Each livery company will have their own customs and procedures regarding toasts, but this note aims to set out some guidelines on the subject.
Broadly speaking the following are the likely toasts at a formal livery dinner or banquet:
Loyal Toast – The Queen
Second Loyal Toast – The Other Members of the Royal Family
Civic Toast – The Lord Mayor
The Worshipful Company etc, and the Master.
Taking each in turn:
Loyal Toast – The Queen
Always the first of the toasts, and correctly should not be pre-announced by the Beadle or Toastmaster, who will simply gavel firmly and loudly to achieve silence.
[Should the beadle/toastmaster be briefed
to call for silence and ask the company to stand (which is not the strictly
correct procedure), then on no account should he mention the master –
eg Pray silence for the Master. This is
likely to then lead to an entirely inappropriate round of applause for the
Whereupon, without preamble or introduction, the Master will rise and simply say The Queen.
There then follow three possible scenarios:
Musicians play the National Anthem, and guests sing the words.
Musicians play the National Anthem, and guests remain silent.
No Musicians present
If there are musicians, a decision should be made in advance as to whether the assembled company should sing the National Anthem. If it is the Company’s custom/preference to sing, then IMMEDIATELY the words The Queen are announced, the pianist/musician should strike up with a reasonably lengthy introductory chord, to allow everyone to stand and clear their throats! (the pianist/bandmaster will need to be firmly and clearly briefed accordingly).
If it is not the Company practice to sing the National Anthem, then the musicians should again start playing IMMEDIATELY after the words The Queen, but without opening bars/chords.
In both these cases, the imperative for the musicians to start the National Anthem immediately is to prevent the guests toasting and drinking before the Anthem, instead of after.
On conclusion of the National Anthem, the Master should repeat the words The Queen, and the toast follows.
If there are no musicians, then after the Master has announced The Queen, everyone simply stands up and repeats The Queen.
It is City practice that everyone then sits down. However some Companies choose to remain standing for the Second Loyal Toast. If this is the case, then the Beadle should immediately gavel whilst the company is still standing (and then proceed as below).
Second Loyal Toast – The Other Members of the Royal Family
As soon as everyone has sat down, and before the hubbub of conversation re-commences, the Beadle gavels again for silence.
As before the Master then stands, and again without preamble, reads:
The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, and The Other Members of the Royal Family.
Musicians (if present) then immediately play the first half of the National Anthem (never sung), and the toast follows as above – The Royal Family.
Civic Toast – The Lord Mayor, the City of London Corporation and the Sheriffs
Several variations are possible, depending on whether or not the LM (or sheriffs) is present, and on which order the speeches are to be given. It is customary for the Master to propose this toast, and if he is not to be the first speaker, it is probably easiest if the Civic Toast follows immediately after the second loyal toast.
In this scenario, the procedure should follow exactly as for the toast above:
. . . . before the hubbub of conversation re-commences, the Beadle gavels again for silence.
The Master then stands, and again without preamble, reads:
The Lord Mayor, the City of London Corporation and the Sheriffs
Note if no sheriffs are present, this last part should be omitted. If the LM is not present, then the entire Civic Toast may be omitted, if it is not the Company practice (eg if the main purpose of the dinner is related to your industry or some non civic theme).
However, if the Master is to be the first to speak, and the LM is present, then he can sensibly conclude his speech with the Civic toast. Bear in mind that it can be very helpful to any speaker to be given a toast with which to bring his speech to an end.
But if the Master is welcoming the Guests, then he may sensibly wish to end by proposing the toast to the Guests – see below. Two consecutive toasts at this stage would be odd.
This toast invariably comes at the end of a speech of welcome to the guests, which will usually have been delivered by a warden or a (senior) liveryman. In this writer’s view, it is sensibly the first of the speeches, allowing the introduction of the guest of honour (who, again in this writer’s view, would go second).
The formal toast to the guests is normally given just by the members of the Company, and hence the proposer should make this explicitly clear at the end of his speech: I ask all Tiddlywink Makers to rise (pause) and drink a toast to (flourish), Our Guests!
thus incl clerk, chaplain etc who may not be simply liverymen.
The Worshipful Company of Tiddlywink Makers, and the Master.
This toast will usually be given by the guest of honour (principal speaker) at the conclusion of his speech. There will be individual company variations “coupled with the name of the Master, Mr John Smith”, or “May it flourish root and branch etc”.
Again, the proposer should make clear who is to rise and drink, and the correct answer is probably everyone, including the host liverymen, but excepting the Master.
I ask you (all) to rise (pause) and drink a toast to (flourish), The Worshipful Company of Tiddlywink Makers, and the Master!
Occasionally (and time-consumingly) this toast is split in two – company and master. This may be where there is some company tradition whereby someone stands at the very end to offer this speechless toast to eg the Master/Company.
Of course there may be other toasts on special occasions, or with special guests or interest groups.
The exact wording for beadles/toastmasters and toasters is best written down by the Clerk.
Those proposing toasts should do so in a way that does
not require repetition by the beadle/toastmaster, and he (the beadle) should be
briefed not to do so –
and the toast is . . .
No allocution is required before a toast.
Speeches – the basics
As above, each livery company will have its own traditions and practices, and these notes only offer general guidance.
It has been said that good speeches can make a good livery dinner, whilst bad ones can ruin the evening.
The most common criticism of a bad speech is that it was too long. This is not helped if there are too many speeches.
Typically speakers will be invited to speak for about 7-8 minutes, but even if they stick to their brief, allowing for introductions, applause, laughter etc, 10 minutes may be a better planning time. Hence three speeches are likely to last half an hour. If they are witty, interesting or amusing, that is fine. If they are not (and sadly this may often be the case), at 10 o’clock at night, that can seem a long time!
So a good template for a livery dinner may be to limit the speeches to three, and a logical progression could be as follows:
Welcome the guests (concluding with a toast to the Guests)
Response by the principal guest (concluding with a toast to the Company)
Reply by the Master
If the Lord Mayor is present, then it would be sensible to consider him as the principal guest (and main speaker), and not to invite another “guest speaker”.
[If the Master wishes to introduce the guests, of course that is his right, but a second speech by the master is best avoided]
Of course variations to this order are acceptable.
Specifically, at a Civic Dinner, the Master may propose a silent (ie without speech) civic toast (see above), to which the LM will logically reply. But an alternative could be for the Civic toast to be proposed by the Master at the end of his speech.
All speakers need to be briefed, in writing. The main points to cover are what you wish him/her to say (light/serious/industry/topic related), for how long you wish them to speak, the allocution and toast, and most importantly TASTE! It is most often the high power “celebratory” speaker who gets this wrong, and one suspects that is because they were considered so experienced as not to need briefing! Remarks/jokes in doubtful or poor taste are considered very bad form at City dinners, but it is amazing how many men are unaware of this. Maybe they assume livery dinners are all male affairs, akin to the rugby club.
This guidance letter may best come to such people from the Master, who has probably invited them in the first place, rather than from the Clerk.
Details about arrival and departure times, number of guests, running order of speeches etc may also be helpfully included.
Allocution. Ladies & Gentlemen covers most people, and Debretts Correct Form advises to keep it as short as possible, without causing unnecessary offence. Paradoxically, the more you list, the more likely you are to leave someone out. Host always comes first, and the Clerk will give detailed wording. But Master, Wardens, My Lord Mayor, (Your Grace), Your Excellencies, My Lord(s), Mr Alderman or Aldermen, Mr Sheriff or Sheriffs, Ladies & Gentlemen should cover most, in that order.
The allocution need not be slavishly repeated again and again (in general no one speaker should find himself saying it more than once, including the beadle, who may revert simply to Ladies & Gentlemen when appropriate (which it usually is).
If royalty are attending, seek advice.
Advice on speeches:
Write it down, and then read it (but write words that flow naturally out of your mouth, and practice to ensure it is not obvious you are reading).
Keep it short (7-8 minutes is quite long enough, less may be better)
If welcoming guests, AVOID reciting lists and CVs at all costs.
There is much other advice on this subject, but this note is intended simply to cover the basics.
1st September 2014
Nigel R Pullman