Dining In / Out

Dining In/Out

Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'

DININGS-IN AND DININGS-OUT

This chapter is designed to serve as a guide for planning and conducting a dining-in or dining-out. Most of the information comes from AFP 30-6, "Guide for an Air Force Dining-in," since rescinded, which was the most comprehensive reference for planning and conduction dining-in/dining-out. We have updated the information, including information on setting up the traditional POW/MIA table. We're also indebted to the Peterson AFB NCO Academy and Command Historians for their inputs.

Our guide should give you enough information to successfully get you through the planning of this traditional Air Force event. Some traditional customs and procedures may not be practical or desired, depending on local circumstances. One such tradition is the reference to officers only in the planning guides. Currently most dining-ins include both officers and enlisted personnel. However, some dining-in have specifically been for officers or enlisted only. Commanders may modify the traditional approach as local conditions dictate.

Introduction

Formal military dinners are a tradition in all branches of the United States Armed services. In the Air Force and Navy, it is the Dining-In; in the Army, the Regimental Dinner; in the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, Mess Night.

The dining-in and dining-out represent the most formal aspects of Air Force social life. The dining-in is the traditional form, and the term will be used throughout this section. However, most of the information applies equally to both "Combat" dinings-in and dinings-out. The dining-in is a formal dinner for the members of a wing, unit, or other organization. The "Combat dining-in" is far less formal because of the dress requirements and more informal atmosphere; however, the basic rules and format of the dining-in apply. The dining-out includes spouses and guests.

It is important for the success of a dining-in that members enjoy the evening, and that the ceremonies are done in a tasteful, dignified manner. A dining-in should have a theme around which the decorations and ceremony are built.

Background

As with most ancient traditions, the origin of the dining-in is not clear. Formal dinners are rooted in antiquity. From pre-Christian Roman legions, to second century Vikings warlords, to King Arthur's knights in the sixth century, feasts to honor military victories and individual and unit achievements have been a custom.

Some trace the origins of the dining-in to the old English monasteries. The custom was then taken up by the early universities and eventually adopted by the military with the advent of the officers' mess. With the adoption of the dining-in by the military, these dinners became more formalized. British soldiers brought the custom to colonial America, where it was borrowed by George Washington's continental army.

The Air Force dining-in custom probably began in the 1930s with the late General H. "Hap" Arnold's "wing-dings." The close bonds enjoyed by Air Corps officers and their British colleagues of the Royal Air Force during World War II surely added to the American involvement in the dining-in custom.

The dining-in has served the Air Force well as an occasion for officers to meet socially at a formal military function. It enhances the esprit of units, lightens the load of demanding day-to-day work, gives the commander an opportunity to meet socially with his or her subordinates and enables military members of all ranks to create bonds of friendship and better working relations through an atmosphere of good fellowship.

For more details on the history of the origin of the dining-in see Expanded History of the Dining-in.

Purpose

The purpose of the dining-in is to bring together of a unit in an atmosphere of camaraderie, good fellowship, and social rapport. The basic idea is to enjoy yourself and the company. The dining-in is also an excellent means of saying farewell to the departing members and welcoming newly arrived members to a unit. It is an excellent forum to recognize individual and unit achievements. The dining-in, therefore, is very effective in building high morale and esprit de corps.

Dining-in

The dining-in is a formal dinner for the members of a wing, unit, or organization. Although a dining-in is traditionally a unit function, attendance by other smaller units may be appropriate.

Dining-out

The dining-out is a relatively new custom that includes spouses and guests. It is similar in all other respects to a dining-in. The dining-out is becoming increasingly popular with officers and enlisted members alike.

Combat dining-in

The combat dining-in, the newest of the dining-in traditions is becoming increasingly popular, especially in operational units. The format and sequence of events is built around the traditional dining-in; however, its far less formal atmosphere and combat dress requirements (flight-suit, space and missile crew suits, BDU's) have made it very appealing to the masses. There is not a great deal written on the subject and the only limit seems to be that of the imagination of the planning committee. For guidance or information on combat dining-in contact Command Protocol. Command Protocol has an excellent example of AFSPC/DO's recent combat dining-in on file you can refer to for ideas on how to conduct you combat dining-in.

Attendance

Traditionally, attendance at a dining-in was mandatory and many commanders still consider this function a mandatory requirement, similar to a Commander's Call. Other commanders feel that since the goal of the dining-in is to bring members closer together, attendance should be voluntary so that those who feel that they were forced to attend would not dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of the others. The decision as to whether a dining-in is voluntary or mandatory appropriately rests with the commander.

Guests of the Mess

There are two types of guests; official guests and personal guests. Official guests are honored guests of the mess. The guest speaker is an official guest. All official guests are seated at the head table and their expenses are shared by the members of the mess. Because of the costs and space at the head table, the number of official guests should be limited.

Personal guests may be either military members or civilians (for dinings-out). They are not seated at the head table, and their expenses are paid by the sponsoring member.

Senior officers from other units and organizations and civic leaders from the local community should be considered when inviting guests. It is a good way to enhance relations between base units, and with civilian neighbors.

Mess members should arrive at least ten minutes before the hour of invitation in order to meet and talk with the guests of honor and get acquainted with others. Members do not leave until the guests have departed unless they have been excused beforehand for a good reason.

Dress

Officers wear the mess dress uniform. Male civilians should wear appropriate black tie dinner dress. The proper dress for civilians should be clearly stated in the invitation. Retired officers may wear the mess dress or civilian attire. For enlisted members, mess dress or the semi-formal dress uniform is worn. Refer to
AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, for appropriate wear instructions.

Long dinner dresses or evening clothes for female guests are appropriate when attending a dining-out.

Pregnant military women may wear appropriate civilian attire.

Key Players

President.

This officer is the center figure of the dining-in. Normally the commander of the organization hosting the dining-in, the President is charged with the overall responsibility of the dining-in.

Specific duties of the president


Many of the duties of the President are delegated to the arrangements officer who must work closely with the President to ensure the success of the dining-in.

Vice President.

The Vice President serves as the President's principal assistant. The Vice President is traditionally the most junior officer of the mess; however, the President may select another member to serve in this demanding position.

The success of the evening hinges largely on the imagination and humor of this individual. Essentially a master or mistress of ceremonies and a toastmaster or toastmistress, Mister/Madam Vice keeps the program moving and stimulates table conversation through keen wit and impromptu speaking ability.

The Vice President also notes and makes special mention of the violations of the rules of the mess and breaches of protocol and etiquette.

Traditionally, the Vice President sits alone at the back of the dining room facing the President. This position allows him or her to observe the proceedings in order to monitor the flow of the program. Convenience and the physical layout of the club may dictate seating in another location; however, the Vice President is never seated near or at the head table. It is essential that Mister/Madam Vice be totally familiar with the customs and traditions of the mess.

Duties of the Vice President


Arrangements Officer.

The Arrangements Officer is directly responsible to the commander for the comprehensive planning of the dining-in and for attending to the numerous details required for a successful event. The person selected for this task should be a top planner and supervisor, as the Arrangements Officer is the architect of the dining-in.

In small units, a junior officer may be capable of filling this role, but in large units, an officer with more seniority and experience may be a better choice.

The Arrangements Officer must work closely with the President in determining the date and the location, and in identifying and inviting the guest speaker. He or she is also responsible for the menu, seating, decorations, music and entertainment, billing and reservations, invitations, and the agenda.

The Arrangements Officer should not make any final decisions on major aspects of the dining-in without consulting the President.

Other duties of the Arrangements Officer


Mess Officer.

The Mess Officer is an optional player in the dining-in/dining-out; however, it may be very useful to appoint one. Once the preliminary decisions are made concerning the facilities which will be used for the event, the Arrangements Officer can delegate some or all of the responsibilities associated with the dining facility to the Mess Officer as his/her area of responsibility, thus freeing-up the Arrangements Officer to take care of the "bigger picture" items.

Protocol Officer.

Duties of the Protocol Officer


Escort Officers.

One Escort Officer should be appointed for each official and personal guest.

Duties of the Escort Officer


Guest Speaker.

The Guest Speaker's presentation is the traditional highlight of the evening. By custom, the speaker should be distinguished either as a military officer or official of the government. The speaker should be contacted well in advance and advised of the nature of the evening. Arrangements should be made for him/her, and other invited guests, as protocol and custom dictate.

When introducing the guests to the mess, leave no doubt in the guests' minds whether they are to acknowledge the introduction to preclude possible embarrassment. Introduction of the Guest Speaker should avoid remarks too flattering or too lengthy. The speaker's ability will be evident.

Planning Considerations

Start early. Two to three months should be considered a safe time to start. Set a firm date, location, and general action plan. It is a good idea to appoint a planning committee chaired by the Arrangements Officer.

Committee Membership.

The size of the committee generally depends on the magnitude of the function. Potential committee members include:
  1. Recorder.
  2. Finance.
  3. Invitations and Reservations.
  4. Food and Beverage.
  5. Decorations.
  6. Publicity.
The people appointed as committee members must be motivated and action oriented. The best approach for appointing committee members is for the Arrangements Officer to draft a letter for the President's (commander's) signature. Where possible, select committee members who have expertise in the area of their responsibility, such as someone with accounting and finance experience to handle budget matters and billing; the public affairs officer to handle publicity, band and photography, and so forth.

The following sections highlight some of the more important committee tasks.

Date and Location.

Selecting a date and location for the dining-in should be the committee's first step. Some suggestions on how to do this are discussed below.

First, set a tentative date. If you already have a guest speaker in mind, informally check the individual's availability. Make sure the date does not conflict with other military commitments, such as deployments, inspections, or another major base social function.

Once a tentative date has been set choose a tentative location. Location is usually the officers' club for dinings-in and dinings-out. Depending on circumstance, another location may be suitable and should be considered, such as an aircraft hanger for a combat dining-in. If preferred location is available, book it immediately.

If you must consider off-base sites for the dining-in, make sure the prospective caterer is willing and able to meet your requirements. Make sure you understand all provisions of any contract before signing it, as it holds the person signing legally liable. You should be particularly concerned with cancellation clauses and cost factors, such as whether or not quoted prices include tax and gratuity.

Choosing a Guest Speaker.

Once a firm date and location have been set, the next task is to invite the Guest Speaker. Carefully choose the Guest Speaker. Traditionally, the speaker is a high-ranking military officer or government official. If desired speaker is available, get it on his/her calendar.

The Arrangements Officer usually prepares the letter of invitation for the President's signature. The letter should include the date and place of the dining-in, and describe the audience and other pertinent facts about the occasion. It is appropriate to suggest suitable topics and desired length for the speech. The invitation should be mailed as soon as possible after setting the date. It's a good idea to have an alternate speaker in mind in case the speaker of choice must cancel.

Invitations to Senior Officials.

All invitations to senior officials, such as the Secretary of Defense and Principal Deputies, Service Secretaries, and Service Chiefs, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high ranking military and government civilian DVs, must be sent through HQ AFMC/CVP.

Invitations to members of congress and other elected officials must go through HQ AFMC/CVP and Legislative Liaison Branch.

Other Invitations.

Formal invitations must be sent to all guests, official and personal. They are extended in the name of the President. Usually, invitations are not sent to members of the mess. See
"Invitations" .

Place Cards and "YASA" Cards.

Place cards are required only at the head table. For other than the head table, organization identification cards may be used, if that is the seating plan, or a card with the table number. You need only use one card for each table, but they should be uniform in size, color, lettering, and so forth. However, place cards at each setting are becoming more common. When assigned seating is used it is especially useful to have "YASA" cards, with accompanying seating arrangement board, to assist members in finding their designated seating. Table numbers should be removed after the mess is assembled and first dinner course is served. See
"Table Seating and Arrangements" on place cards and "YASA" cards.

Music.

A military band or ensemble is the best choice for music. Schedule the band or one of its elements through the installation Public Affairs Office. See
"Entertaining."

If a military musical group is not available, be careful. If a suitable band cannot be found, consider a taped program or no music at all. No music is better than inappropriate music.

Menu.

The traditional menu consisted of four or five courses, with roast prime rib of beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Sample Menu

Fruit Cup with Poppyseed Dressing
Spinach Salad
Roast Prime Rib of Beef Au Jus (12 oz)
Stuffed Baked Potato with Cheese
Rolls and Butter
Tea or Coffee
Wine
Chocolate Mint Pie
After Dinner Mints


In recent years, the standard dinner at dinings-in has been salad, entree, and dessert. While appetizers and soups may be easily added, a larger menu means higher costs and portions of large meals often go uneaten. Moreover, large portions of soups, appetizers, and salads may satisfy the appetite instead of sharpening it.

Wine.

Wine is an integral part of the dining-in. It not only adds to the meal for many people, but it is used for toasting. The wine should be served in decanters that can be served by waiters or waitresses or simply placed on the table where they are passed around, from left to right (counterclockwise). Water should be made available for those who do not wish to drink wine, with refills readily available.

Seating.

The typical table arrangement for a dining-in is the single, straight banquet style; however, T, U, or modified E formation can be used. Ease of passage and space between place settings should be considered when deciding on specific arrangements. The table at which Mister/Madam Vice will be seated should be at the opposite end of the banquet hall directly facing the President. This arrangement permits the President and Mister/Madam Vice to face each other when speaking.

Head table seating is strictly according to protocol, with the senior honored guest to the right of the President, the next senior person to the left of the President, and so forth. Usually, the senior honored guest is the guest speaker; however, if this is not the case, it is customary to informally ask the senior honored guest if he or she will cede that position to the guest speaker. It is never proper to seat guests at the ends of a table.

Head table seating for a dining-out becomes more complicated as a man woman-alternating pattern is required within protocol restraints. Spouses are seated in precedence determined by their military member's grade. Spouses are not seated together, nor are two women seated next to each other. The Chaplain sometimes sits on the far left of the President, although it is not necessary for the Chaplain to sit at the head table.

At a dining-out, the guest of honor's wife is seated to the right of the President, and the second ranking woman to his left. The President's wife is seated to the right of the guest of honor. It is important tables are not crowded, with everyone having plenty of elbow room.

Other guests are seated throughout the mess. The members of the mess are seated according to seniority. Organizations should be seated at tables arranged in whatever manner local protocol or custom dictates.

Be especially careful to consider the ability of the head table to be able to clearly see all the members of the mess. Do not just consider the mess member's ability to see the head table.

As in any event NEVER have the host with his back to any of the participants.

Seating Example

Decorations.

Decorations fall into two categories; tables and the dining room/lounge.

Table decorations should be limited to floral centerpieces and silver candelabra. Formal organizational decorations may also be appropriate. The silver is provided by the caterer (club) while the centerpieces must be ordered from a florist. Flowers should be ordered at least a week in advance. It is best to set a budget figure and let the florist work around that amount.

Dining room and lounge decorations are usually seals, emblems, flags, and colors tastefully displayed. When in doubt, keep the theme of the decorations patriotic, for example, red, white, and blue, flags, and other items of a patriotic nature.

The American flag is always appropriate and should be placed to the left of the head table, as members of the mess would view it. All other flags should be place to the right of the American flag. To use the American flag as a wall decoration or table decoration, see section on flags.

If foreign nationals are to attend, their country's flag should be displayed. This is often easier said than done, as few installations have other countries' flags. If general officers attend, flags with the appropriate number of stars should be displayed. One of two options applies:
  • One flag for each general officer grade in attendance.
  • Only the highest ranking individual speaking at the engagement.
Consult Protocol for recommendations on your particular set-up for your event. (Example: Higher ranking individual not the Guest Speaker or President of the mess. You may want to display his/her flag in addition, if available.)

For the appropriate order for placement of the flags, see
"Flag Etiquette."

Program.

A printed program booklet, although not required, is one of many "finishing touches" that help give a dining-in a touch of class. Usually the program is printed in size 5 1/4 by 8 1/2 inches, and may be printed using in-house facilities or by a commercial printer. Commercial companies often provide a more professional product, but the cost may be prohibitive. Although we do not recommend this, one way to help defray the cost is to find a sponsor who would pay for the printing in return for back page advertising or a credit.

Here's an option to consider. With the widespread use of personal computers, it should be quite simple to come up with a quality product. Consideration should be given to dressing-up the booklet, such as quality paper stock, graphic art, type size, and variations in typeface. Once a sample has been designed and approved by the President of the mess, have base reprographic facilities satisfy your printing needs. The cost, method of production, contents of the booklet, and so forth, are best determined by local practice and the commander's preferences.

Suggested Contents of the program


A professional-looking program does add a nice touch, and many people like to keep them as a memento of the occasion. Usually, one booklet is positioned at each place setting.

Financial Planning.

One of the most critical tasks in planning a successful event is estimating all costs and determining the pro-rata cost to be charged to each member of the mess. Don't forget to make billing arrangements!

Financial Planning Hints

Bartenders.

Do you have enough bartenders? There never seem to be enough of them during the cocktail hour. One solution to eliminating a long bar line is to start the evening with extra bartenders at each bar. However, this may increase the cost because a bartender usually cannot be hired for only one hour in the evening. Discuss options with officers' club management or caterer.

Rule of thumb on number of bars required:
  • 1-50 people: 1 bar
  • 51-100 people: 2 bars
  • 100-500 people: 3 or more bars
Bartenders should make sure that ample supplies of non-alcoholic beverages are available at each bar.

Chaplain.

Remember to invite a Chaplain to give the invocation. The Chaplain usually is seated at the head table, but it is not required. If one is not available it is permissible for a member of the mess to give the invocation.

Photography.

Do you need to schedule a photographer? The photographer should be briefed beforehand and given the agenda for the evening's events. List the specific photographs desired, and make clear whether your requirements are for color or black and white photographs. Color photography is more expensive and may require additional justification. The photographer should not detract from ceremonies or activities. If necessary, stage photos before or after the event.

You may want to make arrangements for a private professional photographer for personal photographs of the members of the mess. This is especially applicable before dinings-out where couples may wish to have photos taken of them "all dressed up" commemorating the event.

Gift for the Speaker.

Are you going to present the guest speaker a gift? The gift should be of nominal value. A plaque commemorating the occasion or the gavel used by the president of the mess is acceptable.

Site Inspection.

The site for the dining-in should be checked thoroughly on the day of the event. Every committee member should be involved in the site inspection. Many little details will probably need to be modified or corrected.

Conducting the Dining-In

Conduct and Courtesies.

Members are encourage to enjoy themselves to the fullest in an atmosphere of good cheer; however, as in all gatherings of military personnel, moderation is the key to enjoyment. All members are urged to meet as many guests as time permits without monopolizing the time of any one guest.

This sequence of events takes you step-by-step through the dining-in, from arrival to adjournment.

Cocktails.

Each member of the mess should arrive in the lounge within 10 minutes of opening time. Members should never arrive after the senior honored guest. The cocktail period usually lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. This time is intended to allow members to assemble before dinner, and to meet the guests. It is not an "attitude adjustment" period.

Escort officers should never leave guests unattended, and members should rotate between guests to ensure the conversation remains stimulating.

The cocktail period does not lend itself to heavy hors d'oeuvres; however, light snacks such as nuts, chips, and pretzels may be strategically located throughout the lounge.

Background music appropriate. It should be soft, classical, or semiclassical; either recorded or live.

Assembling for Dinner.

At the end of the cocktail period, Mister/Madam Vice sounds the dinner chime and directs the mess to proceed to the dining room. Members and guests assigned to the head table remain in the lounge or assemble in an anteroom. All others should proceed in an orderly fashion to their assigned seats and stand quietly behind their chairs.

By tradition, drinks and lighted smoking materials are never taken into the dining room.

There seems to be a number of ways the head table participants can enter the dinning area. Depending on the set-up and the circumstances of the arrival of the head table, you need to pick one of these methods. Present the options to the President and choose one.

Suggestions for Entry of the Head Table


Calling the Mess to Order.

Immediately following the sounding of "Ruffles and Flourishes," the President raps the gavel once to call the mess to order. The President should then direct the color guard to post the colors. The color guard marches into the dining room and posts the colors. The National Anthem is then played or sung. If the colors are in place, or there is no color guard, the "National Anthem" is played or sung immediately following the President's call to order. A bugler may sound "To the Colors" instead of the "National Anthem."

The manner in which the colors are posted, and the playing of the "National Anthem" can set the tone for the entire evening. A darkened room with a spotlight on the flag as it is carried into the room, and a soloist singing the "National Anthem" with no background music can be a dramatic and moving event for all participants. Drama can also be taken too far, so keep it simple.

Following the "National Anthem," the color guard departs the room. Since protocol does not require that the colors, once posted, must be retired, some commanders elect to dismiss the color guard at this time.

After the color guard departs, the President asks the Chaplain or an appointed member of the mess to deliver the invocation. After the invocation, the members of the mess and guest remain standing as the next order of business is toasting.

Wine Pouring Ceremony.

Other Ceremonies.

Toasting.

The custom of toasting is universal. It is believed that this custom came into wide acceptance after the effects of poison were discovered. When two persons, who might be antagonists, drank from the same source at the same instant and suffered no ill effects, a degree of mutual trust and rapport could be established. With this foundation laid, discussions could continue on a more cordial basis. Today, toasting is a simple courtesy to the person being honored.

It is not necessary or proper to drain the glass at the completion of each toast. A mere touch of the glass to the lips satisfies the ceremonial requirements. Toasts should be proposed in sequence and at intervals during the program of the evening.

Normally, toasts should be planned and approved in advance by the President. To avoid confusion the toasts and responses should be printed in the dining-in program booklets placed at the tables. However, at any time after the toast to the Chief of Staff, a member may ask to be recognized by saying, "Mister/Madam Vice, I have a point of order." Mister/Madame Vice recognizes the member by saying, "Sir/Madam, state your point of order." The member will, in a polite and forthright manner, advise the President that the toast required by courtesy or protocol has not been proposed. The President then requests the member who has the floor to propose the toast or ask Mister/Madame Vice to propose the appropriate toast. (This is an opportune time for the President of the mess to explain the POW/MIA table and propose his last toast ("One more roll") before his/her opening remarks. It is a good transition into the opening remarks of the evening.)

Toasting Do's and Don'ts

For examples of toasts to foreign dignitaries or other information on toasts, see "Toasts" 

POW/MIA PRESENTATION: Ceremony Script

President's Opening Remarks.

Besides setting the tone for the evening, the President's remarks provide the opportunity to officially welcome guests. After the head table is introduced, the President should either personally introduce the remaining guests or poll the escort officers. When all guests have been recognized, Mister/Madam Vice proposes a toast to the guests. Members of the mess stand, guests remain seated. The response to this and all future toasts is "Hear, Hear!"

The President then seats the mess and invites the members to eat.

The first course may be placed on the table while the mess assembles in the cocktail lounge. However, soup should be hot (or cold) and salad should not be wilted. Consider the capabilities of the club and the desires of the President.

Courses are always served to the head table first. At other tables, the highest-ranking persons are served first. Although this means junior members are served last, Mister/Madam Vice should be served immediately after the head table. Toasts requested by the mess during dinner and related activities will take up so much of the Vice President's time that he/she simply won't have a chance to eat unless served early. The President always has the option to limit toasts in order to keep the evening on schedule or to permit members to eat uninterrupted.

Before serving the entree, the President may wish to add some humor to the meal by asking Mister/Madam Vice to sample the meal to make sure it is fit for consumption by members of the mess. The Vice President may compose an ode or poem to the meal. There are numerous variations that are best left to the imagination of the planning committee and the dictates of the President.

Smoking Lamp.

With the current trend being that of a smoke-free environment, many clubs are non-smoking facilities. The tradition of the smoking lamp looks like it has seen its final days. Check with the President to find out if one is desired or will be omitted from the event entirely.

When most persons are finished with the main course, the President lights the smoking lamp. The President may do so by lighting a cigar or cigarette, or by directing Mister/Madam Vice to light a lamp or make an appropriate announcement. Again, this tradition offers the opportunity to inject some humor into the evening's events.

Recess.

At the time scheduled for recess, the President raps the gavel three times to gain attention. When the mess is silent, the President raps twice and announces a short recess so the dishes may be cleared and dessert served. Members stand by their places until the head table departs. Everyone then proceeds to the cocktail lounge where the bars have reopened.

Reconvening the Mess.

At the end of the recess, Mister/Madam Vice sounds the dinner chimes and direst everyone to proceed to the dining room. Traditionally, lighted smoking materials and drinks should not be brought into the dining room following the recess.

When members reach their places they stand directly behind their chairs. The President then leads the head table party into the dining room. The President then seats the mess with one rap of the gavel. Coffee and tea are immediately served and dessert is eaten.

Awards.

Recognition or awards ceremony as applicable. If individual or unit achievements are recognized, an appropriate ceremony is arranged. The ceremony takes place during the formal portion. A toast to those recognized is appropriate. A convenient time is immediately preceding the guest of honor's speech. Under no circumstances should any ceremony follow directly after the guest speaker's speech, which should be the highlight of the dining-in.

Guest Speaker's Address.

After recognition and awards, and any scheduled entertainment, the President introduces the Guest Speaker. The speaker's address typically lasts 15 to 20 minutes and should be of a patriotic or entertaining nature. After thanking the speaker for his or her time and thoughts, the President presents a gift to the speaker. The President then asks the Vice President to propose an appropriate toast to the Guest Speaker. Mister/Madam Vice proposes a toast, "To our Guest of Honor."

Lighting of the Smoking Lamp.

After the table is cleared following dessert and coffee, with port or wine poured, (you do not drink the wine or smoke until the President announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, the smoking lamp is lighted.") Now you may smoke and drink. Mister/Madam Vice will light the smoking lamp.

Closing the Mess.

After the toast to the guest speaker, the President should recognize those who organized the dining-in and thank Mister/Madam Vice. If desired, the colors may then be retired by the color guard. The President encourages everyone to stay and enjoy themselves, if post-dinner entertainment is planned, and then adjourns the mess with two raps of the gavel. After the mess is adjourned, members should remain at the dining-in until the guest of honor and the President have left. If there is to be an extensive delay in leaving, the President may allow members to leave at their discretion. Some unobtrusive signal, such as casing the unit flag, would be an appropriate means of notifying members the evening's activity is over. Traditionally, Mister/Madam Vice is the last member to leave the dining-in.

Post Dinner Entertainment.

Today, some dinings-in are exercises in decorum. In others, the old, lively pattern of fightin' flyin' units is still followed and adjournment is just a signal for the Vice President to open the informal part of the program. Since post dinner entertainment depends upon the imagination of the sponsoring unit, the Arrangements Officer and the Vice President must work within the guidelines set by the President. Sometimes the only limitation is your imagination!

At the close of a dining-out, an orchestra or band for dancing may be appropriate entertainment.

The Grog Bowl

Rules of the Mess

A Final Word

A dining-in or dining-out is designed so that members of an organization can have a good time together as a unit. Various forms of skits or entertainment may also be included to add to the evening. The decorations, ceremony, humor, and wit should be done in such a manner as to make the evening a memorable event.

Two cautions should be noted: first, don't go overboard with expenses. A good time does not have to be excessively costly. Second, prepare an agenda and stick to the schedule. Too many skits, entertainment, patriotic programs, and so forth, can make the evening drag on and the membership will likely remember the length of the evening rather that its success. If the mess is formally opened at 1930 and the guest speaker begins his speech at 2330, most members will be more attentive to their watches than to the guest's presentation. The formal portion of the evening should be well-planned, kept religiously on schedule, and not be excessively lengthy. A formal program that lasts between 2 and 2 1/2 hours is ideal, and allows sufficient time for informal entertainment.

Dining-out Sample Script



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