Dining-in is an opportunity for members to gather at official military functions to recognize an individual’s or a unit’s achievements, to honor one or more distinguished guests or to say goodbye to the retiring members and welcome new ones. It is a “formal dinner for the participants of a wing, unit or organization” (qt. in OPNAVINST, 1). The event follows the lively pattern of dining-ins held by units during the World War II. Apart from food and beverages, the event may also include a time for entertainments after the formal program of awards and speeches. Addition to the tradition is the dining-out, which is dinner held out at a civilian restaurant or a post facility. The number of attendees at the event depends on the wing or organization that is conducting the event and should be at least 20 people. The major stakeholders of the event are the president, Guest of honor, chaplain and Mr. Vice. The dining-in consists of a series of events that follow a particular order; some of these events are receiving line, cocktail hour, toasting and grace (Hinskton, 92). The dining-in can go for two to three hours.
Definition of terms
VIP: Very Important Person
DV: Distinguished Visitor
MoC: Master of Ceremony
Flow of event elements
The dining-in is embellished by use of a receiving line immediately before the cocktail affair. During this period, one should arrive minutes before the beginning of the event so that both headgear and coats may be secured. Attendees are directed to proceed through the receiving line at staggered time intervals, but this depends on the size of the event. The line of receipt forms from right to left. The receiving line usually begins with the individual of the highest rank, who will be the presiding officer and the guest of honor to his/her left. The introductions of the guest of honor are made by the president/presiding officer at this event (USAREC Pamphlet, 3).
The cocktail hour:
This is a period for light-hearted conversations and minimal entertainment. The conversation should be light and for a short duration. The guests get their drinks at the open bar and smoking during this time is permitted. The event mostly lasts 30 -45 minutes.
“A dinner signal is the “officer’s call” song and marching music. The attendees will go to the table in the dining area and locate their seats and stand behind them. The presiding officials give instructions for the heads of the line march leading to the dining area to be served dinner” (qt. in OPNAVINST, 1). They take their rightful places at the long table, and the music stops.
The “president then announces “Ladies and gentlemen. The Grace.” The priest says the grace. When done, the attendees take their seats.” (qt. in OPNAVINST, 1).
“The president uses it to get the attendees’ attention and instruct them to stand or to remain seated (qt. in OPNAVINST, 1). It tells the members to when to rise or to remain in their seats.
The guest of honor sits to the right of the president while the ranking guest on the president’s left. Other guests are seated throughout the mess and according to seniority.
This is a form of self-generated entertainment during the dinner hour. It serves to enhance a unit’s spirit while remembering the formality of the occasion.
The head table is a single long table. Side tables are at each end in a modified “E” with no seats off the center. The table should not crowd and have plenty of elbow room.
The offering of ceremonial toast following the invocation is a traditional Army custom at formal dinners.
The smoking lamp:
It is single candelabra with new white candles or a clear glass kerosene lamp. It's placed on the table where it is visible to the entire mess. It indicates that smoking is allowed (USAREC Pamphlet, 3).
Speeches: The guest of honor delivers a few remarks to entertain the mess.
The president of the event is the presiding official who opens the mess and oversees the entire organization and operation of the dining-in. He/she will take care of any arrangements, food, and the necessary protocols. Other duties that he/she will do are: setting the date and place for the event. Appoint committee chairpersons. Appoint Mr. Vice. Arrange a priest to say the prayer. Greet all the guests before dinner. Initiates the event with a rap of the gavel and close the event with two raps. Introduce the DVs and guests of honor. Select some topic areas which the guest speaker can choose. Provide an outline of the event and determine the area where the dining-in is to hold (USAREC Pamphlet, 2).
The duties of the arrangement officer are as follows: coordinate table and seating arrangements, place cards and centerpieces. Provide and place equipment. Arrange photographer. Provide biographical sketches. Coordinate placement of flags and trophies. Gather all awards for presentation. Publish a detailed agenda, program and guest lists and check out unit china, crystal, and silver (USAREC Pamphlet, 2).
The host officer should perform duties such as briefing guests on the customs of the event. Let the guests have information of who the host officer of the event will be. Arrange transportation and accommodations for the guests. Ensure proper arrangement of the reception at the mess. Escort guests to their cars. Ensure always that the guest has company and sees off the guest on behalf of the officers of the mess.
The duties of the protocol officer are such as to send invitations signed by the President to the guests one week in advance. Assist in the setting up of seating arrangements. Brief the host officer on any particular protocol requirements relating to the guests. Prepare invitations for the president’s signature and provide biographical sketches. The mess officer reserves the dining room and lounge. He or she arranges an excellent menu. Coordinate timing of food service and arrange for the mess charges to be paid (West Point, N.Y: United States Military Academy).
The planning phase takes two to three months to prepare and plan. Rehearsal is done a day before the main event to make sure that everything will go as planned and the execution takes two to three hours. The president is in charge selecting the site where the dining in will be held and the making sure that the facilities needed for the event are present and available on that day. The president also gets to set the budget for the whole event. He also pays for the lounge and dining room (Hinskton, 101).
The arrangements officer deals with providing music services. He/she also makes sure that the guests get entertainment in the event and ensure that the mess is decorated to fit the occasion. There should also be the presence of photographers and aids.
The host officer is in charge of hosting of the VIPs and dignitaries, and the president should ensure that he has greeted them upon arrival. The host officer will also make sure that they know their place in the mess and have company. The host officer is also to set lodging arrangements for dignitaries and officers who have traveled from far (Washington: U.S. Dept. of the Air Force. Office of Information, 5).
Communication and marketing
This is a card that requests the presence of the people stated in it for the event. Most dining-ins is formal, so the invitation card should be either fully engraved, handwritten or computer generated. The invitation should have the signature of the President. The letter also gives details of where the event will be and the date.
This assists to set a certain function at a certain time for a period. It helps the event to be timely and for everything to happen without fail.
It is used to preserve a seat at a table for a particular individual or to assist a person in locating his place. It informs other dinner companions of his/her presence.
Menu cards: This is a card that details of the meal served at the event.
These are pieces of paper clipped with a pin with a person’s name on it. It assists identifying people at the event and ascertains the number of individuals who have come and were invited to the event.
Awards and certificates:
These are rewards given to commemorate and honor someone’s achievements.
Protocol and etiquette Aspects
The role of protocol, etiquette, decorum and tradition in a dining-in is to establish a sound foundation for a successful event. The ceremonial elements used during this event are “the formal setting, an elegant meal, the camaraderie of the member of the event, traditional toasts, music and the presence of a guest of honor” (qt. in USN/USCG).
Dos of conduct that should be held at the dining-in
MoC must be prepared to brief the entire sequence of events at the time of the rehearsal. Essential items to be discussed at the briefing include the guests list; go through of the assigned seating chart, the pre-reception guests list, and the sedan list and transportation plan.
MoC must be in control of events and provide essential cues during the ceremony. Distribution of assigned sitting charts and programs should be at the entrance. The guests list should be given to the security before the beginning of the service to facilitate traffic planning. Assigned VIP seating should include vice admirals and above.
Placing the name labels on the metal name holders should be on the arms of the chairs rather than on the back of the chair. The recommended guest speaker should be limited to one. While considering the duration of the event, convey to the speakers, one hour before its commencement that many shipments are standing throughout the ceremony. To minimize guest discomfort, reduce heat-related difficulties and recommend that the remarks of each speaker should not exceed five minutes. Provide bottles of water to the guests if hot weather.
Don’ts of the conduct at the dining-in event
Some of the don'ts are such as “arriving late at the event. Smoking on the table before the smoking lamp is placed in the presence of the entire mess. In addition, there is investment cummerbund, saying loud or insulting comments during the proceedings. The toasting event not following proper procedure. The tendency of rising from the dinner table to leave without the president’s permission is don’t. There are include: moving with drinks from the lounge to the dining room, use of foul language during remarks or in a speech, holding onto an uncharged glass, the wearing a clip-on bow tie, applauding to witty, sarcastic, and relevant toast.
The don'ts are the commencing a course before the president, placing bets or wagers. The team should avoid telling an off-color or unrefined story, discussing issues of a controversial nature. Other factors to be avoided include the dressing in improper attire, lack of laughter to any joke rendered by an honored guest of the President (qt. in OPNAVINST, 8).
The location, date and time of events need to be communicated in advance to the VIPs/DVs for them to book the date and make a presence at the event. It will also enable them to be able to cancel the invitation early in there is a need. The other participants not only need this information but also information about the rules of conduct to be adhered and the dressing code. Guests should have the scheduled programs of the event.
Various activities are to be upheld to be able to preserve the dignity and tradition of the event. Some of those invents are such as “Piping in the port which is an old custom for the Loyal Toast. The music should be short and appropriate. It should continue to play until the wine is about to be sampled and declared potable by the host. The wine is the passed to the tables, and the guests charge their drinks. Another custom is the lament; which is a song sang to remember comrades killed in battle” (qt. In Emmet Bondurant, FF/NR-EMT-P (ret.).
Some challenges that face this event are such as less detailed script thus making the master of ceremony unable to go on cue. A major problem is the lack of coordination between the master of ceremony and the guest of honor while reading the citation is. Paying little attention to the guest is another challenge (Wendling, 25). Some strategies used to manage these challenges are such as rehearsal between the master of ceremony and the guest of honor for them to be able to coordinate when reading citations. There should be proper distribution of duties such as one usher should cater for at least 50 guests, this will avoid guests not to be left unattended. The script of the master of the ceremony should be well detailed to assist the scheduled program to flow smoothly.
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