City Protocol & Etiquette

Dress Etiquette

Dress Codes – Daytime

The following is a guide to daytime dress codes, as displayed on the invitation card:

Lounge Suit
: Refers to a dark business suit worn with a traditional school, university, club or regimental tie. Ties reflecting membership of political organisations are considered to be in poor taste in the City of London and are to be avoided. Ladies are invited to wear an equivalent trouser suit, day dress, or skirt and jacket or coat for daytime events.

Morning Coat: Generally the preserve of Officers of the Court, Morning Dress is worn only on the most formal of occasions. Gentlemen are required to wear a black morning coat with a matching black waistcoat. Top hats are not worn in the City.  Serving Officers may choose to wear No.1 Service Dress on such occasions.

Ceremonial Dress: Reserved for formal parades (such as the Lord Mayor’s Show), this dress code consists of a Lounge Suit over which Members wear their robes.

Dress Codes – Evening

The following is a guide to evening dress codes, as displayed on the invitation card:

Lounge Suit: For Gentlemen please refer to the daytime entry above. For evening events, ladies should consider a smart or cocktail dress.

Dinner Jackets: Refers to traditional Black Tie.  Gentlemen are required to wear black bow ties, and if they so choose, black cummerbunds.  Cummerbunds of any other colour (generally denoting regimental associations) may only be worn by Serving Officers. It is traditional in the City for ladies to wear long dresses.  Although a smart/cocktail dress would be considered appropriate, trousers are generally not.  Serving Officers may wear Mess Dress.

Evening Dress: Refers to traditional White Tie.  Gentlemen are only permitted to wear white bow ties, preferably of the hand-tied marcella type. Top hats and gloves are never worn. Ladies are required to wear full-length formal dresses, ensuring that they bring a pashmina or wrap with which to cover their shoulders. Long evening gloves are optional and tend to be reserved for the more formal banquets. Unless otherwise mentioned, tiaras are reserved for the Ladies or consorts of those serving on the Court, or for the Guild’s principal guests.  Serving Officers may wear Full Ceremonial Mess Dress.

Decorations: Decorations and medals are restricted to those awarded by the State in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and the New Year’s Honours List. Miniature decorations are usually worn except when there is no miniature equivalent (e.g. stars, neck decorations and brooches). Any foreign decorations of equivalent status may also be worn but only with the prior permission of the Clerk. The Guild and wider City have a proud tradition of support for HM Armed Forces, and serving Members are always encouraged to display their medals.

* National Dress: National Dress may be worn as an alternative on occasions where it is expressly mentioned in the formal invitation. In all other instances, it is not considered appropriate.

Banquet Etiquette

Reception

On arrival at the Hall where the Banquet is taking place there is usually a table where Members and their guests can sign their names in the attendance book and collect a copy of the seating plan with their name on it. They will then be encouraged to join the formal reception by giving their name (Pour-Mémoire Card) to the Beadle, who will announce them as they approach the Receiving Line. Guests who have forgotten their Invitation Card will need to announce their name clearly to the Beadle, or show him the name on their copy of the seating plan. The receiving line consists of the Master and the Wardens (and, at the Installation Dinner, their consorts). Members are guests are asked to take note that, for reasons of security, it may not be possible to gain admission to certain venues such as the Guildhall or Mansion House without their Pour-Memoire cards and official Photo ID.

Call to Dinner

At the end of the Reception the Beadle will announce that dinner is served. All Members and their guests are asked to move into the dining hall promptly, so that dinner can be served without delay. When all are at their places, the Beadle will announce the entrance of the Master, Wardens, the Principal Guest(s), the Learned Clerk and the Honorary Chaplain. They will process into the dining hall to the accompaniment of Handel’s March in Scipio. It is customary once the Musicians have started to play for Members and their guests to clap in time to the music until they reach their seats. The Beadle will then gavel and the Master will ask the Chaplain to say Grace.

Late Arrivals

Please note that at certain events such as those attended by the Lord Mayor at Mansion House, latecomers will not be admitted after the Civic Party has processed into the Dining Hall.  In the rare cases where latecomers may be admitted, they will be accompanied by the Beadle to High Table, where they will be required to bow to the Master and proffer their apologies.

Mobile Phones

The use of mobile phones at Guild events is generally discouraged, and is strictly forbidden at all formal banquets once the Procession has entered the dining hall. The Guild appoints an official photographer at most events and photographs are subsequently made available to members and their guests. Phones should not be used for any purpose in the dining hall and must be kept on silent.

Leaving the Table

Leaving the table at any time during a banquet is strongly frowned upon in the City, and is not permitted before the Loyal Toast, except in an emergency.  It is expected in such a case that the diner in question proceed to High Table, where they are to seek leave and bow to the Master before making their exit.

Musical Entertainment / Port

It is customary for there to be some form of musical entertainment if time allows, whilst the port and coffee is served. This may include a rendition of the Post Horn Gallop which is generally greeted with enthusiastic clapping in time to the beat and during the final notes. Please note that the Port is always passed to the left.

Rose Water Dish

By ancient custom, a silver Armada dish containing rose water is circulated after dinner and before the speeches. Guests are invited to dip the corner of their table napkin into the rose water dish before patting it behind their ears. This is said to stimulate the nerves in this region which through their connections soothe the digestive organs!

Sung Grace

The Beadle will then announce the Grace, which is traditionally sung to the tune of Laudi Spirituali and the words of which are printed inside each individual menu. Once all have taken their seats the Beadle will announce the Ceremony of the Loving Cup.

Ceremony of the Loving Cup

The cup is traditionally filled with spiced wine, immemorially termed “Sack”. The custom is said to have originated following the murder of King Edward the Martyr, who was stabbed while drinking by his step-mother Elfrida at Corfe Castle on 18th March 978 AD. Upon rising to drink from the cup, the person to the right and to the left of the drinker also stands. The drinker then bows to the neighbour to whom the cup will pass, who removes the cover with his right hand. This ensures that the “dagger arm” is employed and eliminates the risk of treachery. Meanwhile, the neighbour on the drinker’s other side turns his back on him ostensibly to protect him from attack from behind whilst in the act of drinking. Having drunk, the drinker applies the napkin to the lip of the cup, the lid is replaced and the drinker and his neighbour bow to one another before passing the cup. The first drinker then turns about to protect the second drinker from attack; thus there are always three people on their feet, the drinker being in the middle. If you do not wish to drink from the cup, it is sufficient gesture of loyalty to receive and pass the cup on to the next guest remembering to bow when you receive it.

Taking wine with new Members

If new Members have been recently admitted and welcomed into the Guild before the dinner, the Master may stand with a glass of wine in his hand and ask them by name to take wine with him. The new Members then stand in turn with a glass of wine in their hand and silently toast the Master, who returns the toast.

Toasts and Speeches

There are several possible versions of the toasts and speeches, but the procedure is generally as follows. The Master announces the toast to The Queen, by striking the gavel, three times, waiting for silence, standing and proclaiming: Ladies and Gentlemen, “The Queen“. All present are then required to stand to attention, leaving their glasses on the table, and to sing while the musicians play the first verse of the National Anthem. The Guild will then reply in unison: “The Queen“. The exception to this, is in the presence of Foreign Heads of State or their Representatives (e.g. the presence of Ambassadors) where it is considered courteous to stand silently during the National Anthem.

The second toast is to Members of the Royal Family. The procedure is exactly the same, except that on this occasion all present are required to stand to attention silently while the musicians play half the first verse of the National Anthem. The response by the Guild is: “The Royal Family“.

The third toast is to “The Lord Mayor, the City of London Corporation, and the Sheriffs“.

There may then be presentations, for example Presentations to Award Winners.

The first speech is the Welcome to the Guests, followed by the Toast to “the Guests“. Guests should remain seated whilst the members of the Guild toast them.

The second speech is the Response by the Principal Guest, ending with the fifth Toast: “The Guild of Young Freemen, Root and Branch, Coupled with the name of the Master“.

The third speech is the Response by the Master.

Leaving the Dining Hall

At the end of the dinner – usually after the Master has finished his speech – the Beadle will announce that the Master and Wardens invite the Guild and their guests to join them in a stirrup cup, and to make way for the Master, wardens and their Principal Guest(s). This is the cue for all to stand and clap in time as the Master, Wardens and Principal Guest(s) leave the dining hall. When they have left the dining hall, the Guild and their Guests are encouraged to join them for a stirrup cup promptly so the staff can clear the hall.

Miscellaneous

  • Senior Military officers entitled to wear ceremonial swords in military parade dress do not need to wear them for formal dinners.
  • Spurs may be worn by those serving in regiments entitled to wear them, provided they do not damage furniture, frighten dogs or injure people.
  • Religion, women and politics are not suitable subjects for the dinner table and must be avoided at all times.
  • The Navy drink the loyal toast sitting down; the Army and RAF drink the loyal toast standing to attention.