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Guide to Formal Dining

Dress code

Due to COVID-19, catering in College is currently closed.  Plans for re-opening are being discussed, and will be ready for the new academic year. The catering offer in college may be different to in normal years.

Formality in dress is welcomed but not enforced at dinner each day and at Sunday Lunch. Members are asked to note the various dress requirements associated with the different categories of event (see the Blue Book).

Where the Blue Book indicates ‘formal’ dress, this is to be interpreted as a jacket and tie or lounge suit for men, and the equivalent level of formality for women. The College expects members and guests to wear ‘formal’ dress when this is indicated.

Where ‘formal evening wear’ is indicated, this means ‘black tie’ for men and evening dress for women. Please note that it is the custom of the Fellowship to dress in formal evening wear when new Fellows or Visiting Scholars are being inaugurated. These ceremonies may take place at a number of points during the year in addition to the Inaugural Ceremony, and are held in the College Chapel prior to a Formal dinner. All members of the College are warmly encouraged to attend these ceremonies, which are advertised on the College Notice Board. The fact that Fellows on these occasions will be dressed in formal evening wear for the subsequent dinner does not affect the dress requirement for other members at the dinner.

Academic gowns are to be worn at all Formal dinners, except the Sports Dinner. Festal ‘Scarlet’ (see the Blue Book) gowns are to be worn at the Inauguration and Matriculation Dinners, the Beginning of Year Dinner, the St Edmund’s Feast, the Norfolk Commemoration, the Ascension Day Dinner, and the Graduands Dinner. Dates for these can be found in the College Calendar.

Members in need of advice about matters of dress for dining should contact either the Senior Tutor or the Fellows’ Steward.


Members are asked to note the various customs associated with College dining.

  • Those eating breakfast are asked to refrain from reading newspapers in the Dining Hall during the course of the meal
  • It is expected that students and their guests seek to communicate with other members of the community in the Dining Hall. While the common language of the College is English, please be mindful of non-English speakers and include them in your conversations.
  • Only food purchased from the College should be consumed in the Dining Hall
  • Plated food should not be removed from the Dining Hall for consumption elsewhere
  • On no occasion should wine be brought into the Dining Hall
  • Smoking and photography are never permitted in the Dining Hall
  • Mobile phones, laptops and tablets should be switched off before entering the Dining Hall

Formal dinners have a formal beginning and end. Diners should congregate in the Garden Room for pre-dinner drinks and once the bell is sounded should follow the Master, or presiding Fellow, into the Hall at the invitation of the Butler. Diners should leave the Hall by following the Master, or presiding Fellow, after the post cibum Grace has been read. Diners should not leave the Hall during the meal without the permission of the Master, presiding Fellow or head of table.

Formal Hall

Formal Hall is a three course meal including wine, held during term on the dates shown in the College Calendar. Members may invite up to 2 guests. Advanced booking is required (see 8.5). Dress is formal and gowns are worn (see 2.5).

Sports Dinner and Boat Club Dinner

The Sports Dinner is held at the end of the academical year and is open to all those who have represented either the College or the University during the year in a sports team. Guest attendance is usually limited to sports-related guests, e.g. members of other colleges who have helped the St Edmund’s teams in some appropriate manner. The Dinner is organised by the Sports Officer and advance booking is required. Dress is formal evening wear (men: black tie; women: evening dress) or Sporting blazer. Gowns are not worn.

The Boat Club Dinner held at the end of the Lent term is similar in style to the Sports Dinner.

College Guest Nights

College Guest Nights are four course meals including wine, held on the dates shown on the College Calendar. Members may invite 3 guests. It is particularly appropriate to invite Senior Members of the University as guests to these dinners. Members are invited to introduce guests to the Master or presiding Fellow. Advance booking is required (see 8.6). Dress is formal and gowns are worn. Guests who are members of the University should be asked to wear gowns.

Christmas Dinners

Christmas Dinners are traditional Christmas meals, held at the end of the Michaelmas Term. They are open only to members of the College and their partners and no guests may attend. Advance booking is required. Dress is formal and gowns are worn.

Supervisors’ Dinner

This dinner is intended to thank Supervisors and Directors of Studies who have worked with St Edmund’s students during the year.

Inaugural and Matriculation Dinners; Beginning of Year Dinner; Graduands’ Dinners

These are dinners which mark the beginning and end of the academical year. They are open only to members of the College and their partners, and no guests may attend. The Inaugural and Matriculations Dinners are open only to new members of the College and their partners, and to Fellows and to Members of the CR Executive. They take place at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term following the Inauguration Ceremonies held in the College Chapel. All new members will be allocated to an Inaugural Ceremony and are warmly encouraged to attend the dinner on the same evening. These dinners will be charged in the usual way. A list of those who are booked-in for the dinner will be displayed on the College notice board some days beforehand. Those who are unable to attend are asked to inform the Tutorial Office.

The Beginning of Year Dinner is open to all other members of the College and their partners. Advance booking is required.

The Graduands’ Dinner is open to those members of the College proceeding to their degree and other members of the College who have completed their course. Advance booking is required. Festal gowns are worn and dress is formal.

Fellowship Dinners

These dinners are open to Fellows, including Fellows in Classes A, B, C and D; Honorary Fellows; Life Fellows, Emeritus Fellows, Bye Fellows and Fellow Commmoners by invitation. They are held termly, following a meeting of the Governing Body. Advance booking is required, via the College Administrator ( Dress is formal; gowns are not worn.

St Edmund’s Feast

The St Edmund’s Feast is celebrated on the nearest Friday to 16 November, and commemorates both the Feast of the Patron Saint of the College, Saint Edmund of Abingdon, and the arrival in the College buildings of the first Master and the first four students on 2 November 1896. The Feast is preceded by Evening Prayer in the College chapel at which a sermon is given by the St Edmund’s Preacher, who is invited each year and is a distinguished member of one of the Christian churches. The St Edmund’s Feast is intended for the members of the College, and there are no distinguished outside guests, apart from the St Edmund’s Preacher. Other guests may not be invited to the Feast. Advance booking is required; priority will be given to those who have not attended the event in the past. Festal gowns are worn and dress is formal.

Norfolk Commemoration

The Norfolk Commemoration is the major College Event of the year, and marks the foundation of the College by the 15th Duke of Norfolk, Henry Fitzalan Howard, in collaboration with the Baron Anatole von Hügel. Distinguished outside guests of national and international standing are invited by the College from the academic world and from many other walks of life, e.g. political, diplomatic, artistic and religious. Attendance is by invitation only. A number of student members are invited to the Norfolk Commemoration. These may include members of the CR Executive, those who have obtained a First in a Tripos examination in the previous year or a prize and those who have obtained a ‘Blue’ or ‘Half-Blue’ in a sporting activity. In addition, a ballot is held to allocate a number of other student places. Any charge made for attending may be paid from a member’s University card. Festal gowns are worn and formal evening wear is compulsory. Members of the College are asked to ensure that they have the necessary dress before accepting invitations to the event. Blazers may be worn by holders of ‘Blues’.