Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'
"Preceremony coffees" are a useful way to gather the official party prior to a change of command or retirement so you have an opportunity to brief them prior to the ceremony. About 20-30 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony, we usually break the principals participating in the ceremony loose and take them to a separate room where they receive their final briefing on their roles in the ceremony.
After you have taken the official party to the briefing room, you need to start transporting the remainder of the group to the ceremony site. Special guests first, then family members, then spouses of the official party. You need to send a protocol escort with each of these groups.
We start the preceremony coffee approximately an hour before the ceremony is scheduled to start and is limited to all the members of the official party and their spouses, family members, and other special guests (i.e., retired former commanders residing in the area.) (NOTE: As for funding, in most situations the outgoing commander will have to personally pay for the preceremony coffee.) We include a separate card in the invitation package to let these people know they are invited to the preceremony. We recommend positioning someone outside the door of the room to monitor arrivals and also have a "Private Function" sign posted in a prominent location.