Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'


A toast is a gesture of honor proposed to a person or organization (such as the President of the United States or the United States Air Force) prior to, during, or at the conclusion of a meal. Normally, at formal dinners you will see toasts offered when the dessert wine is served. However, for Air Force formal dinners we recommend that toasting be done immediately following the invocation. Since it is appropriate to toast at any of the above mentioned times, you may wish to consult your host as to his/her preference of when the offer the toast(s). Champagne is a favorite beverage for toasting, but any wine is appropriate. You would not offer a toast with a mixed drink of after dinner liqueur.

A toast is rendered to the guest of honor by the departmental officials who host the dinner or luncheon. The toast usually begins with a welcome to the guest of honor. If the visitor is accompanied by his/her spouse, you may refer to the spouse in the toast.


Toasting originated with the English custom of flavoring wine with a piece of browned and spiced toast. In 1709, Sir Richard Steels wrote of a lady whose name was supposed to flavor a wine like spiced toast. Thus evolved the notion that the individual of institution honored with a toast would add flavor to the wine.

Today we honor individuals and/or institutions by raising our glasses in a salute while expressing good wishes and drinking to that salute. Etiquette calls for everyone to participate in a toast. Even those who don't drink alcoholic beverages should at least raise the glass to their lips (without sipping). Non-drinkers or anyone else, should never toast with water, except in the instance described below.

One More Roll was written, and first proposed, by our servicemen held captive in North Vietnamese prisoner of war camps where only water was available for toasting.

Toasting Occasions

Toasts are appropriate at a wide range of occasions. Customarily, toasts are only offered at evening functions such as receptions, dinners, dining-in and out or on other occasions. For luncheons, toasts are a rarity.

Giving the Toast

Formal Toasts.

Formal toasts are: to the colors, or to the heads of state of allied countries represented (determined by seniority of allied officers present), to the President of the United States, and to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and/or sister services.

After the formal toasts, the host may ask everyone to be seated and then toast the guests, if desired.

  • The one who initiates the toasting is the host at a very formal occasion, Mr./Madam Vice at a dining-in/out, or any guest when the occasion is very informal. The subject of the toast is always based upon the type of occasion. Those offering a toast, man or woman, should stand and raise the glass in a salute while uttering the expression of good will.
  • The person to whom a toast is being given does not partake of the wine or other beverage at the time the guests lift their glasses in his/her honor. A word of caution...ensure everyone's glass is charged with the appropriate beverage prior to proposing a toast. You would not want a situation where the host asks everyone to raise their EMPTY glass.
  • All military members and males should stand unless they are the recipients of the toast.
  • Nonmilitary females in attendance are not required to stand for a toast unless it is to the President of the United States, the US flag, or the wife of the host rises. Then, common sense and good manners dictate that all females follow suit. According to Air Force protocol, the ladies may remain seated for any further informal toasts. The First Lady of the United States remains seated for all informal toasts.
  • The honoree usually remains seated. After everyone sits down, the guest may rise and thank the host, offering toast in return. Once seated, guests should take their cue from the hosts, i.e., stand when they do.
General Toasts.

General toasts would be "To your health," or "To Success and happiness," while special occasions such as weddings or birthdays would require toasts more specific in nature such as "To Mary and John for a lifetime of happiness and love" in the case of a wedding, or on a birthday "May your next 25 years be as happy and as successful as your first 25 years."
  • For guidance on military wedding toasts refer to Service Etiquette.
  • Examples of toasts for foreign guests are at the end of this section.
Ceremonial Toasts.

When the formality of ceremonial toasts is to be observed on state occasions, arrange beforehand the order and subject of all toasts. It is the responsibility of the host to inform the guest of honor which toasts will be offered and when. The rule here is that the host proposed all toasts and the guest answers in kind. Such toasts are initiated by the host, during or after dessert wine is served. The experienced guest is always careful to leave enough champagne in his glass toward the end of the meal to be able to join in several toasts.
  • Always stand while drinking a toast to a Chief of State. The toast to the ruler of a country of the foreign guest of honor is always the first toast proposed on a state occasion. A few minutes after the guests have seated themselves again, the senior representative of the country honored rises and proposed a toast to the rule of the host's country. All the guests rise again to drink this toast.
  • These initial toasts may be followed by others to the countries or the services represented by the guests, and/or to the guest of honor and the host. There may be brief speeches which fit the occasion.
  • Example: Suppose the occasion is a mess dress/black tie dinner hosted by the Commander, Air Force Space Command, in honor of the Ambassador of Great Britain. The following would apply:
    • The Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, would stand after the invocation and would raise his/her glass, saying:

      "To Her Majesty the Queen."

      All the guests should stand and raise their glasses and toast the Queen. This may be followed by the playing of the British National Anthem.

      Moments later, the Ambassador would stand, raise his/her glass and say:

      "To the President of the United States."

      All guests would stand and toast the President. This may be followed by the U.S. National Anthem.

  • Other toasts may follow such as:
    • Commander AFMC: "To the Chief of the Air Staff."

      British Ambassador: "The AFMC Commander."

      Commander AFMC: "May the bonds of friendship which tie our countries and air force together continue to strengthen in the future."

      British Ambassador: "To the proud traditions of the U.S. Air Force and her many gallant leaders.
When the guests represent more than one nation, the host/hostess proposes a collective toast to the heads of their several states, naming them in the order of the seniority of the representatives present. The highest ranking foreign officer among the guests will respond on behalf of all the guests by toasting the head of state of the host's country.
  • Example: At a formal dinner hosted by the AFMC Commander with the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. and a two-star general from Mexico in attendance, the toast would be:

    • Toast: To Her Majesty, The Queen of Canada. To His Excellency, the President of the United Mexican States.

      Response: Hear, Hear!

  • Since governments and titles change, it is essential to verify their accuracy beforehand.
  • Note that the position is toasted, so don't mention the individual's name.
  • At a service organization dinner, the dinner chairman proposes the first toast to the head of the organization.
Toasts to Foreigners

When giving toasts to foreigners, the text may include the accomplishments of the guest of honor - ties between his/her country and the United States - the hope and prospects for continued good relationships. Often the historical background of the visitor's country is touched upon, especially with reference to former relationships with the United States. At the end of the remarks, the official giving the toasts will ask, "Will you stand and join me in a toast to His Excellency (name), President of (country)," or "His Excellency the President of (country)," of "The President of (country)." Substitute title of guest of honor, using the correct usage, as given in the examples at the end of this section.

KING: "His Majesty King ____________"

QUEEN: "Her Majesty Queen ____________"

PRESIDENT: "His Excellency ____________, President of ____________"

PRIME MINISTER: "His Excellency ____________, Prime Minister of ____________"

GOVERNOR GENERAL: "His Excellency ____________, Governor of ____________"
  • Where there are strained relations with a country, the basic concept in toasting is to mention friendship between two peoples, improved relations, and toast all those who are present - and hope they enjoy their visit.
  • Whether the guest of honor is the Chief of State or perhaps a Cabinet member of a foreign government, the toast is always drunk to the Chief of State or Head of Government.
  • The national language of the guest of honor should be used on the occasion of a toast. When this language cannot be used, another language known to both speakers is chosen or interpreters can be used.
(NOTE: Toasts are to individuals, never to places to things. Desk Officers at the Department of State for each country have the correct toasts. "Hear, Hear!" response is used after the individuals have been toasted and there is further toasting.)


Responses to toasts may range from a simple, "Hear, hear!" to a more complicated phrase. Please refer to the following partial listing of toasts for other examples.
Toast:"To the Flag of the United States of America!"
Response:"To the Colors!"
NOTE: When used, this toast is always proposed first.
Toast:"To Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second!"
Response:"To Her Majesty!"
Toast:"To Her Majesty Queen of Canada!"
Response:"To Her Majesty!"
Toast:"To His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan!"
Response:"To the Emperor!"
Toast:"To the President of the Republic of Korea!"
Response:"To the President!"
Toast:"To the President of the United States!"
Response:"To the President!"
NOTE: This toast applies only when more than one nation is represented.
Toast:"To the Commander in Chief, The President of the United States!"
Response:"To the President!"
NOTE: This toast applies only when the United States is represented. If no allied officers are present, the host proposed the above toast.
When proposed a toast to sister services, and only if members of those services are present, start with the most senior service as follows:
Toast:"To the Chief of Staff of the United States Army!"
Response:"To the Chief!"
Toast:"To the Chief of Naval Operations!"
Response:"To the Chief!"
Toast:"To the Commandant of the Marine Corps!"
Response:"To the Commandant"
The most senior sister service representative present would then propose the toast to the Air Force Chief of Staff.
Toast:"To the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force!"
Response:"To the Chief!"

Toast to Persons KIA, MIA or POW

Toast:"We toast our hearty comrades who have fallen from the skies,
And were gently caught by God's own hands to be with him on high,
To dwell among the soaring clouds they have known so well before,
From victory roll to tail chase, at heaven's very door. And as we fly among
them, we're sure to hear their plea, Take care, my friend, watch your six, and do
one more roll for me." To our comrades killed in action, missing in action, or
prisoners of war!"

Response: "Hear, hear!"

Toasting Customs in Other Countries

Some countries seem to do it deliberately, inadvertently, and some don't do it at all. Either way, getting visitors as tipsy as possible as fast as possible stands as a universal sign of hospitality, and refusal to play your part equals rebuff. Wherever you go, toasts are as reciprocal as handshakes: if one does; all do. "I don't drink, thank you" rarely gets you off gracefully. Neither does protesting that you must get up early. (So must everyone else.)

Usually, the local wine is stronger than the hard stuff. Mao-tai, Chinese wine made from sorghum, is notorious for leaving the unsuspecting thoroughly shanghaied. The Georgian wine so popular in Russia is no ladylike little Chablis either. In Nordic lands proper form for the toast is to raise the glass in a sweeping arc from belt buckle to lips while locking stares with your host. It takes very few akvavit-with-beer-chasers before you start seeing northern lights.

British Customs.

At an official dinner given by a British official for a high-ranking U.S. officer, the former rises during or after dessert to toast the President of the United States, and then the orchestra, if present, plays "The Star-Spangled Banner." After the guests are seated, the guest of honor rises to toast "Her Majesty, the Queen," and the orchestra plays "God Save the Queen" if other monarchies are represented at the dinner, the honored guest would say, "Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II." These toasts are sometimes followed by short speeches and toasts to the services represented.

At regular mess dinners in the Royal Navy, the senior member of the mess proposed the toast, "The Queen," and all present in a low voice repeat, "The Queen" and sip the toast. If an American officer is a personal guest where a nightly toast to the Queen is drunk, the mess president might propose a toast to the U.S. Navy after the usual toast to the Queen. The American would then properly reply with a toast to the Royal Navy. It should be remembered that at official Anglo-American dinners, the British officer would toast, "The President of the United States," and the senior American would reply, "Her Majesty, the Queen."

"Several British regiments do not stand and drink when the king is toasted. They are "above suspicion." In some past action they so distinguished themselves that the kind excused them from the symbolic proof of loyalty represented by drinking to his health. The Royal Navy toasts the king without standing. The story is that the Prince of Wales, while visiting a warship, cracked his head on a low beam when the toast was proposed. "When I'm king there'll be no such foolishness," he announced. And, when he succeeded his father, the Royal Navy held him to the promise."

French and Italian Customs.

Officers of these Navies often preface a toast with the phrase, "I have the honour to..." At dinner for a senior U.S. officer, the French host/hostess may say, "I have the honor to propose a toast to the President of the Unites States," The guest of honor might properly reply, "It is my great honor to propose a toast to the President of the French Republic."

Scandinavian Customs.

Ceremonial toasts are less usual in the Scandinavian countries. Rather, the host/hostess "skoals" each guest. No one drinks wine until after the host/hostess has offered a general skoal of welcome. Skoaling then continues throughout the meal among the guests. The ladies must be alert to respond to individual skoals from the gentlemen, for each gentleman skoals the lady sitting at his right at least once.

The procedure is to raise one's glass slightly from the table, and looking directly into your partner's eyes, draw the glass down and toward the body, bow slightly, say "skoal," drink, and salute again with your glass before putting it down. The skoal received must be returned a few minutes later.

Specific customs of individual countries should be understood prior to attending social functions, for example, in Norway an additional procedure is for the guest of honor to thank the host/hostess with a toast at the end of the meal.

In Sweden, the hostess is never skoaled by a guest during a formal or semi-formal dinner.

Canadian and Commonwealth Nations.

Canadian Forces customs dictate that the health of Her Majesty The Queen shall be honored by means of a loyal toast in the following form:

Toast:"To Her Majesty the Queen of Canada!"
Response:"To Her Majesty!"

When an officer or other distinguished person is officially representing a country that is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and that recognizes The Queen as its head of state, and is entertained at an official function, the loyal toast shall be:

Toast:"To Her Majesty the Queen, Head of the Commonwealth!"
Response:"To Her Majesty!"

When an officer or other distinguished person is officially representing a country that is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations but that does not recognize The Queen as its head of state, and is entertained at an official function, the loyal toast shall be:

Toast:"To Her Majesty. The Queen of (Name of the Commonwealth nation), Head of the Commonwealth!"
Response:"To Her Majesty!"

NOTE: Canadian toasting customs can be found in Canadian Forces Administrative Orders 61-12.

Examples of Toasts

Due to the continuing breakup of Eastern Block countries, not all new countries are recognized by the United States. Therefore many of the new countries are not listed for example toasts. If you require a toast example for a country that is not listed, we suggest you consult with the Department of State Protocol at (202) 647-1735 for verification of toast and country recognition.