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William joined The English Manner in 2008 before taking ownership in 2019. He is widely regarded as the freshest and most trusted authority on etiquette and civility, with his relative youth and old-fashioned values making him an arbiter of modern manners.

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Published

28 February 2024

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What is a toast?

When we raise a glass in celebration or acknowledgement of something or someone, we are raising a toast. This can happen in formal situations (such as a prestigious dinner), at a social occasion (a wedding) or at an informal gathering (a birthday drinks party in a bar).

Is a toast the same as a speech?

The toast is not a speech – it is just a brief sentence or two – but in formal scenarios, it is often accompanied by a speech. If you learn nothing more about toasting etiquette from this guide, that is the most important.

In this scenario, toasts are given after dinner before the speeches. At some British royal or diplomatic events, or at British weddings, the timing of the toasts can vary depending on the structure of the event. 

Who can propose a toast?

Formally in Britain, this is arranged in advance. There may be a toastmaster who says, “Pray silence for your host / the chair,” or similar.

At a wedding, members of the wedding party usually give the toasts as part of the speeches (conventionally, the father of the bride, the groom, and best man). In a more informal social context, anyone can raise a toast.

How do you give a toast?

The person giving the toast (technically called the toast proposer) starts by standing up. In formal settings, everyone else also stands, including the person being toasted. In very informal or social situations, it is not always practical or necessary and people may remain seated.

The British Navy has its own toasting etiquette, where they remain seated for all toasts due to the usually low ceilings in submarines and other vessels. 

What should you actually say when giving a toast?

The toast proposer should raise their glass and says the toast, ending with the name of the person/people/organisation that is being toasted.

Everyone else then raises their glass, and repeats the name.

For example:

PROPOSER (raising their glass): “Distinguished guests, may I propose a toast to celebrate the successes of The English Manner, whose work in etiquette is enjoyed by many. The English Manner!”

GUESTS (raising their glasses): “The English Manner!”

Are there any potential toasting faux pas?

If a person who is present is being toasted, then they should not drink a toast to themselves (it is considered arrogant). Instead, they just raise their glass to acknowledge the toast.

Avoid clinking or knocking the glassware. This includes tapping a glass to get everyone’s attention/silence with a knife, and clinking glasses with those around you when raising your glass. Very vulgar and not done with good glassware. 

Never toast with an empty glass – it is considered bad luck. Rules about not toasting with anything other than alcohol are nonsense; water or any other soft drink is fine.

How do I toast The King? 

If a series of toasts is being said, the loyal toast is said first before any others. In the UK, the wording for the loyal toast is just “The King”. 

Watch out for musicians striking up the national anthem straight afterwards. Glasses remain on the table until the music has stopped then they can be raised.

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