Because sometimes it takes two men to make one man’s toast.
We’ve all seen and heard toasts that made us wish we were anywhere else but in the audience. One day, working as a ghostwriter in finance in Manhattan, I was pulled aside to make a toast for my boss desirable before it became just such a disaster. And while there’s no perfect equation to give a good toast, some elements should be included and some should be left out. You’ve heard and felt it done right. The best toasts are elegant, sweet and to the point, yet substantial enough to set the tone for the occasion.
While you may not have a ghostwriter on staff, you never know when you’ll need to give a toast that puts smiles on faces you’ve never met. Knowing the right thing to say can be overwhelming, so instead of a ghostwriter here’s the next best thing: A recipe you can follow to put together your very own, expertly written toast. You might call it a “Ghost Toast.”
The Ghost Toast combines a few simple ingredients that help demonstrate your command over the wonderful yet obscure craft of the spoken word. Made from scratch, here’s a way to seamlessly frame the moment, organize clauses with short words, and quickly close while making the occasion more memorable for all.
Mise en place: Set out ingredients on a piece of paper or word processor, categorized by these eight elements:
5. Salient Detail
7. Closing Statement
8. Champagne (kept chilled until day of the event)
The following steps have been thoroughly tested and should prove palatable to (most) guests. For those giving a toast to a highly sensitive audience, you may rearrange the order to better suit both the subject and guests. If this is your first time delivering a toast, consider beginning with Humility as it hints you are a reliable narrator and that this toast is not about you.
– 2 pieces of grounded context. Neatly chop up who (subject) and what (occasion) into your introductory sentence to anchor your audience to the event.
– 2 pieces of organic truth, beaten and pureed over context. (There’s good truth, and bad truth. You should know the difference. If it doesn’t smell right, like that thing he should not have done at the bachelor party, any comparison to an ex, or a generational trigger like cohabitation before marriage, do not use.)
– 1 delicate juxtaposition, folded into thinly layered vignette. (Example: If he’s honest, juxtapose that with the time he lied for the right reasons; if smart, then to the time he acted dumb; if strong, to the time he was vulnerable.)
– 1 extra-lean concept. The concept is the protein that fills in the juxtaposition of your toast, but should be light, so trim away any excess details and sprinkle lightly with humor. A choice cut stripped from the marrow of your experience together acts as a hearty narrative vehicle that brings out the natural flavors of truth. (Source locally from loved ones. Should be one of the first five things you think of when you think of that person). Sprinkle one dash of humility, stir to combine, and set aside for at least 6 hours.
– 1 salient detail. Now that your toast has had some time to marinate, give the story you’ve put together a sniff to identify its one salient detail. If you’re having trouble, this ingredient can be found by asking yourself why what the subject does in your concept is important. What one word describes it and your subject simultaneously?
– 1 dash of humility. Describe what it would be like not to have subject in your life, and apply relevant material earnestly. This makes the invisible bonds of friendship visible, building perception of a physical connection between subject, audience, and you.
– 1 simple closing statement. Lightly brings out taste of other ingredients. Use sparingly.
– 1 full glass of champagne Keep as full as possible until after the toast has been made.
If tempted to rearrange order, remember, Juxtaposition must follow Truth in the same way champagne always follows a closing statement. (Introducing your subject as dumb and then insisting smart ruins the recipe.)
Once finished, let rest for at least 24 hours. Revisit and skim off the fat and any unpalatable details. Brush up on the closing statement, a good one should moisten the audiences’ tear ducts, but not be overly gushy. Practice delivery a few times with your most honest friend and rearrange elements as needed. Best served without notes or iPad. Do not deliver to guests while inebriated. (This part, I cannot stress enough.)
Voilà! Your toast should be delivered in a maximum of five minutes. Preferably, three minutes or less for normal attention spans.
(Note: The quality and consistency of the toast vary by sound system, mic, enunciation, volume level, and practice/delivery.)