I Do! Wedding Toasts From Around the World

Pierce Brosnan once said (sang) “Here’s to us, one more toast, and then we’ll pay the bill.” If Mamma Mia wasn’t the world’s favorite musical comfort movie, it would surely be in the running for giving fans the most Pinterest-perfect wedding scene. Set in the picturesque country of Greece, I had to take the opportunity to bring up a musical that I’ve watched countless times. Why? Well, wedding toasts, my dear reader, have origins in ancient Greek culture, among many other cultures, of course. But, we’ll delve into that in a minute. 

Whether we prepare our written sentiments weeks ahead of time, or feel a sudden urge of spontaneity thanks to liquid courage; making a toast is an intrinsic part of any celebration. And, our loved ones being unified in holy matrimony is no exception. But, where did this tradition come from? After doing a little research, I’m happy to say that I have an idea. Read below and get ready to be enlightened on the origins of wedding toasts and how different people raise their glasses across the globe.

Bottles of champagne dressed as a groom and bride.

The History of Wedding Ceremony Toasts

Much like most things that exist in the world, no one is really certain of where wedding toasts, or toasts in general, come from. But, our best guess is that it started with the ancient Greeks. During a party or ceremony, it was tradition to raise a glass to the gods as a symbol of offering. While there is evidence in Roman culture that party guests would drink to their health and the host would pour a bit of each guest’s drink into his own cup to assure them it wasn’t poisoned.

Early Christians also believed that the clinking of glasses, which mimics the sound of bells, had the power to ward off evil spirits. Some say that toasting is a tradition that dates all the way back to the 6th century, but wasn’t called a ‘toast’ until the 16th century. The term came from the tradition of putting a piece of toasted bread into a cup of wine, which was always offered to the guest of honor. Over time, toasts became a part of large banquets, parties, and eventually, weddings! Of course, we tossed the toasted bread.

Different Toasts for Different Folks

The toasting tradition has traveled across the world. And while still holding the same amount of significance, there are many ways to raise a glass across different countries and cultures. Here are just a few toasting traditions practiced around the world:

China: Always Accept A Drink

Don’t be a shy guest when toasting in China. Not only is it considered rude to not accept a drink, it also won’t look good if you don’t finish it. If you’re the host, it’s polite to offer your guests something to sip on too. And, no matter where you are in China, you’ll most likely be offered Baijiu (a clear spirit made of Sorghum, wheat, rice or corn) during a toast.

South Korea: Accept Drinks With Both Hands

In South Korea, it is customary to pour and accept drinks with both hands. After you thank your pourer, it is considered proper to clink your glass against the bottle. For toasting in this country, you will likely be served Soju, which is a colorless liquid made from rice, wheat, or barley, enjoyed neat. 

Israel: Only Toast If You Mean It

Toasts in Israel are reserved for important and special occasions. So, it’s not common to toast for a football match! Instead, people toast to things like good health, and (ding ding ding) long marriages. The most important rule in toasting in Israel is that you only toast when you mean it! And, you’ll be savoring a drink called Arak which is an aniseed-based liquor. 

Italy: Avoid Being Cursed

Maintaining eye contact during a toast is a tradition that most drinking individuals are familiar with. It is a custom that is prevalent throughout most European countries, including Italy. If you break eye contact, you will be cursed with seven years of bad…well, c’mon, you know the rest! Italy is known for its abundance of delicious wines, so you’ll undoubtedly be partaking in only the finest when it’s time for a toast.  

Iceland: Skál!

Toasts in Iceland are met with the cheering phrase “Skál!”. Traced back to the word ‘bowl’, it relates to an ancient Nordic tradition where people would drink from an empty bowl to honor those who had passed. Today, people ‘Skal’ and enjoy a drink called Brennivín, an unsweetened schnapps. 

Do’s and Don’ts for a Good Wedding Toast

Calling all best men and maids of honor! For those on the introverted side, like myself, you may be dreading the moment you have to make a speech in front of the happy couple and their guests. And, even if you thrive in public speaking, it’s normal to feel puzzled about what you should and should not say. Whether you’re shy or the next Oprah Winfrey, a good ol’ do’s and don’ts list can assist with easing your uncertainty. 

Do Follow the Appropriate Wedding Toast Etiquette

Personalize your toast by following the toasting traditions of the bride and/or groom. Find out how toasts are done in their culture and impress them by honoring their traditions. They’ll never forget the effort! 

Don’t Leave it for the Last Minute

Weddings are probably the least appropriate place for an impromptu toast, no matter how much confidence your last few glasses of bourbon has seemingly given you. Not only is preparing your toast ahead of time a decent thing to do, but it will also give you the confidence you need to make the moment meaningful. 

Do Keep Your Toast as ‘Clean’ as Possible

Let’s be honest, after about the third speech, the thought of devouring the main course is the only thing keeping most of us going. That’s why humor is essential when it comes to toasts. But, weddings often consist of a diverse group of guests. And while your brother-in-law may find your dirty joke funny, it may have the bride’s grandmother in utter dismay. So, it’s best to save the riskier punchlines for the bachelor and bachelorette parties!

Don’t Forget to Speak From the Heart

I’ll have to quote the Israelis here and say; “only toast if you mean it!” Whether you want to be funny, or serious, a little bit of both, make sure your sincerity is prominent. 

happy couple making a wedding toast together

Toast to Toast: Drink Suggestions for Wedding Toasts

What is the taste you want to remember when your guests honor you and your partner? And no, you’re not strictly limited to champagne! Here are a few toast drink options that you serve throughout the wedding celebration: 

The First Toast: It’s Okay if You Want Champagne: 

Champagne is a signature drink for any celebration, especially for the first wedding toast. If you want to buy at least one expensive celebratory bottle, the first toast champagne is where you should splurge! 

The Main Course Toast: Have Mercy and Serve Lower Alcohol Content

Since your guests will certainly be sipping all night long, it’s a good idea to serve something a little lighter after the first toast. Low percentage champagne and mellow wines will do perfectly. And, don’t forget about your guests who prefer non-alcoholic beverages. Sparkling water is a great substitution for a cocktail mixer.

The After Dessert Toast: Bring Out the Cocktails

As the end of wedding formalities draws near, it’s appropriate to serve more casual drinking options. Depending on how rowdy you intend the after-party to be that is! Ciders, spirits, and even beers can do the clinking as guests give one final toast to the newlyweds.

Newlyweds and their friends raising their glasses of champagne.

Wedding Toasts Without the Toast

Toasts have come a long way, and with it the drinks we clink. This means that wedding toasts can be whatever we want them to be (but keep it PG!). Whether you’re making a toast to praise the Greek gods, ward off evil spirits, or wish your favorite newlyweds well, a little research and preparation are all you need to make it half as good as Pierce Brosnan’s (which is pretty darn good). 

You’ve learned a ton about Weddings and Toasts. Now what?

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