The Dining-In

The dining-in is one of the more common ways to celebrate Saint Barbara's Day. It involves only field artillerymen and selected guests. It is a formal dinner with strict rules of conduct. Two persons -Mr. President and Mr. Vice-control the progress of the dinner. This type of celebration is an excellent way to gather field artillerymen together socially and build on the camaraderie of a particular unit. What's more, the formality of the dining-in underscores the significance of Saint Barbara's Day. There are, however, a few disadvantages associated with this format. It doesn't involve spouses and, unless strictly controlled, can be counter­productive.

The History of the Dining In

Most authorities agree the custom of the dining-in started a very long time ago. Some contend it can be traced to the monasteries of early England. Others maintain the practice originated among the Saxon nobles of 10th Century England. Origin of the present custom probably arose in the British Army, where the dinner is still held regularly and is prescribed in the Queen's Regulations.

Throughout the years, the custom of dining-in has accumulated fascinating and enduring traditions. Some British regiments do not stand and drink when the King (Queen) is toasted, for they are "above suspicion." They have so distinguished themselves that they have been excused by Royal Order from the symbolic proof of loyalty represented by drinking to his (her) health. The British Royal Navy toasts the King (Queen) without standing. The story is that a future King, attending a shipboard dinner, struck his head on a low beam when the toast was proposed. Upon becoming King, he excused the Navy from standing during the toast. One regiment passes around a fine solid-silver trophy filled with champagne from which everyone drinks. The trophy was captured from the personal coach of Joseph Bonaparte at the Battle of Vittoria in 1813. The trophy was the King's chamber pot.

The practice of dining-in ceremonies by United States Army units apparently originated with Washington's Continentals who, despite their aversion to anything that suggested Redcoats, fully realized the value of these occasions in the promotion of pride of service, high morale and loyalty. While such colorful customs never were established in the United States Army, European customs were generally followed.

The Army points with pride to the Gary Owen Cavalry Regiment as the first recorded unit to conduct a dining-in ceremony. The Air Force notes that General of the Army H.H. Arnold preceded his famous Wing-Ding affairs with a rigidly formal dining-in. The association of the Army Air Corps with the Royal Air Force strengthened and established greater uniformity for these affairs, as did the spirited camaraderie with the Royal Canadian Air Force. The Navy and Marine Corps have established their own formal mess occasions that observe many of the rituals and formalities of the dining-in ceremony.

In the old days, before World War I, the Officers' Mess flourished, particularly at the turn of the 20th century. Small posts across the country developed rigid rules of formal dining. The meal was opened by the arrival of the senior officer. Everyone present wore dress blues, or in the summer, whites. During the 1920s and 1930s, no officer would have thought of entering the Army-Navy Club in Manila in the evening unless he wore mess jacket or whites. If an officer appeared late, a formal apology was expected of him before he took his seat. In those days, the formal military dinner was strictly a man's world.

Since the United States has been a vast land of diverging customs and sociological paradoxes, no dining-in rules were universally adopted.

The dining-in is recognized as an occasion where ceremony, tradition, and good fellowship play an important part in the life of the Army/USMC officer. It provides an occasion for officers to meet socially, enjoy a ritual military meal, hear speakers of distinction, discuss subjects of military or national importance and honor those in their midst who have achieved notable accomplishments.

Common Elements

Although all celebrations are different, there are certain elements common to most of them:

  • Receiving lines
  • Toasts
  • Reading of Legends
  • Inductions

These are important activities and should be included when appropriate. The procedures listed below are essentially the same for all types of celebrations.

Receiving Lines.

Planners must give receiving lines special consideration. Many people tend to shy away from receiving lines. Such discourteous actions occur because many people don't know how to conduct themselves in these situations. Planners must do whatever is necessary to educate those who will attend.

Receiving lines usually are located near an entrance and are kept as short as possible. The first person in the line will be an individual whose sole duty is to announce the names of the guests. This person doesn't shake hands or carry on conversations. His job is merely to introduce the arriving guests to the next person in the line. The subsequent members of the line receive guests. Normally, commanders are asked to do this, but it can be a distinguished guest or whoever is sponsoring the function. Other distinguished persons complete the line. As couples approach the line, the man moves to the right of the woman, so she is ahead of him, and states the woman's name to the first person in line. The aide, or whoever is acting as the introducer, then turns to the first dignitary and introduces the woman. The dignitary shakes her hand and says something similar to, Good evening, _______ , nice to see you. A reply on her part is appropriate. After the woman has been introduced, the man introduces himself to the aide. He then follows the same introductory procedure. Remember, extended conversation has no place in a receiving line. It may be useful to have several junior officers positioned close to the end of the line to direct guests away after they have completed the introductory process.


Toasts are a traditional element of the dining-in and dining-out. They also may be incorporated into other celebrations. More often than not, toasts using wine occur after dinner, but toasts early in the program are appropriate. Planners must decide in advance the subject of each toast and the person who will present it. The toasts should be practiced before the celebration so each presenter knows when and how to give his particular toast. The presenter can be anybody in the unit, but a junior officer often is asked to give at least one toast. Toasts may be made to the President of the United States, the United States Army, the division, the regiment, and the unit.

When guests from another country are present, the commander or highest official of the host country proposes a toast to the head of state of the guest's country. When more than one foreign country is represented, the host may present a collective toast to all heads of state naming them in the order of the seniority of the representatives present. To this collective toast, the highest-ranking foreign officer present will respond on behalf of all by proposing a toast to the health of the host nation's head of state. Finally, a toast should be given in the name of Saint Barbara.

The proper procedure for guests to follow during all toasts is to take the toasting glass and hold it at waist level. When the toast is proposed, repeat the subject of the toast, raise the glass to eye level and then take a drink. For example, when the President of the Mess says, Ladies and gentlemen, The United States of America, celebrants should respond, The United States of America, and take a drink. Remember, no toasts other than those listed in the program should be offered.

The Field Artillery Commandant encourages the following Toasts:

“Ladies and gentlemen, please rise”

“Toasts are now in order”

All rise and remain standing until the conclusion of the toasts. Hold port glasses in the right hand.

“I propose a toast to the United States of America”

All drink the toast and say “The United States of America”

“I propose a toast to the President of the United States”

All drink the toast and say “The Commander in Chief”

“I propose a toast to the United States Army”

All drink the toast and say “The United States Army”

Ensure to toast sister service if applicable

“I propose a toast to the Field Artillery”

All drink the toast and say “The King of Battle”

“I propose a toast to Field Artillery Soldiers past and present”

All drink the toast and say “Field Artillery Soldiers, past and present”

“I propose a toast to our fallen comrades”

All drink the toast- there is no response.  Remain standing and silently observe the fallen soldiers table ceremony.

“I propose a toast to Molly Pitcher”

All drink  “to Molly Pitcher!”

“I propose a toast to the Patron Saint of the Field Artillery”

All drink the toast and say “Saint Barbara”

Reading of Legends.

Reading the legend of Saint Barbara is an important part of every celebration.

Such readings may be included as part of a ceremony for the Orders of Saint Barbara or may occur earlier in the program. There is no established rule about who should read the legend, but whoever does should practice. A good legend will include historical information and the symbolic importance of Saint Barbara.  The Legend of Saint Barbara that is located on the FA Traditions Page contains all the information a planner needs.


Inductions into the Orders of Saint Barbara and the Artillery Order of Molly Pitcher are traditional parts of most celebrations. They require proper planning and coordination to ensure flawless performance. A narrator should first read the legends to set the stage. Then he should call the recipients forward individually to receive their awards. Before the actual presentation of the award, the narrator may read a brief biographical sketch about the recipient. The awards presenter should be the senior Field Artillery officer present or other knowledgeable high-ranking official. Either the narrator or the presenter should read the citation while the audience stands. The narrator and presenter should practice the ceremony beforehand.

The Protocols

As at any formal affair, celebrants at Saint Barbara's functions should act with decorum and sobriety. The following list of protocols won't make celebrants experts on etiquette, but it should increase their understanding of what should occur during the evening's activities. There is no need to memorize the procedures, but celebrants should take the time to familiarize themselves with the general outline. Remember, the standards of protocol are important ingredients at this formal celebration of dedication and professionalism.


Dress for the celebrations should be Black Tie. Some Chapters of the FA Association authorize the wearing of red bow ties, suspenders, cummerbunds, and socks. This means military personnel should wear the bow tie with one of the following uniforms:

Army Service Uniform,  Army Blue Dress Mess Uniform

For civilian guests, the appropriate attire will be the tuxedo or formal gown.

Toasts to Saint Barbara.

There may or may not be a receiving line at the celebration. However, as celebrants enter the foyer of the club, they should render the traditional toast to the statuette of Saint Barbara. Each participant should take a glass of punch, raise it to eye level and say something to the effect of ... " To Saint Barbara." The celebrant should then drink the punch quickly and move into the appropriate bar area, thereby letting others render their respects to the Patroness of the Field Artillery.


Cocktails will be available before dinner. No further drinks should be ordered after assembly is sounded.


Protocol dictates that conversation should be light and of short duration. Participants should move around and talk to as many other guests as possible. Military celebrants should give special attention to civilian guests.


Although there will be place cards on every table, celebrants should consult the seating plan in the cocktail areas before entering the dining room. Having reached the dining area, each celebrant should stand behind his or her chair. The President of the Mess will instruct the mess when to be seated.

Head Table.

Tradition requires use of a head or speaker's table. The presiding officer, President of the Mess, sits in the center with the most distinguished guest at his right. The next most distinguished guest is on his left, and so alternately across the head table until all are accounted for in order of relative rank or importance. It is customary for all guests to sit at one table.

Initial Ceremonies.

At the beginning of the celebrations, a color guard will post the Colors. During this presentation, all celebrants should face the head table. Toasts will then be offered.

Points of Order.

Mr. Vice will entertain points of order from the floor

The Meal.

Because the head table will always be served first, celebrants may eat as soon as they are served.

Final Ceremonies.

Before the induction ceremony, an honor guard will present a saber commemorating the Sword of Dioscuri's. At the end of the celebration, the honor guard will sheath the sword, and the color guard will retire the Colors. During all three events, celebrants should stand and face the head table.

Suggested Program

Ceremonial Firing of the Cannon

Introductory Sequence

Ruffles and Flourishes

Opening of mess

Posting of Colors



  • “The United States of America"
  • "The President of the United States"
  •  "The United States Army"
  • “Sister Service if applicable”
  • ''The Field Artillery"
  • "Our Fallen Comrades"
  • “To our ladies”
  • "Saint Barbara"

Identification of honored guests

Meal Sequence

Comfort Break

Respects Sequence

         History of the Field Artillery

         History of Saint Barbara

              - Story of Molly Pitcher at ceremonies where spouses are present

Awards Sequence




Guest Speaker Sequence



        Memento Presentation

Concluding Sequence

         Retiring the Colors

Suggested Agenda for the Dining-in

1830-1900 - Bar Opens for early arrivals

1900-1950 - Senior Field Artillery Officer and guests arrive and receiving line operates

1950-1951 - Bugler sounds Assembly

1951-2000 - Participants move into ballroom

2000-2001 - Bugler sounds mess call

2001-2020 - Colors posted, invocation and introduction of head table

2020-2021 - Mr. Vice served meat for his official sampling

2021-2050 - Dinner Served

2050-2105 - Dinner Served

2105-2120 - Fifteen-minute comfort break announced

2120-2121 - Bugler sounds assembly

2121-2125 - Toasts

2125-2130 - Mr. Vice pays respects to Saint Barbara and Field Artillery

2130-2145 - Orders of Saint Barbara and Artillery Orders of Molly Pitcher Induction Ceremony

2145-2150 - Senior Field Artillery officer introduces guest speaker

2150-2205 - Speech

2205-2210 - Colors retired