Tips on delivering a holiday toast – from a Guinness toastmaster

Over the holidays, you’ll probably hear a toast or two while at the dinner table. But are you prepared to give one? A local toastmaster who has some tips on how to deliver an impressive sentiment to your guests suggests, above all, to keep it brief.

“What makes the best toast, I think, is a sentiment,” said Tom Ponton, a recent winner of the Guinness toast contest.



The Columbia, Maryland, man said he woke up in the middle of one February night earlier this year and saw the contest glowing on his phone. After learning the winners receive a $50,000 prize, he decided to enter. When he learned he won, he couldn’t believe it.

“I got the Ed McMahon treatment. They came by my house with a bagpiper, a film crew, a huge check, which I tried to cash at my local ATM,” Ponton joked on the DMV Download.

Here’s the winning entry: “When you’re old and you’re gray and you doze by the fire and you have one last glass before you retire, it’s not about wealth, but the seeds that you’ve sown, to the people you’ve loved and the friends that you’ve known. So let’s raise a glass to our family and friends. And to those who oppose us, well, let’s make amends. For it’s not a long stay and you can’t shed a tear, and my wish for you both is a Happy New Year.”

By day, Ponton works as the executive director of advancement at DeMatha Catholic High School, but said he learned from his Irish grandmother who was “quite the character,” how to turn a phrase.

His tips for creating a memorable toast:

  • Keep it brief
  • Memorize your toast, or have a cheat sheet
  • Keep the sentiment simple and clear

Another tip is to lean on the lyrics of a favorite song if you forget your toast.

“You can take a Taylor Swift song and make it a toast. So I was once, well I still am, a fan of Jimmy Buffett and he has a song which I think would make a good toast. That’s, ‘Follow in my wake. You’ve not that much at stake. For we have plowed the seas and smoothed the troubled waters. Come along. Let’s have some fun. A new year has begun and we’ll barrel roll into the sun, just for starters,” Ponton said, quoting the Buffett song.

The trick Ponton really emphasized was to keep the speech short.

“I like a little bit of poetry, I just do. I think it could be a limerick if you wanted it to be, or a poem slash blessing,” he said.

Two toasts Ponton shared with the DMV Download he said are good to have in your back pocket and can be amended in the last line to fit any occasion.

“The hour is late. I guess that’s our fate. We’ve laughed and told many a tale. To no surprise, we told a few lies. But no n that will land us in jail. So here at last call, we’ll rise one and all and toast to all that is right. Give us a slow pour then show us the back door, an end to a bloody good night.”

And the last toast:

“May you ne’re be a stranger and kind to each child and should there be dangers, may your temper be mild. May you ne’re pick a fight lest the cause it is right and pick up the tab at the end of the night. So lest have a toast to all we hold dear. Send round the whiskey, Send round the beer. No matter the weather, Come what might. We’re all here together, Let’s make it a night.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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