift to the guest of honor.
Skip: Making fun of your friend for getting older. We know by now that we get better and better with every decade, right?
The Challenge: What to say when your team just landed a new project at work
The Tip: Make it about the team—all of them. Try something like: “Every one of you was instrumental in closing this deal: The marketing team put together great materials, the sales team swayed the client, and the administrative staff kept us sane through it all!”
Skip: Winging it—make notes and talk it through in your mirror. You don’t want to accidentally leave someone out.
We understand that sometimes you might want to finish with a little bit of a flourish. For those occasions, we offer these toasts:
- Here’s to you and the chance today brings
to look back, look ahead and, best of all,
look around at the faces
of all the people who care about you.
- Here’s to the memories we cherish,
the joys we share, the dreams we dream.
And most of all, here’s to us.
- Wishing you joy and laughter,
beauty and happy memories,
and all the joy you so deserve.
- Here’s to new journeys,
new songs to be sung,
new ways to be blessed
when you’re [age] years young!
- Here’s to you—
one year older, wiser,
and more wonderfully you than ever.
Here’s to you!
You did good—
I knew you would!
A toast to you
on this special occasion
and best wishes
for all the happiness
the future can hold.