NOTES ON PRACTICES
Dining Out Invitations from Guilds or Livery Companies will be addressed either by a single letter addressed to The Clerk inviting both Prime Warden and Clerk or by separate letters to Prime Warden and Clerk.
In the first case, if the Prime Warden cannot accept, the Clerk should not do so, unless the invitation makes it clear that such attendance would be acceptable.
In the second case, the Clerk is entitled to attend without his Prime Warden but with another member of court, it would be unwise to make a frequent practice of so doing. The Craft Master should only attend if specifically invited. Some invitations may come through the Craft Master in which case the Clerk should also attend.
If an invitation is made to the Court this would suggest Prime Warden, Clerk, Craft Master and Beadle but clarification would be prudent.
In the case of companies and guilds having a Hall, it is customary for a livery company or guild hiring that Hall to invite the Prime Warden and Clerk of the Livery Company or guild to attend the function in the Hall. It is not best practice for that Livery Company's or guilds Prime Warden and Clerk to accept such an invitation unless they intend to return the invitation.
Invitations to events run by charitable organisations for the purpose of raising funds are not normally accepted unless the Prime Warden (and Clerk) of the company accepting intend that their Company should contribute towards the charity's funds.
Having dined out, a Clerk should always write a letter of thanks to his host, but he always addresses that letter to the Clerk of the host Company or guild and requests him to thank his Prime Warden. It is customary for such letters to be hand-written.
A Prime Warden always writes his thanks to the Master or Prime Warden of the host Company, also by a handwritten letter.
A Prime Warden or Clerk without a wife may take another lady to a ladies dinner. It is not common for either, being married, to take any lady other than a relation (such as daughter).
There is sometimes confusion about how to interpret the dress indicated on a formal invitation to dinner. "Evening dress" comprises a tailcoat and white bow tie (worn with a wing collared shirt) and is worn with any orders and decorations to which the wearer may be entitled (miniature medals and neck decorations). "Dinner jacket" or "Black tie" comprises a dinner suit and black bow tie and, if no mention is made of decorations, should not include orders and decorations.
However, if the invitation states that decorations should be worn with dinner jacket, it is of course incumbent on the guest to comply with the wishes of the host. The term "Badges" on an invitation refers to a Clerk's Company badge (if provided) and should not be confused with orders and decorations. Cavalry officers are asked not to wear spurs.
Except for letters of thanks for hospitality, and private communications, the Prime Warden does not normally write letters. He instructs the Clerk to write on his behalf.
If any Prime Warden insists upon writing official or semi-official letters, it is most desirable that the Clerk should ensure that he is given a copy for purposes of information and record.
Dinners - The Clerk is responsible for conduct of the function generally but should use the Beadle as his intermediary. He should not expect to leave his place. Some Clerks jump up and down - this is not the best practice.
The Clerk should not normally speak and, if invited, should consider very seriously whether to accept. It is the task of the Clerk to motivate the speakers to perform properly, not to usurp their position.
In case of need, which should be rare, the Clerk should be prepared to write a speech for the Prime Warden, sometimes at very short notice. But the Clerk should be prepared to be consulted by the Prime Warden (indeed he should encourage it) as to the content of his speech.
Toasts at Dinners
At Guild dinners there are usually five formal toasts. In all cases the Beadle calls for silence;
The first Loyal Toast is proposed by the Master. The Master rises, says "The Queen". At a livery dinner the Company rises, glasses are raised and all join in the toast saying "the Queen. At the Mansion House banquet The Master rises, says "The Queen" the company rises and stands to attention; the music strikes up immediately and the Company sings the first verse of the National Anthem. Glasses are not lifted or even touched until the singing is finished. We all sit down.
The second Loyal Toast is proposed by the Master. The Master rises and says loudly "The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and the other members of the Royal Family". At a livery dinner the Company rises, glasses are raised and all join in the toast saying "the Royal family". At the Mansion House banquet the Company rises and stands to attention whilst the first few bars of the National Anthem are played, but we do not sing. Glasses on the table until the music stops, then we raise our glasses and join in the toast saying "The Royal Family". We sit down.
The third toast is proposed by the Master. The Master rises and says loudly "The Lord Mayor and the City of London Corporation" (or, if the Sheriffs are present "The Lord Mayor, the City of London Corporation and the Sheriff's"). As soon as he has done so the Company rises and raises their glasses saying those same words. We sit down. If the Lord Mayor or a Locum Tenens is present he will respond.
The Fourth toast is to the Guests, and will be proposed by a member of the Company, who first makes a short speech of welcome, saying a few words about the principal guests. He will then invite the Company to rise, say "the Guests" and all members of the Company rise, raise glasses (often pledging nearby guests, who remain seated, as we do so), repeat "the Guests" and drink, then sit down.
The fifth and final toast follows the response to the toast to the guests, and is usually proposed by the principal guest, who first makes a short speech. When he has finished he will propose the traditional livery toast "The Guild of St. Stephen and St. George, may it flourish root and branch and good health to the master". At which point we all, members and guests alike, stand and say "The Guild", raise our glasses, drink and sit down.
The Civic Toast in The City of London will normally be "The Lord Mayor and Corporation of London". However, when the Lord Mayor and one or more Sheriffs are guests of a Company, then, as a courtesy, the Civic Toast should be "The Lord Mayor, the Corporation of London and the Sheriff's". (Letter of November 1996)
Lord Mayor Locum Tenens and Representative Lord Mayor Where the Lord Mayor has agreed to attend an event but must subsequently withdraw at short notice, a substitute will be offered, though the host Company is under no obligation to accept. A Lord Mayor Locum Tenens (LMLT) may be appointed if the Lord Mayor is out of the country, a Representative Lord Mayor (RLM) in other circumstances. Both should be accorded the same courtesies and protocol as the Lord Mayor. If neither LMLT or RLM are appropriate, then the Company may invite an Alderman, Recorder or other civic functionary to represent the Corporation and to make a speech, but then the Civic Toast should be drunk in silence. (Letter of June 1993)
Guests - The Clerk should always advise the Prime Warden as to the guests to be invited to a function, and should feel free to advise as to any guest proposed by the Prime Warden whom the Clerk feels would be unsuitable.
The Prime Warden will often himself write to invite speakers to address the Company at a function. The Clerk should then confirm the arrangement with the speaker, setting out the specific duty, and advising the speaker of the length of time normally regarded as the maximum length of speech.
Clerk's Badge - Clerks supplied with badges normally wear these at all Guild functions; some wear them at all livery and other functions to which they are officially invited as Clerk. Such badges are not normally worn on any other occasion.
Clerks to the Great Twelve and many of the older companies do not have badges. This is because they are servants of the Company, not honorary officers
Master's Badge - Members of Companies sometimes invite as private guests to Company functions persons who happen to be Masters of other Companies. Such persons are not entitled to wear their badge at such a function. A Master (or indeed a Clerk) only wears his badge when asked by the Company as an official guest. However, in such cases, the host Master can agree to adopt the guest Master as an official guest in which case he can wear his badge.
Charitable Appeals - Some Masters and even liverymen attempt to use their position to make appeals for charities in which they are interested.
This is regarded as quite unacceptable in that it attempts to usurp the freedom of the companies to apply their funds as they wish. Therefore any such attempt should always be resisted. Companies should not appeal to one another. This dictum does not, of course, apply to assistance sought by a company itself if it is in difficulties.
Nomenclature . Strictly, a Clerk who is a member of his Guild or Company is described as the Clerk of that Guild or Company, whilst one who is not a member is described as Clerk to that Guild or Company. Such correct practice may be regarded as somewhat pedantic and is more honoured in the breach than the observance.
The dress code at our Guild dinners is black tie for gentlemen and a long or short dress, an evening top with a long skirt or evening trousers, or a trouser suit for ladies. Black tie means a plain, black bow tie, accompanied by a white dress shirt and, if wished, either a black waistcoat or a cummerbund that will not frighten the horses.
It is wrong for a gentleman to wear a white or coloured tie with a dinner jacket at a livery dinner but a white dinner jacket, national dress or uniform would be acceptable.
The preferred dress code at our Mansion House banquet is white tie, national dress or uniform for gentlemen and a long dress or skirt and evening top for ladies (evening trousers are acceptable but a bit frowned on in some circles). Decorations may be worn. White tie means a plain white tie, dress shirt with a collar that does not turn down except for two small wings, a white waistcoat, a tailcoat and dress trousers. However it is perfectly acceptable for liverymen without white tie to attend in black tie with a white dress shirt and black dinner jacket plus sober waistcoat or cummerbund.
The Prime Warden, principal guest(s), Wardens, Hon Chaplain, Clerk and head master process into, and out of, the dining room, led by the Beadle. Those standing at their places at table clap, in a slow rhythm (in time to the music if there is any).
Grace is not sung at Guild dinners but grace is sung at the end of the meal at both livery dinners and the Mansion House banquet. Liverymen are encouraged to learn both tune and words, although the latter are always printed on the menu. There is not always musical accompaniment for the sung grace.
The Rose Bowl
Rose bowls are circulated after guild meals. The Rose Bowl is not a finger bowl. The correct procedure is to dip a corner of your napkin into the water to make it damp, and you then rub behind your ears; this is believed to aid the digestion.
The Loving Cup
The loving cup ceremony is set out on the menu although this does not prevent a few liverymen getting it wrong! The practice does vary between companies but the Actuaries and quite a number of other companies proceed as follows.
The key rule is that there must never be more than 3 people standing at any one time. Unless you are starting the circulation of the cup then you do not stand until the person who has it turns to you with the cup in his hands.
As he turns to you, you rise; you bow; you raise the lid in your right hand with a flourish and wait while they drink and wipe the rim with the cloth. You then replace the lid and take the cup by its handles with a bow; you turn to the next person who rises, bows, raise the lid and so on. When you have handed the cup over, and the recipient has turned away from you, you then turn round and guard his back and make sure that the person who was guarding your back is sitting down. When the cup is again handed on, your job is done and you sit down.
If at any time during the dinner, the Beadle says that the Master will take wine with... and mentions your name, rise, with your glass, pledge it in the direction of the Master, look pleased and sit down. The Company will usually applaud.
Briefly key factors to note are:
• Timing – note the times on the invitation as they are strictly adhered to, those arriving late may not be admitted regardless of who they are.
• Moving about during the meal is not permitted. If a comfort break is required leave and return as discreetly as possible by the shortest route. Neither should happen during speeches, unless it is a medical emergency.
• Photography of any sort is forbidden at the lodge or hall.
• Mobile phones and other devices must be switched off, not silent, once guests arrive at the Reception.
• Smoking is not permitted anywhere on the premises.
A simple guide to the etiquette and customs associated with the serving of port at Guild and Livery Company dinners and banquets.
No Guild dinner or banquet would be complete without the serving of a good quality vintage port before the Loyal Toast. Whilst diners are not obliged to partake of the port, everyone at the table has a role to play since the port decanter will be passed around by the diners rather than by the catering staff.
A number of customs associated with the port service have arisen to ensure the decanter circulates among all the diners so they all get equal opportunity to share in the wine. If you follow these simple rules you won't go wrong:
1.Always pass the port to the diner to your left, or as they say in the Royal Navy 'Port to port'.
The port decanter will be placed at the end of your table or 'sprig', to the right of your host or whom-so-ever is sat at the top table end of a sprig. In the event of particularly long sprigs, a port decanter may be placed at either end, each proceeding down one side of the sprig.
No matter where the decanter(s) are initially placed they always pass to the left (clockwise on a round table) and continue to circulate until empty. If a diner does not wish to partake of the port he or she simply passes the port onward to their left.
Encouraging your fellow diners to pass the port.
In the unthinkable event that a fellow diner allows the port decanter to settle upon the table at their position, a polite way to invite them to continue passing the port is to ask the errant diner 'Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?'.
The response to this question will usually be 'No I don't, do tell me more?' (or words to that effect), in which case you can replay 'Oh, he was an awfully nice fellow, but he rarely passed the port '.
This is said to derive from a past Bishop of Norwich who used to fall asleep at dinners, perhaps in part because of his prestigious consumption of port, whereupon the decanter(s) would all come to rest in front of him to the annoyance of his fellow diners.
The other possibility is that your guest does know the incumbent Bishop of Norwich, in which case you had better have an amusing story to tell about The Rt Revd.
3.Not allowing to decanter to touch the table.
Our Guild along with some Livery Companies and Regiments of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces observe the custom that the port decanter should never touch the table, further ensuring that the decanter does not settle with a diner (unless they wish to hold it aloft for the evening).
To facilitate this custom, the Hoggit decanter was invented. It features a rounded base that can only be seated in a specially made wooden foot that resides with the host. The decanter would tip over if placed on the table, thus ensuring that it continues to circulate.
Waiting until the Loyal Toast
The port is served prior to the Loyal Toast, and in sufficient time to allow it to circulate fully among all the diners before the Loyal Toast is called. It is exceptionally bad form to drink the port prior to the Loyal Toast. Diners who do not wish to drink port may participate in the Loyal Toast (and subsequent toasts) with wine or water.
"Timendi causa est nescire"
MAY THE GUILD FLOURISH ROOT AND BRANCH
GOOD HEALTH AND GOD BLESS OUR PRIME WARDEN.