Pouring wine at FormalHall

What happens at Formal Hall?

By definition, Formal Halls are formal dinners for the entertainment of College guests. As such they are governed by certain guidelines, customs and rules set out to ensure all College members enjoy the occasion.

Pouring wine at FormalHall

Formal Hall takes place in the Dining Hall or the Combination Room on Tuesday and Friday in Full Term and on Tuesday at other times. Some Formal Halls are themed or reserved for special guests; see the full list of Formal Halls for 2018-2019 for more details about these special events. Please make your Formal Hall bookings online by 12 noon the day before.

Formal Dining provides an opportunity for members of the College community to engage in wide-ranging, interdisciplinary conversation in a leisurely atmosphere. One of the most interesting aspects of Formal Hall is finding yourself sitting next to someone from an entirely different background, field or profession. 

Running order

19.15-19.30 Pre-dinner Drinks Reception in the Combination Room

  • Diners should arrive from 19.15 for the pre-dinner drinks reception held in the Combination Room. Please do not arrive before 19.15

  • The dinner starts promptly at 19.30 and is announced by the Butler.

19.30-c.21.00 Grace, starter, main course, sweet, closing Grace

  • The President or Presiding Fellow enters first, followed by the rest of the diners. Latecomers will not be admitted. Diners go through to Dinner in an unhurried way, with a minimum of strategic choosing of places, and move up to ensure that there are no empty places. Diners remain standing behind their chosen chair and wait for whoever is presiding to say Grace. The gong is sounded and, when all are silent, the President or Presiding Fellow says Grace. 

  • After Sweet, the gong sounds again and all diners stand for the closing Grace. 

c.21.00 Friday  Coffee in the Combination Room 

  • The President or Presiding Fellow leads diners to the Combination Room for coffee and chocolates. 

c.21.15-c.21.45 Dessert (fruit and port) 

  • There is no further Grace so diners may be seated immediately, again moving up to ensure no empty places. The port is passed continuously around the table in a clockwise direction. Diners leave the Hall at approximately 21.45 to allow staff to clear. 

c.21.00 Tuesday  Coffee in the Dining Hall 

  • Coffee and chocolates are served in the Dining Hall. 

Cost

  • Students and their guests £19.85

  • Non-students and their guests £29.70

  • Guest meals are charged to the account of their host. 

  • For Burns' Night in the Lent Term there is an additional charge of £2.50 per head. 

  • Students have one free Formal Hall, excluding WCSA dinners (such as Hallowe’en and Bridgemas), Burns’ Night and Guest Nights. This free Formal Hall is credited back to your College Account at the end of the relevant term. 

  • In addition, all students are invited as guests of College to a Subject Formal Hall on a set date. 

  • Formal Hall and other special meals are charged to a member’s College account. Bills are sent out quarterly. In the event of cancellations, the Bursar reserves the right to charge a cancellation fee. Cancellations received later than 12 noon the day before Formal Hall will be charged at full cost. 

  • The price of Formall Hall is reduced by £7.08 if you do not drink wine at any stage of the evening. Non-drinking diners should fill out a 'no wine' card (available from the Porters' Lodge or from staff at the Drinks Reception) and place it under their wine glass at the start of the meal. Make sure the Wolfson host's CRS ID is legible, so that the amount can be correctly deducted.

Please note

  • Please notify us when you book of any special dietary requirements. If you have made such a request, please see the Butler at the pre-dinner drinks reception before 19.20 to pick up your 'Special Dietary Requirement' slip. Show this slip to a member of the serving staff, and leave it on the dining table at the end of dinner. Note that you must have the slip to receive your special meal.

  • There is a dress code at all formal dinners defined without reference to gender identity or expression. At Formal Hall diners should wear appropriate business attire, e.g. jacket and tie or equivalent. College Members should wear a gown, and guests who are members of the University may do so. Persons who do not meet the dress code, including appearing in jeans, training shoes, beach footwear, shorts and/or hats or caps, will be refused entry. If you are unsure of the requirements - please consult the Butler before the event as the College may be able to assist. Members should ensure their guests are aware of, and comply with, the dress code

  • College Members may bring up to three non-Wolfson guests to Formal Hall. The minimum age to attend a formal dinner is 18. All guests attending any Formal Hall must be accompanied by their Wolfson host. As host, you are responsible for your guest(s), so inform them of the dress code and customs and procedures beforehand. Once at Formal Hall, guide them through the evening, introducing them to the President or Presiding Fellow should the occasion present itself.

  • As above, please notify us of any special dietary requirements for your guests when booking, and ensure that they collect their Special Dietary Requirement slip. 

  • The definition of a group is 10 or more people wishing to sit together. No single group can exceed 25 people. If you wish to  bring a group to Formal Hall, first check to ensure that your date does not coincide with a Formal Hall of special interest to other groups (such as the Boat Club), then contact the Domestic Bursar, Mr Alan Fuller, at least one week beforehand to seek permission for a Formal Hall group. Book online with a name assigned for the group booking, keeping in mind that each Member can book up to three guests. 

  • The table nearest the Gallery is designated as the Groups Table; if it has already been fully allocated to group bookings, then you will not be able to book your group for that date.

  • Once you have received permission from the Domestic Bursar, arrange to see the Butler well in advance of the Formal Hall and he will show you the seating arrangements. 

  • Wine is served as follows: a glass of reception wine at the pre-dinner Drinks Reception; two glasses of wine with the Starter and Main Course, which is chosen to complement the menu (with an alternative available on request); a glass of sweet white wine with the Sweet; a glass or two of port at Dessert. 

  • No alcohol may be brought to Formal Hall.

  • The use of cameras, mobile phones, or any other electronic device is not allowed during Formal Hall at any time. Ensure that your and your guests’ mobile phones are switched off before coming in to dine. Voices should be kept at a reasonable level, avoiding the need for anyone to shout.

  • As these dinners are formal occasions, it is expected that you and your guests will remain seated throughout the meal. Moving around the tables, particularly during service, creates a problem for both staff and other diners. It is also not usual to leave the table during the meal unless a diner feels unwell. If you must leave at any point, exit and return as discretely as possible. Please note that this dispensation is not intended for taking cigarette breaks. If you are delayed and arrive late your should report to the Butler before sitting down. 

  • College Guest Nights take place once a term; they are, like Formal Halls, a formal dining experience however, they offer a Champagne reception, an additional course, and members may bring up to 5 guests each. There is also a seating plan. To book, please use the online booking system at www.formalhall.wolfson.cam.ac.uk with guests' names and salutations noted. The cost is £44.10 for Wolfson Members and their guests / £33.15 for students and their guests. There is a reduction of £10.50 for those who prefer not to have wine.