The "Dining In" is a formal social event involving Marines and their spouses or dates. Marines wear their finest uniform and ladies wear a long or short formal.
The evening begins with a cocktail hour, which is a time to mingle and get to know the other guests. At the appointed time, "Chimes" is sounded, and all except the members of the head table take their places in the dining area. Drinks are left behind, cigarettes are extinguished, and this is the time to use the rest room if necessary. (It's important to note that once the Dining In starts, there is no getting up to use the facilities until the President of the Dining In calls for an intermission. If you become ill and feel the need to leave, your Marine should address the President and ask permission for you to do so. No one may leave the dining area without the President's permission.) Everyone stands until the head table enters and the benediction is said.
At the opposite side of the room (from the head table), "Mr. Vice" sits at a table by himself. Anytime a Marine wants to address the President, he stands and asks permission from Mr. Vice, who in turn asks the President, who may acknowledge or deny the request. At no time will a spouse address Mr. Vice or the President or propose a toast. Before the meal begins, the beef will be brought forward, and the President will taste it to be sure it is "fit for human consumption." Appropriate wine is served with the meal. After the meal is cleared, port wine is brought to the tables, and all glasses are charged for the toasts. If you are a non- drinker, your husband should let Mr. Vice know in advance, so the waiter/waitress will know to bring you a non- alcoholic beverage. It is preferable not to use an empty glass or water for toasting. Usually the smoking lamp is "lighted" at this time, and cigars are passed to the gentlemen. The President may also choose to have a brief intermission to allow those in need "to shed a tear for the enemy" (go to the rest room).
The President may open the floor to fines, which can vary from uniform discrepancies to table manners. The President will levy a fine, which is paid to Mr. Vice. All fines collected go toward the bar bill at the end of the Dining In.
When the toasts are being made, it is important to pay attention to the President. If all are to toast, he will say, "Ladies and Gentlemen." If only the men are to toast, he will say, "Gentlemen." Normally, the only time one does not stand is when the toast is directed to them. For example, the President would say, "Gentlemen, to our lovely ladies," and ladies would remain seated. Another example would be, "Ladies and Gentlemen, to all Vietnam veterans," and all would rise except Vietnam veterans. The final toast is a traditional toast to "Corps and country." Before the toast, a special rum punch will be placed before each individual. It is customary, especially for the Marine, to drink all the punch and turn the glass upside down. If you are uncomfortable with this custom, remember that no one is staring at you to be sure this is done.
At the conclusion of the Dining In, the President will ask all participating to join him at the bar.
This function creates great camaraderie and a chance for Marines as well as their wives to get to know one another on a social level. The evening is very similar to the Mess Night, and will answer a lot of questions you may have as to what transpires at a Mess Night. We highly recommend that you make every effort to attend a Dining In when an invitation is extended. It's quite an occasion one you're sure to enjoy!
The Marine Corps' Dining In is equivalent to our sister service's (the Navy's) "Dining Out."
Information taken from the "Roses and Thorns A Handbook for Marine Corps Enlisted Wives" June 1990