Formal Dinners


One of the best parts about Oxford is the formal dinners! Newcomers often ask about them – they can be quite confusing! – so here is a quick summary to help you out.

Where do I find these events?

Navigate over to the Somerville meals site (https://meals.some.ox.ac.uk/index.php) and click ‘Other Events’. You will see a long list of all the events taking place in hall this term, some of which you will be able to sign up to. Usually sign-up doesn’t open until a few weeks before the event so make sure to keep checking on the individual event pages as some events fill up very quickly. These events may include the following:

Guest Nights

  • These take place on some Tuesdays and Fridays about six times a term (in the weeks that do not have Special Guest Nights).
  • They are 3 course meals served by the wait staff.
  • You have to sign up via the meals site (once sign-up is open).
  • You can also sign up as many as 4 guests who are not Somerville members.
  • The guest names and dietary requirements are entered immediately upon signing up, but if you don’t yet know who you will be inviting you can simply put ‘Guest1’, ‘Guest2’, etc, and email the full details to Catering (catering@some.ox.ac.uk) at a later point.
  • Dress code is smart (e.g. men usually wear suits).
  • The cost for the dinner is £10.50. Payment is via the purchase of a ticket from the Terrace bar before the meal. You won’t be allowed in unless you have signed up online and bought a ticket (don’t forget to sign up and buy tickets for your guests too!).
  • However, every MCR member gets one free ticket per term which can be used for either a Guest Night or a Special Guest Night. These are put in your pigeon hole at the start of term.
  • Alcohol is not included but you are welcome to bring your own (people usually buy a bottle or two of Somerville wine at the same time as they buy their ticket)
  • One of the perks of being on the MCR Executive Committee is that you can opt to sit at High Table (although you’ll often get sat at ‘Lower-High’ Table) and schmooze with all the academic staff.

Special Guest Nights

  • These take place twice a term on Fridays in weeks 3 and 6.
  • They are 4 course meals served by the wait staff.
  • You can sign up as many as 2 guests who are not Somerville members.
  • Dress code is formal (e.g. black tie, although ladies rarely wear long dresses).
  • Otherwise, they are the same as Guest Nights.

Exchange Dinners

  • Approximately twice a term 15 members of the MCR will host 15 members from another college for dinner, they will then host us at their college.
  • Wine is included! There is also a champagne drinks reception in the MCR before dinner, and port and chocolates afterward.
  • These are organised by the social secretaries who will send out all the information on the colleges, timings, and dress codes via email nearer the time. Sign-up for these events is via the social secretaries – you will not find this information on the meals page!
  • The cost for one leg of the exchange is £10 and for both £20 which must be paid to the MCR by the given deadline.
  • Usually these are very popular and so places are allocated (semi-)randomly, with priority given to those who can attend both legs and those that haven’t yet been on an exchange.

SCR/MCR/JCR Symposiums

  • Every so often, members of the Somerville community are invited to give presentations about their work in these Symposiums.
  • Sometimes, dinner will be included (at the very least there will be snacks).
  • They are free to attend, although you should still sign-up via the meal booking system to give catering an idea of numbers.
  • It’s a great way to find out more about what your friends and fellow Somervillians are getting up to, and they are strongly encouraged.
  • Dress code is casual.

Subject Dinners

  • Each subject area (English, Engineering Science, Maths, etc) will, once a year, have a formal dinner to which all the Somerville undergrads, postgrads and staff in that field are invited.
  • They are free to attend.
  • Keep an eye out for these (they take place in Hilary Term) because they are sometimes not advertised well.

Other Special Events

  • Freshers Dinner a (free) formal dinner for all freshers held early in Michaelmas term, there is a drinks reception beforehand.
  • Michaelmas Dinner well its only fair that the non-freshers get a free meal too! Only they can sign up to this dinner held at the end of Michaelmas term.
  • Burns Night a normal guest night with a Scottish theme to celebrate Robert Burns
  • Foundation Dinner when we celebrate Somerville, expect lots of red and black (even the food!)
  • Halfway Hall (2nd-year undergrads only; these people being halfway through their degrees)
  • Supervisors Dinner, a Formal Hall that is free if you invite your supervisor along
  • Leavers Dinner, a Formal Hall to celebrate members who have finished their degree. 

Informal Hall

Of course, all the above is in addition to ‘regular dinner’ (informal hall). More information about that can be found here.