Guidance for Guests
If you have been invited to one of our formal functions then it is our responsibility to ensure that you have an enjoyable time. In order to make sure that you feel comfortable at an event here are a few words of guidance on such things as dress, etiquette and what will happen. If you have any questions before an event then ask your host or the Clerk who will be happy to advise. We want you to relax so do not worry, your host and members of the Company will guide you through the evening.
There are three types of formal event across the Company’s year. The Installation Lunch in January; the Livery Dinners in April, July and October; and the Banquet which is typically late November or early December. Each is subtlety different but the broad principles remain the same.
The following is the correct dress for each type of function, but if in doubt check your invitation or ask your host:
Banquet – Evening Dress otherwise known as White Tie (Mess Dress for military)
Livery Dinner – Dinner Jacket otherwise known as Black Tie (Mess Undress for military).
Installation Lunch – Suit (Service Dress no leather and medals for military).
Ladies should conform with the dress code for the men. It is recognised that it is not always straight forward and interpretations vary, but you should aim to dress in a way that recognises the level of formality of the event being attended. It should also be noted that some of the venues we use can be cold in the evening.
Gentlemen: Black, (Dark Midnight Blue) Barathea Wool single or double breasted Dinner Jacket, black trousers, white plain cotton dress shirt turndown collar, black bow tie, black Cummerbund (optional), black shoes. Please note with Dinner Jackets, coloured shirts and coloured ties are not encouraged. Decorations may be worn if on the invitation.
Ladies: Options include: Formal full-length dress; An elegant evening dress; A cocktail dress of sensible length or a skirt and jacket. Ladies may feel more comfortable if their shoulders are covered (this can be with a shawl or jacket). Decorations may be worn if on the invitation.
Gentlemen: Black evening tail coat and matching black trousers, white plain cotton dress shirt, winged collar, white bow tie, white low-cut waistcoat, black patent leather or polished shoes. Decorations should be worn.
Ladies: Formal full-length dress, or long skirt and jacket. Ladies may feel more comfortable if their shoulders are covered (this can be with a shawl or jacket). Decorations should be worn.
Sequence of Events
Most events will start with a reception line. The toastmaster controls this and will call people forward when the Master and Wardens are ready. You should try and move promptly down the line as there are others behind you and drinks ahead.
You will normally be given a five minute warning for dinner. As you are not encouraged to leave the table during dinner this is a good time to ensure you are comfortable before you take your place.
Once dinner is called you are asked to take your place promptly.
The Master and Wardens process in to the hall and you should remain standing whilst they take their places. The Chaplain will then say grace after which everyone can take their seats. There is sometimes also a sung grace later in the dinner.
You are requested not to leave the table during dinner other than in an emergency.
Once dinner has finished there are toasts and speeches. The toasts and their responses, as well as the order of speeches will be in your menu. The first toast is The King. The Master will rise and propose the toast at which point you should rise and respond to the toast. If there is musical accompaniment the first verse of the national anthem is sung before the response. You should remain standing for the following toasts. Again if there is musical accompaniment when the Master proposes the toast to the Royal Family the first verse of the national anthem is again played but not sung. Lastly there is the Company toast. If there is at any point a toast to the guests members of the company will be asked to rise, you should remain seated and look suitably embarrassed in a very British way.
Coffee is then served and the speeches begin.
At the end of dinner the Master and Wardens again process. Please stand and wait until they have left the room before you leave your place.
It is recognised that there will be occasions when people have to leave early due to transport or domestic issues. Please leave discretely and pick your moment. The middle of someone’s speech is probably not the best time.
Mobile Telephones and Photography
Those who have child care arrangements or emergency call out responsibilities may need to have their mobile telephone with them during dinner. Make sure it is on silent and that if you have to consult it you do so discretely. If you need to take a call then leave the room and do not start the call until you are out of earshot.
Photographs should not be taken during dinner. There is normally at least one photographer taking pictures and your host will ensure that you get access to these after the event. When taking photographs before or after dinner be aware of other’s privacy especially if you will be using them to impress your friends on social media.