Wedding Customs: Champagne Toasts


I love, love, love Champagne very much. The very sight of bubbles and effervescent foam makes me feel happy and festive.

Champagne is strongly connected in my mind with big holidays and with special, happy occasions.

My first fascination with Champagne arose during New Year’s Eve celebrations - NYE considered the biggest holiday in Russia. Guests would gather at our home, or we would be invited to our family friends’ homes. Five minutes before midnight, Champagne would be poured into crystal flutes and the first toast was raised. Adults toasted the outgoing year and all the good which had happened throughout, hoping to leave all the bad in the past.

Then the chimes of the Moscow Clock Tower would strike at midnight and everyone celebrated the new year with a new portion of champagne, clinked glasses, smiled, hugged, laughed - and drank for the New Year. Now that I live in the US, I follow the “Big Apple” tradition: the Time Ball in Times square, which marks the start of the New year, but I still cherish my memories of the Kremlin Clock Tower.

As I grew up, my friends started getting married, and Champagne became a happy attribute of a wedding celebration.

The tradition of drinking Champagne to mark celebrations originated in the Royal Courts of Europe in the late 18th century, where this drink was viewed as a status symbol.

Royalty loved the novelty of sparkling wine. It was said to have positive effects on a women's beauty and a man's wit. French royals would drink it during coronation festivities as well.

Champagne became a worldwide drinking phenomenon a century later. Today, it's often used to celebrate joyous occasions, from smashing bottles against a ship before its maiden voyage to throwing Champagne glasses on the floor at Russian weddings.

In secular societies, we want to mark both the joy and sanctity of an occasion. Champagne does this symbolically, but also visually, since it overflows in abundance and joy.

Just the act of opening a Champagne bottle is enough to mark a celebration.

Since the 18th century, Champagne has been associated with luxury which is reflected in historical documents as well as in novels, poems, and movies. It is definitely associated with love and happiness and is widely drunk during romantic dinners and at engagement parties.

In France there exists a famous pyramid of Champagne flutes: the glasses form a multi-layered structure, which narrows on the top, with Champagne constantly poured into the top glass. When it goes overboard, it fills the glasses below – until all of them are filled. It is an elegant celebratory ritual, which requires expertise to make it look spectacular.

There is a well-established tradition of toasts given at weddings in the US and in Western Europe. The first toast is usually given by the father of the bride, who typically hosts the event and gives his daughter away. It is followed by the best man and now, more often, by the maid of honor. The last to say a few words is usually the groom, though nowadays more brides are tempted to say a few words as well.

Not every toast requires Champagne, but at luxury weddings it remains the drink of choice.

Champagne was first produced and commercialized in Champagne, a region of France. It traditionally consists of the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes. The right to be called Champagne is only given to the wine produced in Champagne. A similar technique is widely used in other regions of France (i.e. the Loire Valley), in Italy, Spain, in California, etc. But these bubbly wines have different names: for example, Prosecco or Cava. These sparkling wines offer a less expensive option to entertain guests and carry on the tradition of bubbly celebrations.

Cheers!

Photo credits: Anna Fowler @annafowlerwedding; ESB Photo @esbphoto; Artistic Studio Images; Ales Gordias @alexgordias; Caroline Winn Photography @carolinewinnphotography; Carly Michelle Photography @carlymphotography

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