Formal Hall

Please note, Formal Hall provision is presently suspended.

Formal Hall

The College provides formal, waiter-service dinners known as Formal Halls, which occur about twice a week, usually during term.

These formal-style dinners are a tradition common in the collegiate universities of Cambridge and Oxford and provide the perfect opportunity to dress up, meet up with friends or strike up a conversation with a student or senior member who can share an insight into their field or research.

Formal Hall is a social and truly collegiate experience. It is a special feature of the College that we have no high table, instead the President and Fellows value the chance to sit with students and their guests.

You may attend any Formal Hall in the calendar, and are warmly encouraged to take advantage of this great tradition. Special themed Formal Halls occur throughout the year, some with different conditions and dress codes.

Book Formal Hall via Upay Chilli.

Formal Hall is a social and truly collegiate experience

Timings and format for Formal Hall

Formal Halls in the Dining Hall are available on Tuesday and Friday nights during term time. There is information about dates of Formal Halls in the College Calendar.

Formal Hall starts at 7.00 pm when college members and their guests gather in the Peter Richards Room for a pre-dinner aperitif. This is followed by dinner in Hall at 7.30 pm, then post-dinner drinks and tea and coffee back in the Peter Richards Room.

When you arrive at the Fenner’s Building for Formal Hall, please go up to the Peter Richards Room. The Porter will check your reservation and confirm your number of guests before inviting you to join the drinks. You and your guests will need to meet as a group before you can join the event. Anyone with mobility requirements, who needs to take the lift to go down to the Dining Hall, should notify the Porter at this point. When pre-dinner drinks are ended, the Duty Fellows will invite you to go down to the Dining Hall for dinner, you should make your way down there via the staircase from the Peter Richards Room. If you have requested use of the lifts for mobility reasons, please go by that route.

Dress Code

Dress code is lounge suits (i.e. jacket and tie) or equivalent level of formality. Casual clothes like jeans, T-shirts and trainers are not acceptable. Some students like to wear gowns, but this is entirely optional. (Note that the college does not loan gowns to students for Formal Hall.)


You can book places for Formal Hall online via Upay; you must have enough meal credit before you book, your booking applies to you and cannot be transferred. Tickets may not be re-sold for profit or on a commercial basis. Formal Hall is a communal college event open to members of the college and their personal guests only. This means that guests will only be able to attend if they are with the college member who is hosting them; if you cannot attend, you cannot send your guests without you. In some cases, if you are unable to attend, the conference office may be able to re-assign your ticket. However, this must be requested no later than 14.30 the day before the event. If you think you cannot attend a formal hall you have booked in for, please contact the conference office and inquire about transferring it.

Formal Hall prices:

£16.50 for normal formal hall

£17.50 for themed formal hall

Formal Hall Evening booking deadlines:

Tuesdaybook by 2pm on the preceding Friday

Fridaybook by 2pm on the preceding Tuesday

LGBT Formal Hall

Dietary requirements

Our chefs always try their best to accommodate special diets. In order to give them enough notice to prepare a meal option that is suitable to your needs, please select/detail a dietary option during the Upay booking process.

If you or your guests suffer from a food allergy and have any concerns over the meal’s ingredients, please ask for clarification from the serving staff before eating.

Our chefs always try their best to accommodate special diets


Each student may bring up to 3 guests to Formal Hall, i.e. you can book up to 4 places. Some very popular evenings may have additional restrictions for the the number of guests. Note that it is the responsibility of student hosts to ensure that their guests behave appropriately. Formal Hall is a communal college event open to members of the College and their personal guests only.

Tickets may not be re-sold for profit or on a commercial basis.

The main purpose of Formal Hall is to provide an occasion for a shared dining event for the college community, so numbers of guests are restricted. However, occasionally, it is possible to arrange for a group of guests more numerous than the usual number of guest places. These might be for college swaps (organised by the MCR’s External Social Secretary), groups organised by recognised Hughes Hall societies, research groups of Hughes Hall PhD students. All such groups must be approved (email and properly hosted by Hughes Hall students who take responsibility for their group and their comportment. Please email if you would like to enquire about making arrangements for one of these – there is limited availability for larger groups.

Guest under 18

Students wishing to bring guests under 18-years-old should contact the College in good time to check the event is suitable (email, and they will be expected to be responsible for their guest at all times. If your guest is a minor you should ensure you make yourselves known to the Duty Fellows when you arrive for the dinner.

Formal Hall


It is a convention that members of Hughes introduce their guests to the President and/or Duty Fellows during pre-dinner drinks. At about 7.30 pm, one of the Duty Fellows will strike the gong to call the company to order, and invite everyone to dinner. There is no high table and no seating plan: diners are invited to fill the tables starting from the far end (near the painting) and to mix across groups. Places should not be moved from one table to another.

When everyone is standing in front of their place, the President or a Duty Fellow will welcome guests, perhaps say grace, and invite the company to take their seats. At the conclusion of the meal you will be invited to proceed back up to the Peter Richards Room for after-dinner drinks and coffee or tea. You are welcome to stay there with your guests until the evening closes at 11.00 pm.

For Formal Hall please keep mobile phones off or on silent mode during drinks and dinner. Use of any electronic device should be kept to a minimum, and must not be intrusive or disrespectful to your fellow diners. In particular, voice calls should only be made in the foyer.

Formal Hall Burns Night