Being asked to give a toast to commemorate a big moment is a great honor—and it doesn't have to be terrifying! Here's the trick: Instead of trying to be funny, just keep it simple and real. "The most memorable, touching toasts are heartfelt and sincere," says Angela Ensminger, coauthor of On a Personal Note. "They use real-life language, real-life scenarios, emotions and humor. So don't worry that you'll have to be the next Shakespeare! All you have to be is yourself."
The Toast: It's your parents' 40th wedding anniversary.
The Tip: Before the big bash, ask your parents (separately) about the secrets to their success, how they met, their fondest memory, their partner's best trait. Then incorporate their stories into your toast. Be sure to mention what they've meant to you as parents and your admiration for their partnership. A good ending: "So here's to my parents—my first, and best, example of how love can last a lifetime. Cheers to both of you."
Skip: Sibling rivalry! If your brother shows up with a 20-minute slide show, don't alter your speech for the sake of competition.
The Toast: Your son graduated from high school.
The Tip: Highlight what his graduation represents: the joy and pride he has brought to his family, his dedication to his education and the promise of his future life, says Ensminger. Consider, "We know that he'll take the university (and soccer field!) by storm and become the kind of adult who will benefit the people and the world around him."
Skip: Gushing—you don't want to mortify the kid! And don't mention his good grades; it comes off as bragging.
The Toast: You're the matron of honor at your friend's second wedding.
The Tip: "Consider what you would want people to say about you and your spouse if it were your wedding," says Tom Haibeck, author of Wedding Toasts Made Easy. Most important: Include the groom and mention how much he has brought into your friend's life. Try, "I've known Mary since childhood and always knew she needed someone to match her smarts, strength and loyalty. Fortunately, she found her equal when she met Jon." Keep it short—three to five minutes.
Skip: Any references whatsoever to her previous spouse (!), boyfriends or romantic dry spells.
The Toast: Your team just landed a new account at work.
The Tip: "Be sure to acknowledge the people who made it happen," says Haibeck. Try something like: "Every one of you was instrumental in closing this deal: The marketing team put together great materials, the sales team swayed the client, and the administrative staff kept us sane through it all!"
Skip: Winging it—rehearse in advance. You want to project an aura of poise and strength without seeming stiff.
And if you want to write your own congratulations toast, use these starters from Hallmark writers.
Yay! Your team won. You got the job. You won the scholarship. You reached your goal weight. Someone ought to celebrate you...maybe with a toast like this:
Here's to you!
You did good—
I knew you would!
You did it—
and you did it
A toast to you
on this special occasion
and best wishes
for all the happiness
the future can hold.
Here's to the past—
the good times you've known.
Here's to the present—
this day all your own.
And here's to the future—
a (great guy/sister/person) like you
deserves all the best
in whatever you do!
You worked like
a beaver to get here,
So have yourself
a "dam" good time now.