Wednesday, September 30, 2015

History of the Wedding Toast

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the wedding toast? Before we look at that, it helps to understand the history of toasting. One tradition says it goes back to the 6th century B.C. when people toasted to a friend's health to assure them the wine wasn't poisoned as glasses clinked and wine splashed from one glass to the other. While this bit of history has been verbally handed down, there is no real evidence to support it that I know of.

The origins of toasting can however, be traced back to most ancient societies in the form of raising their cup as a drink offering to their god(s), but there is also evidence that the ancient Greeks drank to each other's health which can be seen in The Odyssey when Ulysses drank to Achilles health.
Some used toasting as an excuse to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

The ancient Romans also practiced toasting to health and it became such an important part of their culture that at one time the Senate passed a decree that everyone was required to drink to the Emperor Augustus at every meal. We see this tradition again in literature in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire when it depicts a feast where Attila the Hun practices at least three toasts for every course.

The actual term "toast" originated back in the 16th century, with one of the first written accounts using the word found in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor when the character Falstaff says "Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in't." You guessed it. They actually put a piece of toasted bread in the wine, and that is how we came to label this practice a "toast." It was thought the toasted bread would help soak up some of the acidity, and it was also a way to make a piece of stale bread edible. So over the next centuries the term toasting gradually incorporated traditional libations and the honoring of people. The person being honored often received the saturated piece of toast. 

By the 17th and 18th centuries the practice was so popular that Toastmasters came on the scene to ensure that the toasting didn't become too excessive and that everyone got their turn, because some people felt the need to toast every person in a room as an excuse to drink large amounts of alcohol! Today's toasting etiquette has changed the toasting practice to sipping rather than guzzling.

This brings us to the origins of the wedding toast and ancient times when neighbors were at war with one another. Many times the wars ended in a truce that brought the leaders' children together in marriage. At the banquet celebration, the bride's father drank from the communal wine pitcher first (again to show it wasn't poisoned). And this is where the tradition of the wedding toast began.


Photo credits: Wikimedia, wikimedia, wikipedia

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