College formals are an essential aspect of Cambridge life. These take place in the candlelit halls of each college, and are great for good food and good company.
There are 31 colleges making up Cambridge University, and each holds at least one formal each week. Each college’s formal is unique. For example, most colleges require the students to wear gowns, but a few have dropped the tradition and don’t require the gown. Some formals have extra cheese and snacks served after the main meal (I think, I haven’t experienced this personally). Some even plate the food in front of you rather than giving you the whole dish at once.
Usually, a formal consists of an appetizer, main dish, dessert, then coffee or tea with a mint. Before starting the meal, the senior fellow of the college says grace, and after the main meal, there’s usually a second grace, and the fellows depart hall.
Below is a photo of all the Caltech Cambridge exchange students this term right before a formal at St. John’s! Phones aren’t allowed while the master and fellows of the college are present, but we managed a photo inside after they left.