Some people have a knack for giving a toast. They can make you tear up and then burst into hysterics a moment later, and then end the whole thing on a poignant yet celebratory note that you remember for years. But this takes practice.
Most of us fear we will be too nervous to make any sense at all. If you tend more toward the latter, here are a few golden rules to follow...
First, be prepared.
Don't assume that a few glasses of wine will turn you into some kind of poet and try to wing it. In fact, don't get too tipsy before the toasting time comes! Begin with an anecdote that isn't too long or complicated that illustrates the occasion or person you are celebrating with a little humor.
Rehearse in front of a close friend with whom you can trust for an honest critique. Jot down a few key themes on a note card so you have the structure of your top down and don't forget anything, but don't read whole sentences. Most important is to keep it short and simple, and speak from your heart. If you're really uncomfortable, it's fine to raise a glass and say something as simple as “I'm glad to have the family together to celebrate the New Year” or “Here’s to Joe's return from London!” If the cook is someone other than you, it's always nice to raise a glass in his or her direction.
Here's a tip if you're the one being toasted...
If it's your birthday, wedding or engagement party, graduation celebration, or any other kind of occasion, when you're the one being toasted, tradition says you're to keep your drink on the table
while everyone else clinks and drinks. Raising a glass of something like clapping when you're receiving a round of applause. It is most likely your crowd isn't so attached to such rules but at a formal occasion keep this in mind.