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How to Make a Toast

By on May 10, 2012

Carley Roney co-founder and editor-in-chief of and the author of numerous books, including The Knot Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World tells us

How to Make a Toast

When you’re given the honour of making a toast – whether at a wedding, a retirement party, or a business event – the audience has certain expectations. Listeners expect you to be clear, concise, calm, and charismatic. Here are 9 pointers for giving such a toast:

  1. Be Brief And Tell A Story

Do not consider a toast to be a speech with a beverage in your hand. Whereas a speech can be lengthy and in-depth, a toast should be relatively short and simple. Keep your words to 2 to 3 minutes, less if there is more than one person toasting.

  1. Keep It Light

Start your toast with something humorous. The opener doesn’t have to be hilarious – no one is expecting you to be David Letterman. But an anecdote about the person, place, or thing you are toasting is a nice way to engage the audience. Try to make the listeners smile – don’t worry about making them laugh wholeheartedly.

  1. Know your audience

Any jokes or anecdotes should relate to the age and sophistication of the listeners, so know who you are talking to. Don’t made “inside jokes” or references that only a few people in the room will understand. It is considered rude to not include the entire group.

  1. Use A Quote

Sometimes, other people’s words make it easier for you to convey your emotions. When choosing a quote, make sure that it has real resonance for you and is relevant to the message or idea you want to share. Settle on words of wisdom that you can deliver with confidence, earnest emotion, and understanding. But remember that quoting is not required. If it feels at all pretentious or phony, skip it.

  1. Practice Makes Better

Your toast should feel spontaneous and sincere, but you should have an idea of what you’re going to say before you get up in front of the crowd. The key is to practice, but appear unrehearsed. Know the general outline – the opening anecdote, the famous quote, the point you want to make – but don’t worry about getting words exactly right. If you feel as though you won’t remember the important points when it’s showtime, take one 3×5 note card and write single words on it as visual reminders.

  1. Watch Your Mouth

No matter who is in the audience, do not say a single thing that you would not repeat to your mother-in-law’s grandmother if she were the only one in the room. [This is not the time for anything even slightly raunchy, so keep the toast clean and respectable.]

  1. Make Eye Contact

If you’re toasting a particular person, turn your body in his or her direction, making frequent eye contact with him or her as you speak. Then scan the entire room, so that the whole audience feels included.

  1. Relax

Before taking the microphone, take a few deep breaths and think pleasant thoughts. As you begin, speak slowly and smile.

  1. The Props

Use a proper glass – bring it with you to the podium. Make sure everybody’s glasses are filled. Once you’ve finished speaking, ask people to rise, smile, and, looking directly at your subject, ask guests to join you in raising their glasses to the person you are toasting. Then take a sip of your drink, thank your audience and sit down.


And remember what Mark Twain said: “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

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