Formal Hall

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. 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.


You can book places for Formal Hall online via Upay. You must have enough meal credit before you book. After the booking deadline, you cannot withdraw and request a refund, since the food will already have been ordered. If you are unable to attend, try to find another student to take your place. 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.

When you arrive at the Fenner’s Building for Formal Hall, please see the Porter in the foyer. The Porter will check your reservation and provide you and your guests with coloured wristbands indicating if you are ‘with wine’ or ‘without wine’. Please show your wristband when you enter Hall for the dinner itself, and ensure your wristband is visible to waiting staff during the evening.

Formal Hall Evening booking deadlines:
Tuesday – 11am previous Friday
Friday – 11am previous 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

Dress code

Some students like to wear gowns, but this is entirely optional

This 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.)


Each student may bring up to 3 guests to Formal Hall, i.e. you can book up to 4 places, except for the Student Christmas Dinners where unfortunately there is no room for 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.

Occasionally there are large groups of guests on non-themed nights, e.g.:

  • 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.

Formal Hall

Guests 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.


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 port 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