22 Toast Speech

Lynn Meade

Picture of wine glasses toasting

Here’s to those that love us!
And for those that do not love us,
may God turn their hearts.
And if he cannot turn their hearts,
may he turn their ankles;
so that we may know them,
by their limping.
Irish Blessing/Curse


Cheersslainteskalprost, and salud! A toast speech is a type of tribute speech meant to honor someone. Your goal as a speaker should be to make that person feel special and to allow others in the room to be included in the celebration.

Ceremonial Speaking Wheel

Pie chart with the words identification, narration, and magnification

All ceremonial speeches should include the trio –narration, magnification, and identification.


When thinking about your toast, don’t just think about the person you are toasting but about everyone in the room and think about how to bring them into your speech.  Saying “we” are here to honor the recipient and reminding the audience of shared values helps the audience to be a part of the process.  Say things that invite the audience in several times throughout the speech.

Wedding Toast
Instead of saying: 
Amy and I played Barbie as children and always made sure that Barbie found her perfect soulmate.
Say: As many of you know, Amy and I played Barbie for hours as children.  What you may not know is we always made sure that Barbie found her perfect soulmate.


Graduation Toast
Instead of saying:
I wish you the best in your journey ahead as you graduate and start your new career.
Say: We here, your family and friends, all wish you the best in your journey ahead as you graduate and start your new career


Retirement Toast
Instead of saying:
Dad, I was so happy you let me come and play in your office even if I ran your stapler out of staples by shooting them at the invisible villains that were hiding under your desk.
Say: As many of you here now, dad would sometimes let me come to work with him.  And while most of you thought that I was the perfect little bosses’ kids, you may not have known that I was really a super hero executing the invisible villain that I found in dads desk. I killed it with all the staples from dad’s stapler.


The use of story helps the audience to be drawn in and want to listen. In short toasts, you can tell a series of one-sentence stories. In larger toasts, you can tell one long story or numerous little stories. Tell your story in a way that the audience relives the moment with you.


Take a trait of the individual and magnify it. I’m not talking about superfluous embellishment; I’m talking about honest elaboration. For example, you might talk about

  • Triumph over obstacles
  • Unusual accomplishment
  • Superior performance
  • Unselfish motive
  • Benefit to society
  • The greatness of a simple thing

Now you know of the key elements that should be in your speech, let’s talk about the process of building a toast, writing a toast, and delivering a toast.

Gather the Details

What type of toast is it?

Always adapt your toast to the occasion: Wedding, graduation, retirement, business celebration, award celebration, birthday.

Who will attend?

You will give a different speech to your old college roommate on his birthday if it is just you and the gang versus if his conservative parents are in the room. It will be an even different speech if his new employer is present.  Remember, a toast is not just about the person being celebrated but it is about others in the room.  As you write your toast, keep imagining the key people present at the event.

Are there expectations about how long the toast will be?  It is always good to ask. It can be awkward if there are several people toasting and each gives a five-minute toast and you have prepared only a two-minute toast. Typically wedding-type toasts, retirement toasts, and graduation toasts are longer speeches and people speak from notes.  On the other hand, shorter toasts are usually memorized


Sit down and just start jotting ideas.  Think of your brain as a water faucet. You are not going to get any water until you turn the thing on. Many people complain they can’t think of ideas, but they never actually turn on the idea faucet. Think of brainstorming as turning those ideas on and getting your creative juices flowing. Start brainstorming ideas and memories one day and then give it a day or two to think about more memories.

When I turn off my faucet at home, there are usually a few drips that happen as the rest of the water gets out of the line. Think of your brain that way. Give it time to drip out the last ideas and be there to catch them. They just might be the best ideas of all. Some people find if they brainstorm before bed that they wake up with the best ideas. Always assume that you will forget your ideas, so write them down as soon as you think of them.

For more on brainstorming

 Sit Down and Write

At this point, just get your ideas down. Put down more ideas than you will use.  Allow yourself to write down some cheesy things—by cheesy, I mean those ideas that are silly, extreme, or not right for the occasion. Just go with it. Write those cheesy ideas down, maybe you will use this somehow but probably not. Most importantly, the creative ideas are hiding in your brain behind the cheesy ones and if you don’t get the cheesy ideas out of the way, you will never get to the next level.

Now. Let’s think about that faucet again. Imagine there is something clogging it. You have to put some pressure on it so you can get it working. I like to think of cheesy ideas as that clog in the line. I have to get the cheesy clog out of the way by giving my mind permission to go there and once that line is clear. I need to be ready for all the great ideas that will come out in force after the clog comes out.


Taking It to The Professional Level

If you want to give your toast the professional edge, try using a theme and then adding in some parallel construction. In this next section, I will show you how that works.

Use a Theme

Pick a theme for your toast and carry it throughout the whole toast. I like to think of the theme as the container that holds the speech together.

For example, Drew gave a best man speech and used the theme of a road trip. He told stories of him and his best friend and their adventures (at least the adventures you the ones that you can tell when mom is in the room). He talked about fighting over which music is played, he told stories about bathroom breaks, and he confessed that his friend was always getting lost. These were fun stories and by hearing them we could all imagine the friendship they shared. In his speech, he told us that whoever was in the passenger seat was called the “roundtrip captain.” He gave the new bride advice on how to navigate the relationship since he knew so much about his friend from all these road trips. The speech wrapped up with Drew telling the bride that she was the map reader now and he passed to her the title of “road trip captain.”

Erin gave a graduation toast to her family members who supported her through college. She used the theme of climbing hills. It was the perfect theme since the University of Arkansas campus that she graduated from seems to be arranged so everything is uphill–both ways.  She talked about walking the hills both physically and symbolically. In her speech, she talked about how beautiful the view is from the top. She wrapped up her speech by saying now that she is graduated how she has new hills to climb.

Keep in mind the theme is just the container.  If you have only a container, it will seem cliché and sound like a cheap greeting card. The theme is not the speech, it is the container that holds your many stories.  Make sure to develop those stories.

Use Parallel Construction

Parallel construction is where you take one sentence and you repeat it. It lets you tell a lot of little stories in a short period.  Always have at least 3 sentences, keep them together, and try to give them rhythm.

Consider this format and how it might be used for the different toast types.

At a Wedding Toast

I remember when ___
I remember when ___
I remember when ___

I knew you were the “one” because…
I knew you were the “one” because…
I knew you were the “one” because…

At a Retirement Toast

Many of you know dad for selling insurance, but I know dad for selling me on the idea to go to college
Many of you know dad for working long hours at the office, but I know dad for working long hours on school projects that I only mentioned to him the night before they were due.
Many of you know dad as a business profession, but I know dad as my super hero.

Many of you know dad for …., but I know dad for ….
Many of you know dad for …., but I know dad for ….
Many of you know dad for …., but I know dad for ….


People holding wine glasses and touching them together


When picking a speech pattern for the toast, consider the audience and occasion. Many toasts are just one to two minutes while others can be five to seven minutes.

Short Toasts Pattern

  1. Let us raise our glass to… Today, I would like to recognize…
  2. Make a list of attributes/accomplishments of the person.
    With each statement there is a building sensation –each statement you make is better than the next.
  3.  Build to a climax. Create a building sensation using parallel construction.
  4. Raise your glass near the end.
  5. End with a poem, quote, or wish them well. (I really think a well-chosen quote makes these speeches special…it is worth the time to look for one to make it really special)

Note: Typically short toasts are memorized and longer toasts are written as a manuscript.

 Wedding Toasts Possible Patterns

Give Their New Spouse the Manual of How to Get Along with Them

  1. Tell a story or two about your friendship with your friend
  2. Tell a story about when your friend met the person they are marrying. What did they say about this person? What were your first impressions? Tell anything about the two of them together? What are they like as a couple? How do you know they are right for each other? Tell something you observe about them when they are together?
  3. Give the person advice on how to navigate life with your friend since you know them so well. Think of this as passing on the manual.

Three Stories

Tell three stories about the couple.

  • Maybe, how they met, the engagement, and a story they tell on themselves.
  • Maybe, three ways you know they are in love.
  • Maybe, three things you noticed about how they care for each other.

I Knew It Was Love…

  • Tell five ways that you knew it was love. Tell a story attached to each of the ways
  • Tell what your friend was like before and how they are better now than they are with the one they love.

Note: Never mention old girlfriend/boyfriends, never give away secrets to clueless family members (they are living together, that you and your friend snuck out in high school), and always keep it positive. You likely have inside information about the person you are toasting–their wedding is not the time to reveal it. 

Retirement Toast Possible Patterns

If you are a work colleague of the person retiring:

  • These are the three things that set this person apart.
  • These are the three things that I learned from this person.

If you are the child or the spouse of the person retiring:

  • Talk about what their career looked like from your position. How were they dedicated?
  • How did it help you benefit from their job and friends? What did you learn from watching them work?

Note: It can be fun to use their job as the theme. For example, if the person is a coach make the whole speech in the theme of a game. If the person is in sales, use marketing terms to hold it together. If they collected something interesting that was displayed in the office, it lends itself to the theme.


Graduation Toast Possible Patterns

Looking back, looking ahead

  • Tell a few stories about them before graduation and tell what you expect to see in the future.

We’ve come through a lot together, Here’s some advice for your next step.

  • Tell stories of your relationship, how that relationship talks about character attributes that led them to graduate.
  • Give advice on how to navigate the next step.

Top Ten List

  • Ten things you need to know about (surviving college, having your first real job, etc.).
  • This can be especially fun coming from the sibling that is in college to the one headed to college.
  • Top ten things you learned in school that you can use in life.
  • Top ten things about you that will make you successful.

Let Us Not Forget

  • A series of memories that you and most of the group present share. Great for a group of friends
  • Find some great meaning to it all. What did it all mean? what did you learn?

Note: It can be fun to use their major, their future job, or their hobbies as the theme. 

Anniversary Toast Patterns

Three Stories

  • Tell three stories about the couple.
  • Maybe how they met, the engagement, and a story they tell on themselves.
  • Maybe, three ways you know they are in love.

I Knew It Was Love…

  • Tell five ways that you knew it was love and tell a story attached to each of the ways.
    Interview five of their friends and tell the five stories from their friends about love.

How They Taught You What Love Is

  • What have you learned by watching them love each other well?

A Biography of Love

  • Tell a story about their love when they met when they overcame when they did things together.
  • Tell a timeline of love events and stories about every major milestone.

Ending a Toast Speech

Typically, a toast speech ends with a thoughtful saying, witty quote, or poem.  There are many toast websites with great one-liners or short poems you can use to end a toast. If it is a longer toast, consider using a theme and connecting the ending with the theme.

“May misfortunes chase you all of your life and never catch up.”

“As you slide down the banister of life may the splinters never point the wrong way.”

Short, Short Toasts

There may be times you are called to give a quick, one to three-sentence toast. It is a good idea to have a few memorized quotes ready that can be woven into a short, short toast.

Here is to those who’ve seen us at our best and seen us at our worst and can’t tell the difference.

May you live for as long as you want, and never want for as long as you live!

May we get what we want, but never what we deserve.

May you always lie, cheat, and steal. Lie beside the one you love, cheat the devil, and steal away from bad company.

Here’s to friends and family who know us well but love us just the same.

Let us drink to bread, for without bread, there would be no toast.

“Here’s to that long straight piece in Tetris.”

Toast Etiquette

How Do You Hold the Glass?

Both wine and champagne glasses should be held by the stem, not by the bowl. “You should always hold the glass by the stem, no matter what the shape or size of the glass or the type of wine,” says Michael Greenlee, the sommelier and wine director of Gotham Bar and Grill, in New York City. “The most common mistake I see in restaurants and at dinner parties is people holding a wineglass by the bowl.”

Three reasons to hold the glass by the stem: 

  1. The glass is pretty;  you don’t want your fingerprints to mess it up.
  2. Putting your hand on the glass would block seeing the color of the wine or block your ability to watch the bubbles dance in the champagne.
  3. White wine and champagne are chilled, and red wine is served a room temperature. The temperature influences the taste and your hands on the glass will warm up the beverage and change it from its optimal temperature.

What Do You Do When Listening to a Toast?

Those who are listening to someone being toasted should hold their glass when the toast is being made.  At the end of the toast, listeners should raise their glasses, tilt the glass towards the person being toasted, and then take a sip.

What Do You Do If You Are the One Being Toasted?

When you are being toasted, you should sit and listen.  Smile and nod to let the person toasting know you are listening. You should not hold or lift your glass.  Once the toast is over and everyone has had a sip, then you may nod and/or say, “Thank You.”  One of the more common questions I get is, “Do I drink to myself?” and the answer is “no, you do not drink to yourself.”

Should We Clink our Glasses?

Check five different etiquette specialists and you will get five different answers. Some groups clink and some groups don’t clink. It is best to take your lead from those with the highest power of those in the center of the event. For example, if you have dinner with your co-workers and your boss is present, see what the boss does. If you are at a wedding, see what the head table does and copy.

The larger the group, the less likely there will be glass touching because it is difficult to touch everyone’s glasses. If you are in a clinking group, when you touch the bowl of the glasses together, you should always look them in the eye and smile.

“As with many of our food traditions, the clinking of glasses traces its root to the health and safety of the drinker. In this case, it goes back to the tendency of nobles to kill each other off by poisoning their food! Wine was very commonly drunk during medieval days because it was one of the only safe liquids available. Water was often polluted, and milk was both useful for other things and thought to be for children only. As the wine was often full of sediment, a poison was easily introduced into it.

To prove that his wine was safe, the host would pour a bit of his guest’s wine into his own glass and drink it first, to prove it was safe. If the guest trusted his host, however, he would merely clink his flagon against that of his host’s when his host offered his cup for the sample. The ‘clink’ (or perhaps ‘clunk’ back then, since wood or metal was more common for drinking vessels) was a sign of trust and honesty.”
Text from Wineintro.  Clinking of Wine Glasses and Toasts. Retrieved March 28, 2008, from  http://www.wineintro.com/champagne/clinkglass.html



Toasting Rules

A hand holding a wine glass

Hold up your glass while giving a toast.

Never toast with an empty glass, it is considered bad luck.

Always hold the glass by the stem.

Avoid getting the beautiful glasses smudged. That means, not touching the bowl. It also means sipping from the same place on the glass.

Always drink to the person being toasted. If you don’t take a sip then it means that you disagree with the nice things that were said about the person. If you are full of liquid or prefer not to sip the alcohol, just put your lips to the glass and fake it.

If you oversee the filling of the glasses, hold the wine bottle near the bottom and only fill glasses halfway up to give the wine room to breathe. Always offer wine to others before pouring your own wine.

In some regions, people will gently use a knife to tap the glass to bring the group to attention.

At some weddings, the quests may tap their glasses to mean the bride and groom should kiss.


Brainstorm About Your Person

Read through these questions and try to answer them about your person. Not all the questions will relate, and that is OK. That question may trigger an unrelated memory that you can use.

What is the story of the two of you as children?
What is the first memory you have of this person?
How did you meet?
What is the story of the two of you as teens?
What is the story of the two of you as adults?
What is an adventure you had together?
When did you do something involving this person that didn’t work out as planned?
What is a story that is often told about this person?
What is a struggle this person has overcome or a story of where you overcame together?
What story will history remember about this person?
What story will you tell your kids one day?
Why is this person special to you in a way that no one else knows?
When did you and this person make a difficult situation fun?
How have you seen this person grow?

What do they collect?
What are their hobbies?
What types of things are important to them? (Pets, cars, shoes)
What are they known for having? (Name brand clothes, a great boat)
What does their house/car/backpack say about them?
What do you have of theirs that means a lot to you?
How is their favorite movie, favorite superhero, favorite song a reflection of them?

The Person
What are the physical characteristics that become part of their persona (Tall, big feet, curly hair)?
What are they known for emotionally (being kind, being passionate, being stubborn)?
What are the phrases they say often?
What are they famous for? (Cooking, getting lost)

How did you meet?
What has kept your relationship with this person going?
What has been the highlight of the relationship?
What do their friends say about them?

Wedding Toast

When and how did they meet?
What were your first impressions of them as a couple?
What did your friend say about the first time they met?
If you were given three wishes for them as a couple, what would they be?

Toast Speech Samples from College Students Toasting Other College Students


Today, I would like to raise my glass (raise your glass)
to by the far the most gifted athlete in our class.
She showed us what it takes to be a student athlete at the University of Arkansas.
She opened up her heart and shared the stories about her mother with us.
I know we were all touched.
She taught us how to improve our puts and
She taught us that golf can be fun.
We even learned that even the best athletes get nervous sometimes.
In the words of Roy, tin cup, McEvoy,
“I hit it again because that shot was a defining moment,
and when a defining moment comes along,
you define the moment… or the moment defines you.”
To Ana, may you always define the moment and not let it define you!

I ask students to toast their classmates and to give reference to things that student has said or done in class, consider the following speech ending that references three of the student’s former speeches.

Sean here this is to you for all you have given us.

May your bike never fail you (reference to speech on changing a tire),

May your sense of nature keep you wandering (reference to speech on camping)

and may your lessons live on, in this lifetime and the next (reference to speech on missionary work).

To someone who
Has opened her heart and mind to this class
With hopes that they too will join in her efforts to serve God and humanity

To someone who
Has made us all feel as if her papaw was our own
Pitching and swinging the bat

To someone who
Has made each person in this class believe
As if we can make a difference in the world
One Krispy Kreme doughnut at a time

Anne Frank said,
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
Before starting to improve the world. “

To Haley, we toast to you (raise glass)
For you have already begun improving the world.


Best Man Toasts the Couple
by Joe Burlingame

Thank you all for gathering here tonight on the beautiful occasion to celebrate the love of Korey and Paola.
My name is Joe Burlingame and I know many of you have traveled from long distances to be here and we are so grateful that y’all came.
Since the lovely maid of honor spoke so highly of Paola I am going to try and make Korey seem like he is worthy.

When Korey told me that things were getting serious and that he was going to propose,

My initial reaction was “Woah, Korey I am flattered but I am perfectly content with being fraternity brothers,”
but everybody knew he was talking about Paola.
Korey and I’s relationship started about 5 years ago
And to this day I remember my first impression–it was like any first impression when we first meet an accounting major/// Aw—wk–kward.

Our friendship though took off like a rocket ship,
and before we knew it we were roommates
up to the time he betrayed me and found a permanent roommate.
I won’t say any names but she is in this room.

In the 4 years, I lived with Korey,
I have found 3 things that make him the perfect roommate.

First, Korey loves spontaneous trips.
Korey and I went to 6-7 concerts one semester.
We only bought tickets in advance for one and that was because it was the one band I wanted to go see.
The others were concerts that Korey had caught wind of last-minute and persuaded me to go.
One concert, in particular, was the night of Korey and Paola’s first date.
They had gone and got coffee and macaroons
I think it was maybe an hour-long date.
When he got back Korey talked about it as if they had spent a year with each other.
Paola I knew then that you had to be special
if you had him talking about you for that long.

Second, Korey is a humble servant.
Korey if there is a characteristic that describes you it is being a humble servant.
I would complain about how hot it was mowing our yard,
but you would not only mow ours but our elderly neighbor’s yard as well.
You thought you were invisible–
I saw it all.
Whether it be cleaning dishes, cooking, or constantly going to our neighbors to see if they needed anything done,
you were a servant
and  I was thankful for you.

Paola I am jealous,
I am now going to have to clean and cook for myself now.
Nik Birchfield said it best “Korey doesn’t just talk the talk but walks the walk”

Lastly, Korey is someone who is thoughtful.
I remember when we first moved in
Korey brought in this huge water jug of change and a little wooden chest,
I asked what the heck is that for.
He responded with “Man I plan on getting married and in order to get married you need a ring.”
I was blown away– I never would have thought of that.

Paola I regret that we never really got to hang out.
When I saw Korey take that jug of bills and come back with a ring
and he started describing why he picked this specific ring out
because it matched your characteristics
I knew we would be friends.

Korey and I were roommates the night before he was going to pop the question.
He practiced a lot with what he was going to say.
I know because he practiced on me.
I don’t know how many times we practiced the scenario
but I could tell you that the words he was going to say to you
were heartfelt
and genuine

Paola I was able to have the perfect roommate for a few years,
but now you will have the perfect roommate for life.

To Paola and Korey!

Hilarious Father of the Bride Toast

This toast is a good example of how to tell a funny story in a speech. This father’s story is brilliant, and his long pauses are perfect for this speech. He goes from having you crying from laughter to tearing up with sentiment.



Atlasobscura. Raise a glass to our readers’ favorite drinking toasts. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/best-drinking-toasts-and-cheers

Burlingame, J.  Best man toast. Advanced Public Speaking. University of Arkansas.

Chidi-Ogbonna, K. (2018). Nine wine etiquette habits to know. https://thefinestitallianwine.com

Real Simple (n.d.). From how to hold a wine glass  http://www.realsimple.com/realsimple/content/0,21770,712709,00.html

Revelations Video. The most hilarious father of the bride toast.[Video] YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOKduRf7o4k Standard YouTube License.

Wineintro. (2008). Clinking of wine glasses and toasts.  http://www.wineintro.com/champagne/clinkglass.html

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