Mess Dinner

The Mess Dinner is one of the most important traditions of the Canadian Forces (CF). Historically, the mess dinner was the time, after working hours, when members sat down for dinner with their CO. It was the custom of the day when every officer lived in the mess and officers were required to dress for dinner. The Mess Dinner was a result of the rules of gentlemanly conduct.

A Mess Dinner is considered a formal parade requiring all unit members to attend. Dress, time of assembly and other details are specified. To enjoy the formality of the setting, immature or offensive behaviour is not tolerated. The President of the Mess Committee (PMC) ensures that a high standard of decorum is maintained. The official host is normally the senior officer of the organization. The guest of honour is escorted to the mess or met at the entrance by the official host. The official host and the guest of honour are met by the PMC, who will introduce both to the members of the mess.

The use of a head table dates back to the time when military units were full of single officers and the mess was their home. The CO wanted to ensure all members were in attendance and observe their behaviour. The head table was established with other members of the mess placed at tables extending out from the head table like arms, permitting the CO to see everyone. The loyal toast differs among elements within the CF. The actual toast is the same throughout the CF; it is a toast to The Queen of Canada.

The PMC (aka Master of Ceremonies), will ensure that a high standard of decorum is maintained, if necessary by expelling any member whose behavior is unacceptable. No one may leave the dining room without first obtaining permission from the PMC. Traditionally a mess dinner member (cadet, staff, sponsor) may NOT do any of the following without the permission of the PMC, whatever his or her rank:

  • come in late and sit down at the table
  • leave the table or return to it after being permitted to leave
  • read or write (passing notes)
  • start eating before the PMC or the head table
  • use coarse language or tell off-colour stories (no swearing or telling rude jokes)
  • discuss political, religious or any other controversial issues
  • propose a toast on your own initiative

You may think that there are too many rules as to what not to do but there are still many things that you can discuss with those who are sitting around you and they do ensure a good dining atmosphere of relaxation, courtesy and interesting conversation.


  • Be punctual
  • Use conduct that displays respect
  • Upon entering the mess take your place behind your chair and remain standing
  • When the senior guest arrives, all shall rise as a form of courtesy
  • If you are late, make your apologies to the senior guest and the President Mess Committee (PMC)
  • You may NOT leave the table during dinner without prior permission from the PMC (Therefore you know what to do before dinner!)
  • Keep elbows off the table
  • Spread napkin on your lap (do not tuck it into your tunic)
  • Do NOT eat with your fingers
  • Do NOT make noises when you are eating
  • Watch your posture and ensure that you are 6 inches from the end of the table


  • C-8 formal dress (Tunic, White Dress Shirt & bow tie, or C-2 regular uniform if you do not have C-8.) See Illustrated References
  • Wedge not required
  • For those not in uniform, please wear formal (business) attire (suit or blazer)

#3 Squadron and #11 Corps hold a Combined Mess Dinner. Each unit takes turn organizing this annual dinner. Cadets may be asked to alternate dinning places, army, air, army ... The Strathroy Legion is the preferred venue, if available. The Br116 Ladies Auxiliary are the caterers. When the Legion is used, REMEMBER, do not wear head gear (wedge, turban, beret) in any branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. Do not use a cell phone during the Mess. Turn cell phones off.


Traditionally, diners were expected to remain at the table throughout the meal, regardless of duration and the possible effects of consuming beverages with each course. Despite the inevitable cautions to remain in place by those who delight in seeing others in discomfort or embarrassing situations, diners who must leave the table for urgent reasons should do so, so raise your hand, without saying a word, and wait for the PMC to acknowledge you. Then politely ask for permission to leave the table. Ask for permission to return to the table, as well.

Indication that a dinner is officially over is given by the PMC standing up until noticed by all members.