Formal Hall Etiquette

By definition, Formal Halls are formal meals often used for the entertainment of special College guests. As such they are governed by certain guidelines, customs, and rules set out to ensure all college members enjoy the occasion. Failure to observe these guidelines, customs, and rules may result in the individual(s) being asked to leave the Dinner.

The College member is responsible for hosting their guests and for their behaviour, for introducing them to the Master or Presiding Fellow, for ensuring that they are aware of the dress code, informing them of the customs and procedures, and for guiding them through the evening. Therefore you are not permitted to ask other college members to book guests into Formal Hall on your behalf. 

All guests attending Formal Hall must be accompanied by the host who made the booking. Any guest who is not so accompanied  will not be allowed to dine.

Diners should arrive in good time for the pre-dinner reception held in either the Richard King Room (on Wednesdays) or the Old Library (on Fridays).  At 7.15pm the Master (or Fellow acting for her) and her guests will enter the Dining Hall first followed by the rest of the diners. Members and their guests should not delay in moving into Hall once called. All diners should be seated by 7.30pm. 

On being called to table, diners remain standing behind their seat; the gong will be sounded and once those present are silent, The Master (or deputy) will give The College Grace. At the end of the meal, the gong will again sound and all diners stand for Grace and during The Master’s (or Deputy's) departure. Members and their guests should then follow on. 

On Fridays, coffee and port is served downstairs in the Old Library. Diners should leave the Hall reasonably quickly after the gong has sounded and make their way to the relevant area; this allows the catering staff to clear the Hall. Coffee and port on a Wednesday are served in the Richard King Room. 

As these dinners are more formal than normal meals, it is expected that members and guests will remain seated throughout the meal; moving around the tables particularly during service creates a safety problem for the staff and other diners. It is also not usual to leave the table during the meal unless a member or guest feels unwell. If you do need to leave at any point, you should exit the room, and return if recovered, as discretely as possible. Please note that this dispensation is not intended to be used for taking cigarette breaks.

The use of mobile phones is not allowed in the Hall at any time. Please ensure that your and your guests' mobile phones are switched off before entering the Hall.  Conversation should be kept at a reasonable level, so avoiding the need for anyone to shout. 

Photos may be taken after the Master or her Deputy has left the table at the conclusion of dinner. Diners are expected to show respect for guests, other diners and staff. The Butler on duty has been instructed to ask any member or guests exhibiting unsociable or unacceptable behaviour to leave the room.


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