The Soirée

The purpose:

The purpose of the Soirée is to experiment with designing a dining experience that uses etiquette, courtesy, and honor to facilitate deep, transformative conversation on challenging subjects.

The experience:

The host will often theme the evening discussion around an essay, topic, book, poem, or some other piece of literature. If it is less extensive than a book, then prior to the date of the event, we ask that you first read it to yourself, then read it aloud to another person, and also have it read aloud to you. On your honor, if you have not thusly read it three times before the date of the event, please recuse yourself from attending. Also, if after reading it you decide you do not wish to engage in an in-depth discussion of the themes therein expressed, please do recuse yourself. If a book is the subject in view, the host will provide alternate expectations for preparation (such as key passages to ensure are read).

An Academy Soirée draws from many different cultural traditions both old and new. If you follow along, you will catch on quickly, though there is a learning curve. To assist in mastering the etiquette appropriate to the event, here is a brief overview of what to expect.

Introductions: A key rule which significantly impacts the encounter between participants is that each person should refrain from asking “what do you do?” or other occupation-related questions of each other. Also, restrain yourself from introducing yourself through your vocational identity if possible. After the final leading toast is given, everyone is free to discuss each other’s occupations, but until then, the focus should be on the given theme.

Table: The table is the place we partake together and the experience as a whole. By inviting you to this event, we are inviting you to our table, and all that implies. The table unifies us and creates community.

President/Tamada: The person selected to preside over the table and orchestrate the experience. Before anyone addresses the table in a toast, they ask the president, who then chimes his glass and calls the attention of the table to them. The president may say, “To you the table” to another guest, and thereby hand the president’s role to them until they return it. The president is not always the same person as the host.

Formal Toasts: An address to the table. A toast has the goal of competing with the other toasts for eloquence and edification, connecting the theme, previous toasts, and previous conversation to the following conversation and toasts. A toast is introduced by the president’s chime and cry of, “attend!” The speaker then introduces their toast with an acknowledgment of their inspirations, follows up with the body of their reflections, and then summarizes their toast with a short phrase beginning with, “I propose a salute to:” (Note: most conversation will not take the form of toasts, but will be punctuated and guided by the toasts.)

Leading Toasts: Toasts by the president, guiding the flow of responding toasts and general conversation. Leading toasts are generally broad in theme, allowing for specificity in the responding toasts. A quality leading toast will be framed such that everyone at the table can salute to it despite diverse perspectives.

Responding Toasts: Toasts given to narrow the focus of the current theme introduced by a leading toast and explore some particulars of it. An example would be a leading toast to motherhood in general, and a responding toast to one’s grandmother and her influence. A quality responding toast will be framed from the individual’s own perspective, and never directly against the perspective of another guest such that they would not be able to salute to it.

Saluting: The response to a toast by all the others present at the table, consisting of stating, “Tibi victoriam!” or “To you the victory!“, followed by clinking one’s glass with at least two others, and drinking. A guest may decline to salute by respectfully nodding in acknowledgment and returning their honor glass to the table without drinking from it and without clinking. Saluting indicates support for the actions which would result from the given toast.

Honor glass & common glass: Each place has two glasses: ideally, a taller stemware and a shorter mug or tumbler. The tall glass is the honor glass, is filled with wine or some alternative beverage, and is used exclusively for toasts. The short glass is the common glass, is filled with water, tea, coffee, or another ordinary beverage, and is used for drinking between toasts. It is inappropriate to toast or salute from an empty glass, and if the alternative is the common glass, that is acceptable.

Attire: Semi-formal evening attire (i.e. more formal than usual for a dinner, but not black tie). A suit coat and button-up shirt for gentlemen, and a tea-length or floor-length gown for ladies, is appropriate. Jeans are not.

Cost: When there is a plate cost indicated for a Soirée, that is the average donation needed to cover the costs incurred by the host. You may donate directly to the host via cash or whatever means is indicated as convenient by them. Drink costs are typically covered by the attendees themselves.

Timing: People often ask if they need to stay the full scheduled time. The timing of each event is variable because each is a unique experience shaped by the attendees, but we have found 3 hours to be the ideal length for a quality Soirée.

The Soirée tradition is derived from a banqueting tradition from the Republic of Georgia called a supra, which considers 5 hours to be short. A proper supra is often 12 hours or more, so time efficiency is not a priority there! The Soirée is modified and trimmed down considerably, yet 3 hours still goes by fast.

That said, a supra is structured such that traditionally people drift away progressively towards the end, rather than at a defined stopping point, so it doesn’t radically disrupt the flow if someone has to leave early. We have had a few people who needed to leave at 1.5 hours, and it worked out fine. Those who do will miss out on part of the experience of course, but it won’t break the context.

Therefore, we encourage people to stay the full 3 hours (and after) if they are able, but we understand and honor the need to honor other commitments as well.

A few other helpful etiquette tips:

Keep your honor glass raised when anyone is toasting until the toast is completed (as you are able). Do not salute a toast without drinking at least a sip. Stand when giving a toast, but no one else needs to except for particularly solemn toasts where the one giving the toast specifically asks all to rise for it. No one else may speak while a toast is being offered, though light remarks and comments in response can be appropriate. Fully draining one’s glass is a sign of deep respect and a hearty amen to the toast.

KEY: We are all learning the etiquette of the Soirée together, so there will be many blunders as we fail our way to excellence. We believe the essential pillars of true etiquette are Elegance, Discretion, and Order, and that true etiquette is the ordering of common behavior within community to beautifully facilitate connection and a focus on the noblest parts of our authentic selves. (Read more on our values here.) We are here to aid each other in replacing shame with honor, rather than mar dignity with contempt.


The host of an evening should ensure the space for the event is private and quiet, with minimal disruptions. The environment has an active role. Thought should also be given to the seating arrangements – guests should not seat themselves however they will. It is the responsibility of the host to direct them or to provide name cards to guide them to their place. The President will always sit at the head of the table, with the highest ranking Academian opposite them at the foot. The host, if at neither of these positions, will be seated at the left hand of the President, with the right hand as the highest place of honor granted with intention and choice. If married couples are in attendance, they ought to be seated across from each other if possible, rather than next to each other, in most cases. Ladies and gentlemen should alternate places when possible. The host should treat these considerations (and others they observe as important) as constraints within with a work of art is formed. The aim is a carefully structured arrangement leading to high-quality conversation.

The Symposium

The purpose

The purpose of the Symposium is to introduce intentionality into communal gatherings. Activities serve the primary goal of connection, whether dancing, swordplay, reading essays, storytelling, board gaming, or gardening.

The Experience

The host will invite guests to their house in a casual atmosphere without dress code or cost. A specific activity focus is chosen in advance which includes everyone as participants. Drinks and snacks are provided (an optional potluck may precede a Symposium, as well) – glassware and stoneware are selected in favor of plastic disposables. An evening time is typical, but not mandatory.

The evening begins with light socializing and mingling, with introductions guided by the host. Once all guests have arrived, the host opens the Symposium with a Chime and commences the chosen activity. Around an hour before the commencement of the Symposium, the activity should wind down and transition into conversation, with drinks in hand.

The flow of conversation should be punctuated by toasts. These do not need to be directed by a President, as there is no formal table, but still perform the function of elevating a portion of the conversation with purpose and eloquence.