Protocol for ceremonies

Learn about official seating arrangements and speaking order for events and ceremonies.

How to organize a program for an event or ceremony

The speaking order for an event hosted by or including provincial officials can be determined using the Alberta Order of Precedence.

Order of Precedence

Normally speeches are given in ascending order, with the most important dignitary being the last to speak. The ribbon cutting, unveiling of a plaque, or opening of a building normally comes at the end of the speeches.

If the program for the ceremony or activity places the important moment at the very beginning, the speeches would then be given in descending order, with the most important dignitary being the first to speak.

For an event hosted by or including federal or international officials, speaking order may be determined by another order of precedence.

Table seating

Hosting a formal dinner which includes government dignitaries or high-ranking officials may seem daunting. The following "Dinner Plans" may be useful to you; the Alberta Protocol Office will be pleased to assist you further if you have particular questions. All formal dinners have their own particulars, so the following are suggestions which you should adapt to your own needs.

Please contact Alberta Protocol at: ProtocolGeneral@gov.ab.ca. To help us respond to your inquiry, please include your name, email co-ordinates and postal address and other contact information as appropriate.

Dinner plan

Reception

A reception allows time for all guests to arrive, and provides them an opportunity to be introduced to each other prior to dinner. A reception should last for a designated length of time which has been communicated to the guests. A reception of a half-an-hour is quite usual.

It may be appropriate to provide refreshments during the reception. These should be light fare and compliment the dinner menu that is planned.

Once all guests have arrived, the reception may be concluded. Guests would then be invited to proceed to the dining room.

Seating Plans

Guests may be seated according to a seating plan you have prepared in advance, and for formal dinners this is recommended. Name cards may be set at each place at the table to assist your guests.

If the head table guests are to enter separately after others are seated, prior to their entry the Master (Mistress) of Ceremonies (M.C.) may identify him/herself. An M.C. may speak from his or her place or at a designated spot.

The M.C. asks the guests to stand for entrance of the Head Table guests.

Note: Head Table guests should proceed to the Head Table in the order in which they are to be seated at the table. The Protocol Office will assist you with the seating plan for the Head Table should you require assistance.

Optional: Having a piper play bag pipes for the entrance of the head table guests at formal dinners is quite common in Canada, and your head table guests can be piped in if you so wish. If you do pipe in your head table guests, a round of applause at this point is appropriate to show appreciation for the piper.

Optional: Guests are asked to join in the singing of the National Anthem.

This is appropriate if you have musical accompaniment, or the anthem may be sung a cappella.

The National Anthem should not be applauded.

Grace

Once everyone is at his/her assigned place the M.C. invites the designated person to say grace. Such a request should be made in advance so that that person may be properly prepared.

If there is a member of the clergy present, the privilege of saying the grace should be given to him/her. However, it is good form to request that person to say grace before proceeding to the dining room.

After grace is said, the M.C. invites guests to be seated.

Introduction of the Head Table Guests

If desirable, this would be an appropriate time for the M.C. to introduce the Head Table guests.

Note: The Protocol Office will be pleased to assist you with the order of introduction.

Pre-Dinner Remarks If there are to be pre-dinner remarks, they should be made now before dinner is served. In some circumstances, these remarks before dinner may be in the nature of welcoming remarks, and the appropriate reply by the guest of honour. The M.C. will invite each speaker to bring remarks, and thank the speakers for their remarks.. If a gift is to be presented to the guest speaker it should be done now. At the conclusion of the remarks (and presentation if it occurs) the M.C. can invite everyone to enjoy the dinner.

Note: The Alberta Protocol office will be pleased to assist you with determining speaking order.

In some circumstances a guest speaker will bring his remarks after dinner. (See below)

Dinner is served

Loyal Toast (Toast to Her Majesty The Queen)

If there are to be toasts, they can be given after dinner, or at an appropriate place in the programme. However, toasts should not precede dinner. The "Loyal Toast" should always be the first toast of the evening. The M.C. asks the designated person to give the Loyal Toast; that person invites all to rise; once everyone is silent the toast "The Queen, La Reine" is made, with no preliminary or following remarks. Please note: guests do not clink glasses. Afterwards, everyone is seated. For the traditions of the Loyal Toast, see below.

Dessert is served

Guest Speaker(s)

If there are after dinner remarks, each guest speaker is introduced by the designated person prior to the speaker's remarks.

The next guest speaker is introduced and proceeds with his/her remarks as above.

If a gift is to be presented to the guest speaker (and/or flowers or a gift to his/her spouse or personal guest) this should be done at the conclusion of the speaker's remarks. If there is more than one speaker, gifts may be presented once all speakers have concluded their remarks.

Then, you should follow one or the other of the following scenarios:

  1. The host or a designated person should thank the guest speaker(s).
    Then the M.C. thanks the guests for participating and the dinner adjourns.
     
  2. The M.C. thanks the guest speaker(s), and then thanks the guests for participating and the dinner adjourns.

Important reminders

No colour guard at dinners.

Flags should be in place behind the head table prior to the event.

Summary of suggested dinner program

A summary of what is noted above is outlined below. You may wish to include this information in your printed programme:

  1. Entry of Head Table Guests
  2. National Anthem
  3. Grace
  4. Introduction of Head Table Guests
  5. Pre-Dinner Remarks (if any)
  6. (Thank you to the Guest Speaker. If he /she is not speaking after dinner)
  7. Dinner
  8. Loyal Toast
  9. Dessert
  10. Introduction of Guest Speaker.
  11. Address or remarks by Guest Speaker
  12. Thank you to the Guest Speaker(s) and presentation of gifts.
  13. Adjournment
  14. Music by: XXX
  15. Master of Ceremonies: XXX