BEFORE THE EVENT
Everyone experiences that “Wow!” factor when visiting a Livery Hall and we all need a little help and advice on how to dress and behave when visiting or dining in such splendid surroundings.
Etiquette is not necessarily about right or wrong, but about how we and all other Livery Companies choose to behave when dining in good fellowship and with mutual respect between all present. These tips are provided to aid your full enjoyment of the various Carmen events, whether you are an Apprentice, Freeman or Liveryman.
Requests to sit with or near other Carmen / guests must be made at the time of booking the event or as soon as possible afterwards. It may not always be possible but our Clerks do an excellent job of accommodating these requests.
If you or any of your guests have any allergies / specific dietary requirements please ensure that you notify the Clerk at the time of booking, otherwise they may not be accommodated on the day.
Should you or any of your guests need special access requirements or facilities please speak to the Clerk at the time of booking to ensure that these are available. Many of the historical venues we use were not built with these requirements in mind and whilst many have been adapted, some still offer only limited facilities.
Remember – if in doubt, check it out. If you have any concerns or need advice please speak to one of your fellow Carmen or the Clerk. Don’t let the question stop you from asking as the only daft question is the one that you don’t ask.
Please ensure that you and any guests adhere to the event dress code and the security requirements of the various venues.
Mansion House Banquets
The preferred dress code at Mansion House banquets is “White Tie”, national dress or uniform for gentlemen and a long dress or skirt and evening top for ladies. Cocktail dress length does not normally accompany white tie and many ladies enjoy the opportunity to dress to the highest fashion at these special events. Decorations should be worn, usually miniatures; this will usually be specified in the invitation.
- a dress shirt with a collar that does not turn down except for two small wings
- a plain white tie
- a white waistcoat
- a tailcoat
- dress trousers
It is perfectly acceptable for liverymen and guests without white tie to attend in black tie with a white dress shirt and black dinner jacket plus sober waistcoat or cummerbund, and they will not feel out of place in doing so. Liverymen and guests on top table are expected to wear white tie. If you are a host, it is wise to check with your guests (and vice versa) to avoid any sartorial embarrassment.
Mansion House staff reserve the right to refuse admission to anyone wearing a coloured shirt or coloured bow tie.
The dress code at livery dinners is “Black Tie” for gentlemen. For ladies, a long or short dress, or an evening top with a long skirt or trousers is appropriate.
- a plain, black bow tie accompanied by
- a white dress shirt and,
- if wished, either a black waistcoat or a cummerbund that will not ‘frighten the horses’.
Gentlemen should not wear a white or coloured tie with a dinner jacket at a livery dinner but a white dinner jacket in the summer, national dress or uniform would be acceptable, although unusual. Serving officers of our military services will usually wear uniform, and may wear a cummerbund in their unit colours.
Morning dress is to daytime what white tie is to night-time: it’s as formal as it possibly gets for that time of day. Also known as formal day dress, this is the formal Western dress code for day attire, consisting chiefly of – for men – a morning coat, waistcoat, and formal trousers,
The name comes from the men’s morning coat, which was designed to suit horseback riding.
Today, men’s morning suits pose a particular challenge, since their horseback-friendly cuts must be impeccably tailored to not look awkward when you’re not on a horse. But when done well, morning dress creates a sharp, formal look for both men and women.
Men may also wear a popular variant where all parts (morning coat, waistcoat and trousers) are the same colour and fabric, often grey and usually called “morning suit” or “morning grey” to distinguish it, considered properly appropriate only to festive functions such as summer weddings and horse races, which consequently makes it slightly less formal. The correct hat would be a formal top hat, or if on less spacious audience settings optionally a collapsible equivalent opera hat but men’s top hats are not normally worn at Carmen events.
The semi-formal daytime counterpart of this code is the black lounge suit which is very acceptable if you do not have a morning suit readily available.
The equivalent for women, of a Morning Suit worn by men, is smart daywear, such as a dress or skirt worn with a jacket. Dresses should not be too short or too revealing. They may be worn with no jacket in summer but if so, should be modest with sleeves or at least not narrow straps. Hats may be worn, as would be at a wedding, christening or the races.
Gentlemen are expected to wear suits and ties, rather than jackets and ties. For ladies, the equivalent “day wear” is appropriate, or a cocktail dress but typically not a long dress.
“Smart Casual” or “Business Casual”
Essentially, reflecting the relaxation in dress code over recent years, this can be interpreted as “anything but jeans”. T-shirts and shorts are definitely “off limits”. Footwear is however more of a challenge – certainly white sports trainers would not normally be acceptable, whereas leather or suede trainers could be. Ultimately, the context of the event will be your best guide.
Please bear in mind that you may sit close to someone, so if wearing a hat be sure you can turn without hitting them.
Check where the toilets are. They can be some distance from the drinks reception and dining room and you may want to bear this in mind prior to going into lunch / dinner. Once seated it is expected that no one leaves the dining hall until a “comfort break” is allowed. Normally, this is between the meal and the speeches but it can be after the speeches. This is for both etiquette and security purposes; however, if for any reason anyone needs to leave the room at any time they will not be stopped.
You may be formally introduced as you are greeted by the Master Carman, Consort, Wardens and partners. This often involves a queue so be prepared; and allow time for this on your arrival. The receiving line is not a time for long conversation. Guests should be encouraged to assist the MC by announcing their names to him clearly and then proceed to shake hands and exchange a few words of greeting or welcome, without delaying those that follow.
At a drinks reception, there may be a significant amount of standing time. Make sure that your footwear allows you to do this comfortably.
At a lunch / dinner event, top table guests, the Master, Consort, Wardens and Clerks will form a procession into the room, often to the slow regimental march “Scipio”. Sometimes, the procession will not be accompanied by music. However, in all cases all Carmen and guests will stand to clap them in but should not turn to face the procession.
Nobody should touch their cutlery to eat until (a) the Master has done so; and (b) any ladies on their table have also done so.
Waiting staff will be pouring wines and water throughout a dining event. Should you not want a particular wine / drink, e.g. no red wine, then simply place your hand over the glass before they start to pour, do not turn the glass upside down.
Traditionally our Company sings the Grace after eating. The words are usually provided in the menu but it would be very advantageous (especially if you need to put on glasses to read them) if you learn the words which are shown below:
Grace from “Laudi Spirituali” 1545
For these and all Thy mercies given,
We bless and praise Thy name, O Lord.
May we receive them with thanks-giving,
Ever trusting in Thy Word;
To Thee alone be honour, glory,
Now and hence-forth for evermore. Amen.
A sung version of the Grace is available to listen to on YouTube if you are unsure of the tune.
A number of toasts may be made. Please make sure that you have sufficient left in your glasses for them.
Everyone stands for the the National Anthem (unless this is not possible) and we sing only the first verse, without drinks in hand. After the toast we all stand for the second verse, which is played but not sung; and again is without a drink in hand.
For the toast to Guests, non-Carmen guests (including partners) should be reminded not to stand with you.
THE LOVING CUP
The ceremony of the Loving Cup is traditional at Livery dinners and dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. King Edward the Martyr was stabbed in the back at the Command of Queen Elfrida, his step-mother, while drinking a toast from a two-handed goblet that she offered him. To prevent this happening again the back of the drinker is guarded by their next-door neighbour, the “pledge”.
Your neighbour with the Cup in his hand will rise and turn around to face you
Rise from your chair and bow to the cup-holder, who will also bow.
Take the lid of the Cup in your right hand and raise it high with a flourish
Your neighbour will drink, and then wipe the rim of the Cup with the attached table-napkin.
Replace the lid and take the Cup from your neighbour.
Bow to one another again.
Now turn to your neighbour on your other side, whilst your previous neighbour turns around to guard your back.
Your new neighbour will rise and you will bow to one another.
He will now raise the lid, and you will drink.
Wipe the rim, and he will then replace the lid and take the Cup from you
Bow to one another once again.
He will then turn to his other neighbour, whilst you turn to face your original neighbour, thus protecting the back of your second neighbour while he is drinking.
You tap your original neighbour on the back and say “all done” or some such, and he will sit down.
When your second neighbour passes on the Cup, you may sit down.
Don’t take it too seriously – it’s all a bit of fun! click here to see it in action.
THE END OF THE EVENT
Please remember that most venues have a fixed start and ending time to which we have to adhere, so do not be offended when you are requested to take leave. Failure to leave the premises on time may result in a fine on the Company.
If you have guests with you please make them aware of the protocol for the event to which you have invited them and guide them through the event, as forewarned is forearmed and it can save embarrassment.