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Formal Halls

A social and truly collegiate experience

The College provides formal, waiter-service dinners known as Formal Halls which take place in the Dining Hall, usually on Tuesdays and Fridays from 7pm, during term time.

These formal dining events are a tradition common in the collegiate universities of Cambridge and Oxford and provide the 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. It is a particular feature of Hughes Hall 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 Halls 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. Themed Formal Hall have included Black History Month, Halloween, Burns Night, LGBTQ+ History Month, St Patrick’s Day, Chinese New Year, and Diwali.

Payment and booking

Students should go to the UPay site to top-up credit for meals or to make a Formal Hall booking. To top-up, please go to Upay, and click the menu button (top right, on the horizontal lines logo), before seeing ‘Top-Up’ or ‘Events’. If you have any issues with this service, please contact the Finance Department: finance@hughes.cam.ac.uk.

Please note that you will  need to have enough meal credit before you book; your booking applies to you and cannot be transferred; and tickets may not be re-sold for profit or on a commercial basis.

Formal Hall is a communal College event open to members of Hughes Hall 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 reassign 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, please contact the Conference Office and inquire about transferring it: conference@hughes.cam.ac.uk.

Timings and format

Formal Halls in the Dining Hall usually occur twice a week during term time. There will be information about dates of Formal Halls in the College Calendar. Formal Hall starts at 7.00pm when College members and their guests gather in the Peter Richards Room for a pre-dinner drinks. 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 have 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 (jacket and tie) or an 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.)


£17 for a standard Formal Hall; £18 for themed Formal Hall.

Booking deadlines

Tuesday Formal Hall – book by 10am on the preceding Friday; Friday Formal Hall – book by 10am on the preceding Tuesday.

Dietary requirements

Our chefs always try to accommodate dietary requirements. In order to give them enough notice to prepare a meal option that is suitable for 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.


Each student may bring up to three guests to Formal Hall, i.e. you can book up to 4 places. Some very popular evenings may have additional restrictions for the number of guests. Note that it is the responsibility of student hosts to ensure that their guests behave appropriately.

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 generally restricted. However, occasionally it is possible to arrange for a larger than usual group of guests.  These might be for College swaps (organised by the MCR’s External Social Secretary), groups organised by recognised Hughes Hall societies, or research groups of Hughes Hall PhD students. All such groups must be discussed and approved (email formal.hall@hughes.cam.ac.uk) and properly hosted by Hughes Hall students who take responsibility for their group and their behaviour.

Students wishing to bring guests under 18-years-old should contact the College in good time to check the event is suitable (formal.hall@hughes.cam.ac.uk), 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 bring the gathering together, 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.