The Custom of the Wedding Toast

In this post I will start by giving a brief history and origin of wedding toast custom, the unusual meaning of the term toast and the general etiquette guidelines to making a proper toast. production process of the sparkling wine known as champagne.  Champagne became the celebratory drink of choice for special occasions, such as weddings.  Then, finally to end this post I will give several suggestions for incorporating champagne into a wedding reception, such as a champagne glass tower or a champagne fountain. 

The Wedding Toast

The origin of a toast can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks who would honor their Gods through a symbolic drink.  Ancient Romans gave great importance to drinking to a person’s health and in fact the Roman Senate passed a decree that at every meal a symbolic drink should be taken to honor the Emperor Augustus. 

The origin of the term toast can be found in the 16th century, at the time most wines were of inferior quality and by placing a piece of stale bread (toast) into the wine barrel it was meant to soak up the acidity thereby improving the flavor of the wine.  Eventually, the custom of the toast became associated with a way of honoring a person by giving them the wine soaked bread.  Gradually the actual toast/bread was eliminated but the custom of honoring a person remained. 

At the wedding reception the champagne toast formally congratulates the bridal couple on their marriage and can sometimes include emotional or humorous anecdotes specifically about the bride and groom.  At a formal wedding, toasts are given immediately following the meal and before the bridal couple’s first dance.  It can also be done either before or after the cutting of the wedding cake.  For an informal wedding, toasts can be made at any time; some suggestions include giving the toast before or after the meal is served.      

If multiple people are giving toasts the suggested order would be: the father of the bride (if her parents are hosting the reception), the best man, the maid/matron of honor and finally the bridal couple could toasts their families and invited guests.  Another option that could be added on the night before the wedding is the father of the groom (since his parents generally host the rehearsal dinner) toasts the couple and welcomes their families.  Special Note: It is best to coordinate with the people giving the toasts prior to the wedding day and hopefully they will prepare a short toast. 

Usually for a wedding toast an alcoholic drink is served, such as champagne or wine, but is not required and sometimes a sparkling fruit juice can be served instead.  Toasting with an empty glass is considered unacceptable (and could also bring bad luck to the bridal couple) and if none of the beverage suggestions mentioned above sound appetizing to your palate or you may have dietary issues drinking water would be a good choice.  

Etiquette Guidelines for Wedding Toasts

  1. The person giving the toast should stand while the bride and groom should remain seated.  After the toast the bridal couple should stand and acknowledge the person giving the toast and many give a kiss or hug.
  2. After the toast is given guests should take a sip of the champagne (or other beverage) and if multiple toasts are given be sure to save some to drink after the other toasts. 
  3. It is considered impolite to put down a glass before the toast is completed or to not drink to the bridal couple after the toast is given.
  4. After the wedding day, a nice gesture would be to send those individuals giving the wedding toast a personal thank you note.

History of Champagne

It seems that throughout the past centuries several wedding customs have come to involve food and drink, such as champagne.  Although still wines have been produced in France since the 5th century, records indicate in the 16th century Benedictine monks created the process of sparkling wine by bottling the wine before the initial fermentation had been completed.  A century later Christopher Merret, an English scientist and physician, created a process in which yeast and sugar were added to the wine during the initial fermentation thereby creating a second fermentation process.    

This new process created carbonation that would build pressure within the bottles and caused the corks to pop or the bottles to explode.  Ultimately two things would happen; first a new type of bottle would be developed with thicker walls to withstand the pressure created by the carbonation.  Second, a muselet (a wire cage that fits over the cork at the top of the bottle) was invented to prevent the corks from blowing out.  Ultimately this new process became known as the methode champenoise and by definition the label of champagne was originally only given to French sparkling wines grown from grapes in the Champagne region produced by these specific methods.

Champagne became popular with the European Royal Courts during the 17th and 18th centuries and because of the exorbitant cost and limited quantity available it was seen as a status symbol.  Later in the late 19th century champagne production increased with better techniques and was eventually marketed to the middle class.  Champagne has now become the beverage of choice to mark special celebrations; such as weddings, births, housewarming, retirement and or even the classic New Year’s Eve toast at midnight!   

Ideas and suggestions for incorporating champagne into a wedding reception

Opening the Champagne Bottle –

Opening a champagne bottle could add that celebratory “pop” at the wedding reception.  A champagne bottle is usually opened by removing the muselet (a wire cage that fits over the cork at the top of the bottle).  Always check with the wine steward at the hotel or venue where the reception is being held for the proper procedures.  Special Note: Caution should be taken when opening a champagne bottle and safety is very important so extra precautions should be taken.  Champagne needs to be chilled properly before serving and if the bottle is not cold enough it is possible that the cork will be released too quickly which could be very dangerous!

Presenting and Displaying Champagne –

There are several different ways to present and display champagne before serving for the wedding toast.  The first idea is a classic and very elegant way to serve champagne and involves the hotel or venue wait staff carry the champagne poured into glasses and served individually to guests from a silver tray.

A beautiful extra touch would be to serve the champagne with a special garnish, strawberries for champagne and orange slices for a champagne mimosa

To add an extra special style to an “at home wedding”
consider renting a champagne fountain
(notice the beautiful floral arrangement placed at the top)

A wedding custom that was once very popular and which has recently made a comeback at wedding receptions is the champagne tower.  Check with the hotel or venue to see if they can accommodate this very unique way of serving champagne. 

A more elaborate way to present champagne bottles at a wedding reception is an ice sculpture, the first photo shown below is simple and the second photo shows an ice sculpture with roses that would make a beautiful display.