Dining In Night / Annual Formal Dinner

Hi all,

Planning my Sqn’s first dining in night. Booked for the end of September. Best bib and tucker, nice golf club/hotel, 3 course meal (and DJ afterwards for the kids).

Been asking local Sqns how they’ve gone about their Dining In Night’s running order. So I’m on the scrounge for any advice/documents/thoughts/ideas/do & don’ts.

Cheers in advance

MIght be a bit vague but it’s your night so run it as you want!

Some squadrons do a ball (bit of a party with buffet style food) others do a dining in night (similar to one you’d find in a mess just without debauchery afterwards).

In the past dinner, speeches then drinks works well.

I echo the above comment.

But I’d also say it’ll be nice to keep to some tradition - get the newest cadet as Mr Vice, port etc

Hope it goes well!

Doesn’t necessarily help with the running order but i found this linked document back in 2013 and have used this as a guide since…it maybe of some use?

Dining In mess guidelines

We always have sherry or orange juice on arrival for guests and cadets.
There is a ten minute warning to use the bathrooms (cadets are briefed at Sqn in the weeks running up to the dinner about this).
All stand behind chairs Grace is asked for by the CO a cadet says grace and we sit down together boys helping girls with their ‘frocks’.
First course is served starting at top table. no one eats until the CO starts eating.
After pudding the port is place on the tables to be passed. once all glasses are charged a cadet pre-briefed stands and asks everyone to stand for the loyal toast.
There is then a comfort break 10-15 minutes whilst coffee is being served.
The CO starts the speeches by introducing the guest of honour who toasts the sqn at the end of their speech. Back to the CO who reads out the silly notes on the back of peoples place settings (cadets love this) the CO finishes off thanking the catering and waiting staff they tell the disco man to fire her up and we party until 23:59

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What email are you on? I can send you some stuff?

Informal arrival, all can socialise, Staff have a drink etc. Greeting and intros of any VIP guests etc

Warning for seating, allow toilets etc.

All be seated.

Padre says grace.

Eat the meal. We had it priced for Staff to have wine on table, Cadets fruit punch.

After desert, we allowed a quick ease springs moment for all.

Mr Vice then makes loyal toast. Then speeches, awards, promotions etc.

Then any after dinner entertainment for Cadets etc. We always made sure we sent to Cadets away to allow Staff sometime to socialise without Cadets around.

Held a formal dinner to mark the ATC anniversary for the 75th.It went extremely well.Invited guests ,Myself staff Civ Comm and cadets.I was lucky enough to have two members of staff who are chefs so they volunteered to cook it.One of my senior cadet NCOs entertained the guests with violin music upon arrival.There was of course no alcohol(non alcoholic wine) and soft drinks for the cadets.
I pre briefed the most junior cadet as to what Mr Vice does and the whole night was a great success.

Keep an eye on the cost, as this is the make or break for these things. I’ve seen a few get advertised and then pulled as they’ve not got enough people to cover it.
My old squadron wanted to do a Sqn 75th Anniversary, but it was £35 each, after 3 months with only 25 people, it was cancelled. The CO asked me why I wasn’t going and I said cost. He said £35 isn’t too bad, I pointed out that bring your wife / husband / partner that’s £70 then with drinks (which the hotel they were using were not cheap, it was £3.50 a pint for a poor ale when I’d been there a few years before), taxi and new frock for the wife, the meal will be something mediocre like chicken and a veggie option, so the overall cost taking everything into account would have been getting on for £200. I said to him I don’t spend £35 when I go out with work for a meal. Hence I don’t go to dinners, with the exception of our RBL one, which we use the function room at local pub, which is on average £50-£60 all in for 2 of us.
We did a hot/cold running buffet for the squadron’s 25th anniversary 12 years ago at the local working man’s club and did it as an afternoon/early evening event which was really successful. A lot of old boys and girls came which was really nice and I think being informal and relaxed people enjoyed it more.

If it’s your first keep it to sqn only and see how it goes and if it goes OK open it up next year and keep an eye on the ticket price as you don’t want to have a loss or cancelling it.

We have a dining in night every year around the date the squadron was formed.

We’ve used lots of different venues over the years but ultimately where it is doesn’t make a huge difference.

Like other people have been saying we do the whole formal thing - black tie/no. 5/interim mess dress for the cadets - in recent years our OC has also agreed to let the female cadets wear dresses instead of mess dress if they’d like but it’s totally optional so cadets aren’t expected to go out and buy a new outfit.

We do the whole waiting for the top table thing, our longest serving member of staff says grace, no one leaves their table during the meal etc. After coffee we do speeches and awards, Mr Vice leads the toasts and then says some jokes. Mr Vice then usually hands over to the Squadron WO who will tell some more jokes then everyone disperses.

Some of the younger staff have been trying to convince the OC to let us have some music afterwards but he is not keen so hasn’t happened yet.

For major anniversaries we tend to book a more impressive venue but numbers stay roughly the same. Being in a city we have lots of options for venues but try and keep it local to make it easier for parents to drop off and pick up.

Cost wise - staff and guests will pay more in order to subsidise the tickets for cadets. The civcom will also generally provide a bit of money to subsidise cadet tickets.

The one thing I would say about these events is make sure you’re planning far in advance, we’ve left it to the last-minute in the past and it is not worth the stress…

Should have added as well, we have always applied a levy to Adult tickets to keep Cadet prices down, normally about £15 a head for Cadets, more like £27 for Staff.

We also hold around the February half term, experience has shown it’s a quiet time for the local hotels, so they are normally very keen and accommodating as they want the trade!

Don’t you try to have parents involved? If not I feel a trick is missed as they could want to join CivCom/Staff etc as they feel bit more part of the squadron

We’ve invited parents in the past but take up is never that great so the vast majority are still dropping off/picking up.

We have a formal dinner, and OC gives prizes out to cadets and staff. CWO’s give speeches and presents to the staff. We have a DJ and a bar, and “paper plate” awards where the cadets vote on silly prizes to give each other, like “most unlikely couple.” It’s a good laugh and well worth it. Good luck with planning it!

Careful with this. It was in an IBN not long ago that all things like paper plate awards and the ilk was banned as it can be construed as bullying.



Date? Reference?
Was it a proper IBN or some local version?

A search of IBNs for related terms is showing nothing. Sure you didn’t dream it?

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May not have been an IBN, but there was definitely a published note somewhere, from CAC, banning that type of activity.

It stuck out because it specifically mentioned paper plate awards and “sod’s operas”.
However, I’m on my phone with no access to a computer so don’t have the ability to look it up.

That sounds like the sort of thing that would have been discussed on here at great length and with great aplomb, yet I don’t remember such a conversation.

Please do some digging and come back to us with a solid reference - I’m sure it would be of interest.


Ours started out as an outside venue which was very expensive.Then the two staff came up with the cook it yourself idea which bought the cost right down.It eventually went through at less than a £10 each.