Burns Supper Format

  Burns Supper Format  

Burns Supper Running Order

Although, many believe that Burns Suppers which traditionally take place every year on the 25th of January, should be conducted in the old conventional way, today Burns Suppers take on many different forms, styles and varieties, ranging from formal gatherings of dedicated Burns fans and academics to informal parties which feature a more modern or unusal twist to the celebrations. The majority of Burns Suppers sit somewhere in the middle, following the basic guidelines of the night, but also the host's personal taste and unique character.

There is a traditional ritual followed by many Burns Suppers but only three absolutely essential elements:

  • Burns himself, in a toast, a poem or a song,
  • haggis or some other great Scottish food or drink and
  • hospitality.

All the rest is up to you and your imagination!

How to get it 'traditionally' correct!

  • Piping in' of the top table guests (if the event is of significant size) The night begins with the sound of the bagpipes and the audience welcoming the guests by standing and clapping in time to the music.
  Piping in the haggis  
  • Chairman's Welcome
    The host welcomes everyone and introduces the top table guests and entertainers.
  • The Selkirk Grace
    The meal commences with the recital of Selkirk Grace, which is actually the prayer read aloud before the meal and goes like this:
Some hae meat but cannae eat.
Some hae nane but want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit.'
  • Parade of the Haggis
    This time the guests are the ones who stand to welcome their legendary haggis, by clapping their hands slowly, while the piper leads the chef to the top table.
  • Address to the Haggis
    This is a threatening moment for the haggis, which is about to be stabbed by the chairman after he pronounces the last words it will ever hear: The 'Address to the haggis'!
'His knife, see rustic labour dicht
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight'


The address should ideally be accompanied by some gestures to give a hint to those who are not familiar with the poet's language and be followed by the guests toasting the haggis with whisky.

The Bill o' Fare (menu)
  • The Bill o' Fare (menu)
    A typical Burns' night menu would typically comprise of:
    • Cock-a-leekie soup, an old Scottish recipe,
    • the main course of Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties and
    • a sweet course of Tyspy Laird (sherry trifle)
  • The Immortal Memory
    This speech comes in many different types, ranging from smart and humorous, to literary and historical, but the main point is to praise Burns as a great man and poet and invite everyone to toast to his immortal memory.
  • Toast to 'the Lassies'
    This toast aims to outline the importance of women in the life of the poet and in ours. It is given by a male guest in thanks to the women who have prepared the meal. The speaker invites all men to stand and toast 'To the lassies', in a complimentary or funny tone, however he should be aware, as the lassies are the ones who have the last word!
  • Reply to the Toast to the Lassies                                                                                           A woman will stand and reply to the previous toast, (hopefully) thanking the speaker in an amusing way. She might also make a reference to Burns' women and life.

  • Closing poems and songs
    Favourite poems and recitations which usually follow are "Tam o' Shanter", "To A Mouse" and "Holy Willie's Prayer". Finally, the night ends with everyone joining hands and singing "Auld Lang Syne".


Useful links;

How much haggis will I need: View our Burns Supper Ready Reckoner.