The Forum

The Forum

This department is provided for the free and courteous discussion of biblical and spiritual problems which may be considered edifying to the people of God. Letters concerning such matters are requested.

“The Toast”

Dear Brethren,

Could you please tell me what is the origin and meaning of “The Toast” so often proposed at weddings now; I mean Christian weddings.

C. S.

Dear C.S.

To “toast” means to drink to the health of a person, and is a custom of long antiquity, practised by the ancient Greeks and Romans — although the word “toast” has been applied to this custom only since the 17th century when it initially referred to drinking to women. It appears that the name was derived from the habit of placing a piece of toast in the cup; in drinking the toast, the cup had to be drained to get the toast, which, being saturated sank to the bottom. While alcohol is a usual constituent of most toasts, non-alcoholic drinks may also be used.

For the Christian, two problems arise — first, the taking of alcohol and second, the observance of a custom. In the writer’s considered judgment, Christians should, as far as possible, abstain from alcoholic beverages — the rare instances of its medicinal use being exceptions. It is unnecessary here to point out its potential dangers to a Christian: even when taken in small quantities infrequently, habit formation can result. Perhaps a more important consideration is the influence one may have on others, who can readily be stumbled by the example of a fellow-believer. The important teaching of Romans 14 (see especially verses 13, 15, 21) and 1 Corinthians 8 (especially verses 11-13) is particularly applicable to this problem, and we should be careful not to put any stumbling block in the way of others. The writer has known of believers, addicts to alcohol in their unconverted days, being severely tempted on occasions when alcohol was being consumed, and especially when they saw mature Christians indulging in it. What a tragedy if we should be the means of encouraging such to return to their former ways — or of giving some young believer an appetite for liquor! Surely it behoves us to refuse it personally when served at weddings (or other occasions), and not to provide it at Christian weddings for which we may have responsibility.

While we should not be “conformed to this world,” there are many customs in everyday life which we observe and which in themselves are harmless and useful: this applies to many of the practices at weddings, and, in the writer’s judgment, to the drinking of toasts — with the proviso above relating to alcohol. Drinking of toasts at a wedding is simply a communal expression of good wishes for the health and blessing of bride and bridegroom and others toasted —in which we would all wish to join, and which would not seem to violate Scripture or the writer’s conscience.

Yours in Him,
Dr. J.N.