Formal Hall means different things to different colleges. Some require the students to wear gowns, others only ask for a formal dress code. There are colleges which offer Formal Hall every night of the week while others only have it once a week. Whatever the rules at the different colleges, one thing is clear, it is an integral part of the Cambridge University experience. This is why there are multiple opportunities during the Pembroke-King’s Programme for students to attend Formal Halls.
One is held to welcome students to the programme, another is held at the very end of the programme to say goodbye and between there are three occasions that students can sign up to if they wish, choosing as they do, whether they want to eat at Pembroke or at King’s.
Formal Hall always starts with pre-dinner drinks which are held on Library Lawn in Pembroke and Back Lawn in King’s. The pre-dinner drinks are an exciting opportunity to walk on the grass at a Cambridge college, a feat practically unheard of.
Just before dinner is due to be served, diners are invited to enter the Potter-eqsue dining Halls and take their seats at the candlelit tables. Dinner can be a chance, not just to talk with your friends, or to get to know your peers, but also to talk with the Fellows and lecturers that attend the meals. It is one of these Fellows that will read grace in Latin before the first course can be served.
At both halls, care is taken to cater for all dietary requirements so each course has two options to ensure that no one goes hungry. The three course meal is followed by a round of coffee and, if you are lucky, the PKP Choir might make an appearance.