(Closed) Polite way to refuse toasts

posted 6 years ago in Etiquette
Post # 3
11233 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013

I guess I had no idea there was a way to “refuse” a toast?

Post # 4
13251 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

If someone proposed a toast to “Hitler and pals,” you can bet your bottom dollar that I wouldn’t care about politely refusing their racist toast – I’d openly be horrified and telling them to sit their racist ass down or to get out.  Honestly, if it’s that bad, it doesn’t matter how you refuse it – people won’t remember the manner in which you refused, they’ll remember the horrible toast.

I don’t know of any polite way to refuse a toast, other than not raising your glass to it? 

Post # 5
8681 posts
Bumble Beekeeper

Yeah the right way to refuse to participate in a toast proposed to hitler or the like would be to walk out. Why would you even want to stay in that room.

I don’t think there is a polite way to refuse a toast. Just smile and take it on the chin and if something extremely bad is said you can always do a rebuttle toast.

Post # 6
166 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

I am posting because I am very curious about this question. Why would anyone make a toast of this nature?  Are some of your guests of this persausion, hitler/aparthied entusiasts. I would think that these sentiments would not come up at a wedding.  Were you at an affair that during a “regimental toast”  someone toasted to something along these lines? 

I’ve never participated in a formal discussion of a toast refusal.  I would think if you didn’t agree with a toast, you simply wouldn’t raise your glass.  I think not raising your glass is no where near as rude as such a toast. I’ve never been “taught” anything about toasting. 

Sorry if I’m being obtuse.  




Post # 7
3267 posts
Sugar bee

I think it’s the same as if someone is praying and you don’t want to participate.  You stand quietly and don’t participate. I wouldn’t send my drink back as I think it draws more attention to you and your refusal, then if you just continued with it afterwards.

Now if it was something as bad as Yay Hitler or something that I think leaving would be ok, as it’s unlikely you would care that much if you continued your relationship.

Post # 8
3941 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

My family on my Mother’s side is Jehovah’s Witness and it’s a part of their faith to not toast.

When I went to my cousins wedding the “priest” asked that no one raise or clink their glasses.

When they were at my wedding, they just didn’t raise their glasses at all.  But they certainly didn’t ask for a new drink.

Post # 9
1696 posts
Bumble bee

@Rachel631:  That is a fascinating practice. Where did you learn it … in the military? In my experience there are details of praxis in the culture of the officer’s mess (or even the junior ranks’mess) that are not consistent with mainstream culture. But, if you learned it from your mother or grandmother I’d be interested to know what their cultural background was.

Etiquette is just the language of good manners, and good manners are about smoothing things over and making interpersonal relationships easier. I was never taught your protocols for refusing a toast. Andielovesj quite rightly poiints out thatdemanding a fresh glass draws attention to the disruption rather than smoothing it over. And it is specious: even if it’s a fresh glass you ARE continuing to drink your hosts’ wine while despising their causes.

What I was taught was that one never refuses a toast: to do so draws a line in the sand and creates a distance in your relationship. Drinking wine together is even more intimate an act than eating together. Toasting draws the political or moral issues stated in that toast inside the circle of shared intimacy: hence no toast should ever be given without the permission of your host. And hence, when you decline a toast you are showing contempt for the things that matter to your host, which violates the ancient requirements of guest-law. Thus declining a toast should be reserved for things that you feel so strongly about that you are willing to impair or even sacrifice the relationship with your host. Now, that might be something you feel so strongly about, that you want to make a point and want your point to be noticed. A good response to “To Hitler and Pals” would be to stand and smash your glass without drinking, then turn and walk out and cut that host completely from your social life. Unlike “unfriending” on Facebook, such an act is considered irreversible by traditional social etiquette.

A (slightly) less contentious response to a truly objectionable toast is to remain seated while others toast. When they sit again, apologize to your host in a clear healthy voice that you feel unwell and leave with quiet dignity. That leaves the door open to your host to apologize to you later and maybe you can restore some sort of relationship.

Or, you can stand with everyone, and hope no-one notices that you didn’t drink. Your host is entitled to call you on that, though, if the toast’s subject is an important part of the uniting values of the people present. I recall many many years ago offering a toast to the Queen at a dinner party, and having it declined audibly by am anti-monarchist guest at the table. I consider the Crown to be the living symbol of my country and have at various times in my life been required to swear loyalty to the Queen as part of an oath of office — so, basic loyalty to the Crown IS something I expect of my fellow-citizens. Similarly an American would probably have a right to expect other Americans to accept a toast to “Old Glory” or some such thing: the refusal creates a divide in values that destroys the intimacy of the gathering. That dinner-party broke up quickly (and the man was never invited back). I might have smothed it over if he hadn’t been vocal, but equally I might have called him on it because loyalty to your country is the kind of thing I take into account in evaluating a man’s worth. Of course, in an internationally mixed gathering no polite host would make or allow either of those toasts — circumstances must always be taken into account.

It occurs to me that, if people are objecting to how you were taught to refuse toasts, the subject must have come up. Was it only theoretical — or did someone else refuse a toast in this way (I see now that you say you haven’t done it yourself). What kind of toasts have you been invited to share that you have found so objectionable? And what on earth do people have against your regimental toast — and who are these people?

Post # 11
4046 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

@KateByDesign:  I would think that asking for a new drink would be almost as bad, you are still making the host pay for the original drink and a new one.

Post # 13
1696 posts
Bumble bee

@Rachel631:  From your reply, I am pretty sure that this is a militarism — like some regiments that insist the port bottle must be passed hand-to-hand without ever being set down upon the table even though in formal society port etiquette knows no such rule (it must be passed by the diners, and each man must pour for himself, and it should be kept moving in a clockwise direction, but it may certainly rest on the table-top.) In formal traditional etiquette of course, the port is served after the ladies leave the table, and all wine glasses and (especially!) water glasses, along with all service dishes and left-over dining items are removed from the table before the port glasses are set down. Some regiments follow that practice, too, which suggests that you may be witnessing a rather localized militarism since that would make it much harder to be sneaky. Still, in the military it makes sense to have such a protocol, since the particular toasts to be made are often established by the mess tradition rather than being left to the good judgement of the host.

Also in formal social etiquette, the toasts are drunk in wine and are begun at the start of a meal rather than at the end. Ladies do not traditionally propose toasts nor reply to them, though they may receive them. So, in traditional circumstances the hostess would not propose a toast any more than would the lady guest of honour (that’s the role the bride plays when her mother is the hostess.) Her co-host or co-guests would make any toasts or replies on her behalf. But any lady who is capable of serving the Crown as a member of her Majesty’s armed forces is entitled, in my feminist opinion, to make her own toasts and replies if she chooses. For that matter, in my feminist household, it is the people who like port, regardless of sex, who stay at the table when the coffee-and-liqueur drinkers (of both sexes) retire to the drawing room.

As for how you would “dare” to “force your opinions” upon your guests, well, there is no shame at all in assuming your British guests would show decent patrioticy loyalty to the constitutional legitimate government structures of your country. Your guests, in coming under your (hired-by-the-hour) roof,  are willingly submitting to the ancient mutual requirements that guest-law establishes when hospitality is offered and accepted: that the guests do not challenge the host’s value-system while under her roof. Sounds to me, frankly, that Cousin What’s-his-name was dropping some pretty heavy hints that he would not appreciate the offer of hospitality from someone like you — and I’d be strongly tempted to catch his hint, and not offer it.


Post # 14
7561 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: January 2013

If someone offends me with their toast, I wouldn’t raise my glass. I don’t understand why you’d recognize the toast (by raising your glass) then secretly switch it out. 

Post # 16
668 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: April 2013

Is this 1860? I’m so confused. I’m not trying to be rude but this type of strict “etiquette” sounds really outdated. I can’t imagine anyone making an offensive toast at a wedding so I really don’t think you have anything to worry about. Look at the bigger picture and just have fun.

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