Cheers to You

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By Liesel Schmidt

Raising a glass of bubbly, along with an offering of the very best of wishes for the future ahead, has long been a traditional part of wedding ceremonies all over the world, dating back centuries enough to toe the line at being qualified as ancient. But as time so often tends to do to so many longstanding customs, the true history behind the wedding toast has become buried under so much tulle and French buttercream that no one gives much thought to the origins of the celebratory practice, merely going through the motions as thousands of tiny bubbles sparkle and pop while everyone looks on with a smile.

As we all know, in modern times, the wedding toast is a happy tradition, and certainly one done out of love and joy for the blissful couple being feted. And as so many recorded and oft-revisited play-by-plays of the reception will show for time everlasting, those toasts are also frequently the source of moments of slightly uncomfortable laughter as someone who might have had more than their share of happy juice offers up their unfiltered sentiments before raising a less-than-stable glass toward the objects of their affections.

Long, long ago, however, the wedding toast was offered by the father of the bride, who would be the first to drink from a communal wine pitcher at the wedding banquet. In such ancient days as those, the leaders of warring peoples often came to a truce by marrying their children to one another, creating an alliance through the bonds of matrimony. By taking the first sip from the pitcher of wine, the bride’s father was, in essence, offering proof that the wine was not poisoned—definitely an important detail for honoring any truce and creating a peaceful world.

Calling it a “toast” is an interesting fact in and of itself, as the rancid flavor that crude wine once had was actually toned down by the addition of a piece of burnt toast, which was placed in the pitcher of wine to absorb and neutralize some of its acidity. Once the wine was served to everyone, the wine-soaked piece of toast was eaten by the host as a show of graciousness and goodwill.

In these days of yore, wedding toasts are not strictly given by the father of the bride, but by anyone who makes the top of the list as the most important people in the lives of the happy couple. The maid of honor, the best man, the parents of the bride and groom, and siblings naturally jump to the head of the line; but so do others who have been an important influence—even if they don’t have true family blood running through their veins or have a titled role in your life. Whatever the case may be, keep the list of toast-givers short and sweet so that your guests aren’t having to sit through an endless stream of monologues. After all, champagne bubbles can only last so long.

Generally, the order of toasts should run a course that starts with friends (or MOH/Best Man) and ends with the most important people in your lives, like your parents. Having a keeper of the mic will help ensure that things are running smoothly and in a timely manner, so choose someone you trust to be in charge of the mic.

If you want to have people’s attention, make sure the toasts are delivered before it’s time to dance, as once everyone’s busted a move, it can be hard to rein them in again.

Toasts can be funny, anecdotal, sentimental, or even inspirational, so have fun with them. Of course, if you’re trying to avoid anything off-color, set some guidelines for the people you’re entrusting with the spotlight. Then get ready to pop the cork and raise a glass—here’s to you, and here’s to happiness for the rest of your days.

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