Attending a black tie dinner

I was considerably nervous about attending Piers’ company annual dinner until I saw photos from last year’s dinner.

Although declared black tie, an atmosphere of fun can be detected from the photos. There’s a Laurel and Hardy impersonating duo mingling with guests, a Michael Jackson impersonator as the night’s entertainment, and there’s disco dancing. Many women wore simple cocktail dresses instead of formal gowns.

So I went to this year’s event thinking I was going to be overdressed. (I had bought my dress before seeing the photos.)






I know it’s a bit weddingy.

“Is this for your wedding?” my alterations seamstress had asked.

“Oh, you look gorgeous. Are you getting married?” the greeters at the dinner event had quipped.

“Great! You don’t need to buy a wedding dress anymore!” Piers had said.

What, can’t a woman wear a white dress to any occasion apart from her own wedding?




This year’s dinner was a lot more formal than I had expected. This year’s theme, unbeknownst to us, was Phantom of the Opera, so everything looked really grand and majestic.

It started with a cocktail reception at the lobby of the Leeds Town Hall, a magnificent Victorian structure that hosts concerts, screenings and other events.

I don’t have a good photo of it so I’m going to borrow one from BBC. Here’s an amazing photo taken by photographer Adrian Wilson:


Leeds Town Hall


The lobby is not very big so the cocktail reception got a bit cramped with over 200 guests who, fortunately, did not all arrive at once.


Cocktail reception


We were served a few different versions of champagne punch. I only had one glass because I didn’t want to get drunk.

And also because I was having a drink with Invisalign on for the first time and I was uncomfortable about it. But I couldn’t remove them too early because dinner was going to be a long affair and I had a four-hours-a-day downtime to adhere to.

Just my luck that my Invisalign sponsorship came the very year I’ve got all these cool events to go to.


Cocktail reception
Steve chatting with a pretty lady I don’t know.


Cocktail reception
Ellie and David!


Cocktail reception
Me and Piers!


The reception lasted about an hour or so, during which time the boys (meaning Piers, Steve and David) kept running off to the bar (within the town hall) to buy beers.

The beer addiction in men is more severe than I thought if they choose to pay for beer when there’s free champagne.

The doors to the dining hall opened around 8 pm, revealing the magnificent sight of an old Victorian theatre turned ballroom for the evening.

Candelabras bearing slender black candles graced each of the 22 tables that awaited us as we marched in to the thunderous strains of the Phantom of the Opera theme song resounding off a giant pipe organ.

The effect was beautiful, filling me with an overwhelming sense of grandeur and adventure.


The dinner setting


Giant pipe organ


Seats had been pre-arranged, each marked with a personalised name plate. On the inside of each name plate showed the menu items that each guest had pre-selected prior to the event. We were told by our table captain to place the menu face up so the service staff would know what to serve each of us.

There were six bottles of wine on each table that we could immediately help ourselves to.


Table setting


Name plate


The dinner itself wasn’t particularly remarkable, being just like any other dinner. We had a three-course meal which was surprisingly tasty. I don’t have photos of my food because I didn’t think it was too appropriate to demonstrate blogger behaviour in the middle of a posh meal.

Between our courses, there were speeches, awards presentations and performances. Well, it was just one long performance by a female soprano singing all the popular Phantom of the Opera tracks.

It was quite nice, except when she sang Angel of Music, the duet between Christine and Meg. I love the song, but our singer sang both parts herself and that’s just weird because it sounds like she’s talking to herself.

Duets shouldn’t be sung solo, unless you’re in the bathroom.


Soprano on stage


A nice thing happened when the singing started and everyone turned their chairs to face the stage.

As I listened, entranced by the music, a male waiter came up behind me and whispered gently in my ear, “For you, madam.”

I turned around and saw him holding out a single stalk of red rose, smiling gallantly. As I accepted it and gave my thanks, I noticed that every other lady in the room was either receiving the same or had already received it.


Me and Ellie


At the end of the dinner, the lights went out and the disco started. There were quite a lot of drunk people eager to show their stuff on the dance floor.

Piers isn’t really into dancing. Neither am I, especially when I’m wearing a dress that kisses the floor, threatening to trip me at every turn. And Ellie, being pregnant, had to return to the hotel. So we didn’t stay too long.

Final photo before we said our good nights:


The group
From left: Me, Piers, Steve, Charles, David, Ellie


The next annual dinner will be happening in April 2012 (this year’s dinner was delayed). If Piers sees fit to invite me again, I bet we’ll be having this following conversation some time in March:

Me: Time to shop for my new dress!

Piers: Why do you need a new dress?

Me: For the dinner, duh!

Piers: Didn’t you buy one last year?

Me: So? That was for last year!

Piers: Why can’t you wear the same one?

Me: ??!!!!?!!!!!??!!!

I leave you to imagine the rest of the strangulation conversation.