My best advice: Look him or her in the eye when toasting, or bad sex for seven years!
My next best advice: No longer than one minute when addressing a group.
While a personal message always best, here are some classics for inspiration and handy reference.
A one-line toast can be the most memorable. Some favorites from the movies: Rick to Ilsa in Casablanca: “Here’s looking at you, kid.” • General Patton to the Russian General’s Translator in Patton: “All right. All right, tell him I’ll drink to that; one son of a bitch to another.” • Spock in Star Trek: “Live long and prosper!” • Obi-wan Kenobi to Han Solo in Star Wars (George Lucas): “May the force be with you!”
From musicians: Tevye and Lazer Wolf in the musical Fiddler on the Roof by Sholom Aleichem (book) and Joseph Stein (musical): “To life, to life, l’chai-im, l’chaim, l’chaim to life.” • Alfredo to Violetta in Giuseppe Verdi’s Traviata: “Libiamo, amor fra i calici/ Più caldi baci avrà.” (“Let us drink, for with wine, love will enjoy yet more passionate kisses”)
From literature: William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet: “May a flock of blessings light upon thy back. • Shakespeare, The Tempest: “Look down, you gods, on this couple drop a blessed crown!” • Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor: “Heaven give you many, many merry days!” • Shakespeare, King Henry VIII: “Good company, good wine, good welcome make good people.” • Tiny Tim’s toast from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: “Here’s to all of us, God bless us everyone!” • Rudyard Kipling “Here’s to us that are here, to you that are there, and the rest everywhere.”
When you’re toasting foreign friends: French: A votre santé! (To your health!) • Italian: Cin cin! (Cheers!) Alla tua salute! (To your health!) Evviva gli sposi! (Hurray for the bride and groom!) Per cent’anni! (For a hundred years!) • Spanish: Salud! (Health!) • German: Prost! (Cheers!) Zum Wohl! (Bottoms up!) • Russian: Na zdorovia! (To your health!) • Hebrew: Mazel Tov (Congratulations!) L’Chayim! (To life!)
Some simple toasts in English: Here’s mud in your eye! Bottoms up! Here’s luck! Here’s to us! God bless! To good friends! We lift our glasses to you! Cheers!
If you don’t drink alcohol, pour something else into your glass. If you’re addressing a crowd, do it once everyone is served a drink, after the main course has been finished, or at the end of an award presentation. If you are the honoree, make a reply toast or stand up and say thank you. Good luck!