Formals: The truth behind the tradition

An introduction to formal halls

College formal dinners or formal halls are a key part of being at Oxford. Their format can vary significantly by college but they generally involve a three course served meal in the college’s fancy hall. Some colleges hold them only once a week; other twice a week, perhaps Tuesday and Thursday; whilst others like St. Catherine’s and Oriel hold them every night. The dress code also ranges significantly with some not having a dress code at all and others requiring smart clothes with a gown, so do make sure to check beforehand. A highlight of formals is the Latin grace at the start- Univ claim their grace is the longest but others have challenged this.

I’d really recommend trying to go to formals as many different colleges as possible as they’ve each got a different vibe and are a great chance to look round other colleges. The best way to go to a formal at another college is by getting your friends at other colleges, such as those doing the same course as you, to invite you, as you almost always need to be a member of the college to book a formal there.

However, Oxford Raise and Give (www. facebook.com/oxfordrag) also run Formal Hall Surfing which gives you a chance to buy a tickets for formals at different colleges so look out for that! Fun formals to visit include St. Benet’s Hall where every guest is introduced by their host, St. Catherine’s for the biggest hall, and Mansfield where formals take place in the chapel.

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