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Know the rules before you raise a glass

The dos and don’ts of making a toast.

Toasting Etiquette

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“It usually takes three weeks to plan for an impromptu speech.”

~ Mark Twain

When does the first toast occur at the wedding reception?

Since there is no single structure to all weddings, you’ll have to schedule the toast at a time that is right for you. Traditionally the first toast occurs right before or after the bride and groom cut the cake, when everyone is already gathered. But at a reception that is also a sit-down meal, the toast might occur right after the blessing.

What is the order of toasting?

The best man is customarily expected to initiate the first toast, and it is always in honor of the bride and groom. Many times the maid of honor will join in best wishes for the couple and give a toast of her own at this time. Next the bride and groom should each toast one another, then the hosts (which is usually one or both sets of parents), then the wedding party and guests. Next the parents of the newlyweds will speak; if the bride’s parents are hosting the wedding, they will offer a toast first, then the groom’s parents.

What do you do if you’re the one being toasted?

The person or persons being toasted should not stand, raise a glass or take a sip. Simply stay seated, smile and acknowledge the toast with a quiet “thank you.”

To stand or not to stand?

In a gathering of a dozen or more people (which is almost always the case at a wedding reception), the toaster should stand so everyone can hear and see properly. It also serves

as a way to get everyone’s attention without banging on the side of a glass (an etiquette no-no). Everyone else should stay seated, unless the toaster invites them to all stand. The person or persons being toasted, should never stand in their own honor.

What’s the protocol on clinking glasses?

It is not expected that you tap your glass with your neighbors’ during a toast, but don’t hesitate to do so if someone wants to clink with you. Having said that, it is frowned upon to run around the entire room (or even the table) clinking with everyone. Simply tap with the person’s glass to your right and to your left, if that’s what the toaster is prompting you to do.

Does it have to be champagne?

Although customary to toast with champagne at weddings, any beverage will do. Many couples serve the champagne only during the toast to ensure everyone has a proper glass to raise. It’s always a good idea to have a non-alcoholic sparkling option on hand for

non-drinkers and children, which can also be served in flutes.

What are the elements of a perfect toast?

Everyone, including the bride and groom, appreciates a toast that is short and sweet – and maybe a little humorous. Particularly if you’re not a host or the bridal couple, keep the best wishes to three minutes or less. Components to include are: give a tidbit of praise or something compelling about the couple; add an anecdote or connect how you know the bride or groom; circle back to their relationship; and ask the group to raise their glasses to the new couple.

What are some faux pas to avoid?

You know a cringy, bad toast when you hear one: Ones that embarrass the couple, include lots of private jokes, are too personal, ramble, rant, go on too long or are too much about the toaster and not about the toastee. Just keep it simple, practice a little before the big day, and remember your toast is about the honored person and not about you.

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