Offering a toast to the memory of the dead can be a good way of ensuring that the memory of a loved one lives on in family and at social gatherings. Though the best toasts are short, simple and said from the heart, it pays to know the accepted social etiquette of toasting and, if possible, to give some prior thought to your words.
Plan what you're going to say. If you are asked in advance to make a short toast to remember the dead, think about what you are going to say. Though it may only be a line or two, practicing beforehand can help you get the delivery right and calm your nerves when the time comes for you to speak in front of others.
Speak from the heart. Even if you are asked to say something without prior warning, keep it original rather than relying on cliches or worse still quotes when remembering the dead. According to Toastmasters International President Gary Schmidt, a toast should be "brief, personal and heartfelt."
Keep it short and simple, whether you're asked to say something in advance or on the spot. Longer eulogies may be an ideal chance to bring up fond memories of the deceased, and perhaps even to crack a few, tasteful jokes. However, a toast should be short, simple and serious, with anything more than a minute or two generally too long.
Fill glasses. Though the consumption of alcohol isn't an integral part of toasting, having a drink of some sort is. As such, before you make your toast to the deceased, make sure people's glasses are full. Rely on the wait staff at a funeral or other event to help with this. Failing to do this could leave a member of a party feeling awkward or even left out of the proceedings.
Get everyone's attention. If it's appropriate -- for example, if you are sitting around a large table -- stand up and perhaps clink a glass. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, simply say "I'd like to make a toast," or something to that effect. Then allow your audience time to quiet down and focus on you.
Address the room. Even if it's only a small gathering, invite everyone to join in the toast by looking around as you speak. If you feel it's appropriate, look the deceased relative's in the eye before you lift your glass.
Remember that you are not the center of everyone's thoughts at that moment in time. Even though you may be nervous and worried about how you may sound, as Toastmakers International advises, "concentrate on the message not the medium." Don't worry about your own anxieties, but concentrate solely on your message and on your audience.
Do not make a toast after having drunk too much. As well as being disrespectful to the memory of the dead, this can also prevent you from expressing yourself in the way you'd like.
- champagne image by Danielle Bonardelle from Fotolia.com