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A Burns Supper

Organising A Burns Supper

The Hotel
Anyone undertaking the organisation of a Burns supper should begin arrangements as soon as possible. It is never too early to book the hotel, speakers, accompanists and the piper. Inspect a few hotels; most will have some experience of catering for a Burns Supper, whether large or small scale. ASk for a quotation from each, for the cost of the function suite, including a separate reception room for the top-table guests, dinner and any drinks served as part of the proceedings. Most good hotels will be able to offer you various menus for a Burns Supper and be prepared to negotiate prices. Haggis does not have to be part of the main course, it can be served as a replacement for the traditional fish course. Details you will need for the manager are: the approximate length of the evening, how formal the style, and a rough idea of numbers. At this stage you should also discuss various dates available at the hotels before contacting the speakers.

The principal speech is 'The Immortal Memory' and whoever delivers this is largely responsible for the success of the evening. Contact your local Burns Club or The Burns Federation about finding a good speaker. Once the speaker has been decided upon, after a meeting to access their talents, the club Secretary should then write inviting them to speak. You should give them a brief resume of your club, its history and an outline of the tone, style and hopes you have for your dinner. The other speakers who deliver 'The Toast to the Lasses' and 'The Reply' are invited to take part some six to eight months before the event. At a later time it would be a good idea to put the speakers in touch with one another to stop any duplication of material. It should be agreed at an early stage just how long each speech should be. The 'Immortal Memory' should last approximately 30 minutes and the other two speeches a maximum of ten minutes each. It is customary that an invitation to speak includes a supper invitation for the speakers partner.

The Clergyman, Singers, Accompanists, Readers and The Piper
The clergyman, singers, accompanists, readers and the piper are also invited guests at the feast. They should be contacted as soon as possible and their part of the evenings entertainment explained.

The question of fees for speakers and performers rarely arises within Burns club circles, only occasional traveling expenses being necessary, but in the larger world professional speakers and performers would normally be paid for their services

Follow-up Plans
Once the arrangements for speakers, performers and hotel have been agreed and confirmed in writing, they should be contacted again to remind them of their commitments. Final briefings should be given.

Everyone involved in the evening will need to be advised about dress. At a Burns Club Anniversary Dinner, guests at the top table wear evening dress, while the other guests dress informally. This is a good rule to follow, but there is nothing to prevent other guests from wearing evening dress if they choose, and at some large formal dinners it is compulsory for all. It is often requested that everyone wear an item of tartan.

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Invitations, Tickets, Programs
. Apart from the speakers and performers, local dignitaries are usually included. Tickets are sold to members, friends and visitors and there is no maximum or minimum number for a Burns Supper. Before working out a ticket price you must take all the expenses into consideration. Tickets and programmes do have to be printed. The programme should include the menu, or bill of fare as it is called and a list of the speeches, speakers and performers. A programme for each guest, to keep as a memento of the occasion should be displayed on the table. Invitations to the dinner are issued by the club Secretary

Seating Plans
The top-table party consists of the Chairman, the speakers, the minister, other specially invited guests and local dignitaries along with respective husbands and wives. They gather in a separate reception room as the party must be arranged in order before leaving to be piped into the main dining room. It is the job of the Secretary to ensure that the party are formed into a procession and arrive at the table in order. The only set rule for seating order is that the proposer of 'The Immortal Memory' sits on The Chairman's right side. A table plan is also needed for the guests at the Supper.

Final Arrangements
A week before the event visit the hotel once more to discuss with the manager any details that you may have overlooked. This will give you a chance to see the function suite. Double check table layouts.

The Press
A short press release should be sent to your local newspaper, with notes on speakers and performers.



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