Author Topic: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?  (Read 2395 times)

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Offline aviatrixx

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Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« on: March 27, 2017, 14:27:26 »
I apologize if this thread exists somewhere else, I did a search but didn't find what I was looking for.

A few of the junior pilots I work with are planning a Mixed Formal Dinner for a group of students that are off to their PFT course. That's all well and good, but I just have a couple questions regarding format and protocol. I couldn't find much in the mess constitution. All I have been able to find is that they closely approximate a mess dinner but are less formal and civilian guests are able to attend.

1) If the PMC and VPMC aren't available does anyone need to be an 'acting' PMC (seems weird to me) or does the senior officer at the dinner just act as an MC?

2) Is a head table necessary?

3) I've read they are less formal than mess dinners but in what regards? Does this mean I get to go to the bathroom during dinner?! What a novelty.

4) I'm assuming a toast to the Queen, playing of O Canada, and port are still required; anything else?

Any other info would be really helpful. We'd like this to be as correct as possible!!

Thanks!
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2017, 18:14:52 »
As you've probably guessed, rules for a mixed dining event are much more relaxed than for a mess dinner.

1. There's typically no PMC per se. As you've intimated, the senior officer present can be the MC, but usually the organizer takes on this role. Duties are generally to keep the night on schedule and to keep a watchful eye on all the diners and support staff to ensure a good event.

2. Depends. Usually not, but if you're having a formal guest of honour, then you might consider a head table. The composition would be up to you, but I'd talk with senior staff to be on more certain ground. You may be able to get by with a reception line, and a table or two for your honoured guest(s).

3. Yes, you should be able to visit the loo, but don't be surprised if you're pranked upon your return.

4. Yes, I would certainly go with the loyal toast and the playing of the anthem. March pasts are not normally played at a Mixed Dining-In. Remember though, if you have foreign dignitaries you need to include the appropriate toasts.

If you find yourself the MC, come armed with some amusing anecdotes that you can use to keep the mood of the night on the lighter side.

If you have a band, don't forget to toast the band master, and provide a drink. Equally, don't forget to toast the cook and kitchen staff.

That should cover most of your questions, and I'm sure others will pipe in where appropriate. One pet peeve... I suggest grape or other juice for non-drinkers during the loyal toast rather than water. (See here: Toasting with Water)

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Offline RocketRichard

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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2017, 18:19:22 »
That I did not know (toasting with water). Thanks ModlrMike.


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Offline aviatrixx

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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2017, 00:28:19 »
Thanks Modlrmike! That was very helpful!
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2017, 01:29:48 »
Thanks Modlrmike! That was very helpful!

No problem. Just to be clear, we're talking about a dinner that involves mess members and their partners, yes?

That I did not know (toasting with water). Thanks ModlrMike.

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Offline aviatrixx

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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2017, 21:55:50 »
Modlr, that is correct. Officers whom pay dues at the mess and their civilian partners and some special civilian guests/instructors.

Another question for you, one of the civilian guests is a former USN aviator - suitable to play him Anchors Aweigh as a toast? Or is that a bit of a stretch?

Thanks again!
« Last Edit: March 28, 2017, 22:01:49 by aviatrixx »
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2017, 00:10:54 »
If you're not going to play Heart of Oak, then you can avoid playing Anchor's Aweigh. Unless he's there in an official capacity, you don't have to play the US anthem either.
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Offline Ostrozac

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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2017, 01:07:44 »
3. Yes, you should be able to visit the loo, but don't be surprised if you're pranked upon your return.

I would suggest that pranking someone's spouse/guest has much potential to be taken the wrong way. Be very careful on that front, as you want guests to feel welcome and included, not mocked and ridiculed, by the mess membership.

And have fun at the dinner! A mixed dining in is supposed to be relaxed and classy, not tense and stuffy. Speeches (if any) should be brief, entertaining and short on jargon -- if your speakers are droning on for an hour about Clausewitz and OPP and PMESII find them an editor!

Offline Lumber

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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2017, 09:22:24 »
I'm not sure what the deal with the bathroom break is. Didn't the Surgeon General put an official stop to the practice of "no bathroom breaks during mess dinners"? In any case, at every mess dinner I've been to since RMC 11 years ago, we've had a bathroom break built into our schedule about half way through. In addition, every mess dinner has had some way of "earning" a bathroom break. For one PMC, his rule was you had to tell a joke or anecdote that was funny, for another you had to make up a poem on the spot; if these were of sufficient quality, you were permitted a bathroom break.

As for the format of the dinner (head table, PMC, etc), would it not be up to whomever initiated the planning for the event? For example, our last Mess Dinner at my unit was a mixed dinner, and the whole event was scheduled/initiated by our XO (DCO). So, it didn't matter what we could "get away with", his instructions to the junior officer who planned it were "there will be a head table, no guest of honour, I will be PMC, find two Vice PMCs, all other mess protocols apply, except we won't be doing toasts."

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Offline George Wallace

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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2017, 09:28:15 »
Some of the Mixed Dinning In functions that we have had, had no Head Table per se, as all the tables were round.  [:D
 
There was also no formal seating plan laid out in most of our mixed functions, so people were permitted their own selection of whom they wanted to sit with.
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2017, 19:04:33 »
In all but the most rare circumstances ~ think Windsor Castle ~ mixed dinners should be relatively informal: no head tables, even when there is a guest of honour (even the Queen, at state dinners, normally sits at the centre of a long table or, in less formal situations, at one of several smaller tables). People should be free to get up and move about when they please, and there should be no "mess games" in a mixed dinner ... just good food, good companionship and so on.

Our old, 19th century, mess dinner rules also need to change ~ if for no other reasons than it is no longer 1885. Dinner nights should remain formal in dress and dinner service but far, far less rigid. There is, also, in my opinion, no place amongst ladies and gentlemen for "bun throwing."

When I was a CO, back circa 1980, I changed the rules for my regiment ~ shortening dinner, allowing officers to leave the table when it was a "must" situation, without any "feedback" and so on. One of the more popular changes was that we got up almost immediately after the loyal toasts and the coffee, brandy and any talking ~ if we had a senior guest ~ took place, after everyone was comfortable, in the ante-room. All those things lowered costs for the junior officers, especially, and made dinner nights much more popular with officers and wives ~ with wives because one of the rules I changed was that officers need not stay until I left; they could leave any time after the coffee just by saying "good evening, colonel" to me.
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2017, 21:14:57 »
The protocol is whatever the guy organizing the dinner wants.  I was the PMC and organized a mixed dining event for my CO.  I acted as the PMC, we had a band and some toasts along with a head table as the situation suited one, but other than that, people were free to selected their table, move around and enjoy themselves.  It went well.
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2017, 00:01:42 »
Too bad none of you ever organized any of the formal events I went to.
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2017, 00:07:34 »
The goal is to get a happy medium - formal enough that it's a night out, but informal enough that everyone has fun... and wants to do it again.  And affordable enough that people can attend.

It's a balancing act, and it's a particular skill set to make something memorable and enjoyable for everyone.  I've seen successful ones pulled together by a LCol; other ones, equally fun and equally successful, pulled together by a Cpl.
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2017, 00:50:21 »
Sadly, the opposite has been true in my experience; stilted and artificial, hideously expensive and leaving one watching for the first moment that you can leave. My wife no longer will attend any mixed event because of this.
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2017, 01:34:24 »
I apologize if this thread exists somewhere else, I did a search but didn't find what I was looking for.

A few of the junior pilots I work with are planning a Mixed Formal Dinner for a group of students that are off to their PFT course. That's all well and good, but I just have a couple questions regarding format and protocol. I couldn't find much in the mess constitution. All I have been able to find is that they closely approximate a mess dinner but are less formal and civilian guests are able to attend.

1) If the PMC and VPMC aren't available does anyone need to be an 'acting' PMC (seems weird to me) or does the senior officer at the dinner just act as an MC?

2) Is a head table necessary?

3) I've read they are less formal than mess dinners but in what regards? Does this mean I get to go to the bathroom during dinner?! What a novelty.

4) I'm assuming a toast to the Queen, playing of O Canada, and port are still required; anything else?

Any other info would be really helpful. We'd like this to be as correct as possible!!

Thanks!

In addition to all the advice and input above...from the RCAF Mess Dinner Procedures Manual (its old, but still the one used).  I've attached the PDF for you as well.

25. MIXED DINING-IN - The organizer of a Mixed Dining-In should keep in mind that spouses are not military personnel, and should not be expected to know the various rules of a mess dinner.  Therefore, the above guidelines can be used for Mixed Dining-In evenings; however, they may be adapted and relaxed to cater to the situation.

I've never been to a Mess Dinner or Mixed Dining in that *skipped* the Loyal Toast.  As to the visiting the restroom, the norm I've seen was *a gentleman can escort a lady to the restroom during the dinner*  ;) .

Ref toasts with non-alcoholic drinks...despite the RCAF Manual saying water is fine, I am with the others.  Get some fruit juice or something. 

Good luck to all who are heading to PFT, hope your mixed dining is turns out to be fun for all.

« Last Edit: March 31, 2017, 05:27:09 by Eye In The Sky »
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2017, 17:20:59 »
Thank you all for the information!
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Offline Dimsum

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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2017, 17:37:59 »
I'm not sure if anyone has thrown this in yet, but considering some of those are going to PFT, I'd suspect the age range is lower in general?  A while back I helped organize a "junior officer's dinner" with the CO being an invited guest.  That way, pretty much all rules can be used/not used as needed, since it's not really a "Mess Dinner" or even a "Dining In". 
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #18 on: April 06, 2017, 19:21:10 »
Any dinners that I ran, whether a Mess dinner or mixed dining in, the diners have all been told the same thing.  If they needed to use the facilities, they discretely leave and come back at any time, except during toasts or speeches. No need for permission.
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #19 on: April 06, 2017, 21:22:56 »
Any dinners that I ran, whether a Mess dinner or mixed dining in, the diners have all been told the same thing.  If they needed to use the facilities, they discretely leave and come back at any time, except during toasts or speeches. No need for permission.

I've always wondered why this "tradition" lasted as long as it did.  What possible benefit would it be to not allow people who have been drinking for a few hours at that point to go use the facilities during a dinner?  It's not like everyone would be gone the entire time. 

 ???
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2017, 15:12:03 »
The Sqn dinners I've been to, you can *go* but people have to request permission from the PMC and then they are usually asked to do something.  It was pretty funny at the last one to see the 4 techs who left together (all male), holding hands and skipping merrily along on their way to/from the restroom.   ;D
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Re: Mixed Formal Dinner protocol?
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2017, 14:29:28 »
I've always wondered why this "tradition" lasted as long as it did.  What possible benefit would it be to not allow people who have been drinking for a few hours at that point to go use the facilities during a dinner?  It's not like everyone would be gone the entire time. 

 ???

The reason is more rooted in etiquette than tradition and it is by no means unique to military circles.  It is generally considered rude to get up during dinner as it can be disruptive to the other diners.  However, this fails to take into account the length of many mess dinners, especially if a guest speaker turns out to be particularly verbose.

For that matter, why do we insist on guest speakers all the time?  If these dinners are about getting together and having a good time, why do we need a talking head?

I'm not a fan of free range seating.  One of the ideas is for people to mix and mingle and meet new people.  A seating plan allows (forces) people to meet and talk to others.  Without a seating plan, cliques tend to sit together to the exclusion of others.  This is not very welcoming to the new folks.  I've been very uncomfortable at a few weddings where I didn't know anyone and basically had to "intrude" on a group in order to get a seat.  If you only want to sit with people you already know, host a dinner at your house.  I am reminded of a dinner at a mess in the UK where the seating plan had all the ladies shifting two seats to the right at every course (while the gentlemen remained at the same seat throughout).  The idea being to have different people to chat with throughout the evening.  I thought it was a great idea, but I was surprised at the attitude of some of my Canadian colleagues who were appalled ("If I'm going to spend all this money on a night out, I want to spend it with my wife!").  My thoughts were that I'll be coming with my wife, I'll be going home with my wife and I live with my wife.  I think I can handle talking to someone else for dessert!  The best part of this scenario was that we all got to know each other's spouses much better and it really brought the whole group together.
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