Q: I was at dinner with 11 friends, when one proposed a toast. The friends felt obligated to clink glasses with everyone else. This process was laborious...

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Q: I was at dinner with 11 friends, when one proposed a toast. The friends felt obligated to clink glasses with everyone else. This process was laborious and time-consuming. Is all of this glass-clinking required?

A: No, not when it takes on the characteristics of an obstacle course.

Legend has it that the original purpose of glass-clinking was to ward off evil spirits. This appears to have been ineffective; yet the custom is still observed.

Clinking is reasonable and customary among two or three people.

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(Please remember to clink gently. Glass, especially fine crystal, can break. Talk about unleashing the evil spirits!)

Clinking is optional when there are four or more diners. In large groups, the custom is cumbersome and foolish. Simply raise glasses and make eye contact with the group.

Remember that the person to whom the toast is dedicated is not supposed to raise her glass. A radiant smile in acknowledgment is most appropriate.

It is proper for the host or hostess to offer the first (and preferably the only) toast.

Alcohol is not required. If you are not imbibing, simply hold up your water glass.

Mary Mitchell is a Seattle-based corporate trainer and author. E-mail questions to Mary@themitchell.org. Sorry, no personal replies.