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.
Each 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 accompanied by a Darwin member will not be allowed to dine.
Diners should arrive in good time for the pre-dinner reception. At 7.30pm the College gong will announce dinner. The Master or senior member and their 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.
On being called to table, diners remain standing behind their seats. 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 the departure of the Master or Deputy.
Diners should leave the Hall reasonably quickly after the gong has sounded to allow the catering staff to clear the Hall. Coffee and port will be available in a post-dinner reception room.
As these dinners are more formal than normal meals, it is expected that members and guests will remain seated throughout. It is not usual to leave the table during the meal unless you feel unwell. If you do need to leave at any point, you should exit the room, and return if recovered, as discreetly as possible. Please note that this dispensation is not intended to be used for taking cigarette breaks.
The use of electronic equipment is not allowed in the Hall. Please ensure that your and your guests’ mobile phones are switched off before entering the Hall. Conversation should be kept at a reasonable volume, avoiding the need for anyone to shout.
Photos may be taken after the Master or 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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