The Holiday Toast: Commonly Asked Etiquette Questions

A dinner party or cocktail soirée is the perfect time to raise a glass to the holiday season. Yet most people cringe at the thought of standing up in front of a group of people and speaking in public. It's no surprise that an eloquent "Cheers!" seldom happens without prior thought and planning. Here are some answers to a few commonly asked toasting questions that will help you spread cheer, from the holiday office luncheon to a family meal:

  • How long must I wait before drinking my glass of bubbly? It's a respectful gesture to give the host of the table an opportunity to welcome their guests with a toast. If you notice the host is already pouring and drinking the wine or champagne, it's a good sign that there will not be a formal welcome toast and you can enjoy your drink without concern.

  • How should I get the attention of the group to propose a toast? Stand up, raise your glass and verbally ask for everyone's attention. It may take some effort to quiet the crowd, but soon guests at the table will notice you are attempting to give a toast and will show respect by focusing their attention on you. For larger crowds, let someone at each table know you will be offering a toast and when they see you stand, ask for their help in quieting their individual tables. Do not bang your knife against your wine glass as if you are calling the cows home for dinner with a call bell!
  • What is the etiquette of clinking glasses? Toasting has evolved over time, and there are several rules of thought when it comes to ringing glasses together. From warding off evil spirits to sharing a glass of wine to show "trust" that the drink was not poisoned, the clinking of glasses has been around for a long while. Thankfully, the toast of today has evolved. The protocol is that you don't have to clink glasses, but merely raise your glass towards the center of the table. However, if someone reaches towards you in anticipation of a friendly clink, keep in mind it would be terribly rude to refuse.
  • What is the purpose of a toast? A toast involves respect, celebration and friendship. The person giving the toast is honoring one or a group of individuals with a special welcome, acknowledgement or words of gratitude. Traditionally, the host of the event will propose a welcome toast to their guests, but this is not always the way a toast unfolds. Often a guest will make the first toast to honor the host who has prepared a beautiful meal, and the rest of the guests will raise their glass in support of the sentiment.
  • If I am the one being toasted, how do I respond? If you are the person being mentioned, when everyone around you raises their glass to drink in your honor, keep your hands away from your wine, water or champagne glass. Taking a drink at your own toast would be similar to patting yourself on the back, or clapping in honor of your own achievements. Make eye contact with the person proposing the toast and those around you, say thank you, and smile graciously. Once everyone has taken a drink, you may now feel free to drink from your glass. It's also a nice gesture to toast "back" the host if you are a guest of honor and they proposed a toast to you.
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    If you'll be delivering a holiday toast, you may also like "Ten Tips to Delivering the Perfect Toast."