Cheers to You

To toast or not to toast? It's truly an age-old question.

Our advice is to take the plunge. By following a few simple rules, you can be the talk of the party -- and not because you left your fly open.

"There are three basic rules: rehearse, rehearse, rehearse," says Steve Deyo, a local toast-making expert and author of Milestones and Memories: The Art of the Toast. "Toasts should never be off-the-cuff, and always leave the locker-room comedy out of your commentary."

A good toast should be like making love -- except shorter (hopefully). Deyo implores toasters-to-be to avoid long meandering odes and instead keep their speeches in the thirty-seconds-to-three-minute range. "A toast can be a fine creation that brings out your unique talents, skills and abilities," he says. "Toasts really accentuate a special moment. If you do it well, people will remember it always." (Just like a good roll in the hay.)

His other instructions are to develop a theme, be passionate, and -- most important -- always stand up. If you're completely stumped, borrow someone else's words of wisdom. "It's always good to start off with a famous quote, like 'I am wealthy in my friends,' by William Shakespeare, or 'The only thing one never regrets are one's mistakes,' by Oscar Wilde," Deyo says.

Whatever you do, don't give in to pressure. "Toasts have been part of our culture for thousands of years," Deyo points out. The ancient Greeks used toasts as a way of honoring friendship, but the word actually comes from the fourteenth century Latin root tostare, which means "roasted" or "parched."

"Because wine was so wretched back in the day, they would take charcoal-crusted bread and dip it into the glass to get rid of the godawful taste," Deyo explains.

Since godawful is the last way you want to sound during your big moment, don't drink and toast. "Don't do it if you're drunk, because what comes out might not be what you really meant to say," Deyo warns. "The more that goes in, the more that will come out."

Toasting Tips
• Rehearse
• Keep it short
• Have a theme
• Be passionate
• Stand up
• Don't drink and toast