The perfect Burns Night supper

Burns suppers may be formal or informal but they must always be entertaining. We take a look at the ceremony of Burns Night.
Burns night supper
Traditional Burns night plate of Haggis, neeps and tatties.

The only items which all Burns night suppers have in common are haggis, Scotch whisky and perhaps a poem or two.

Formal dinners often do not allow ladies to be present. Those that do may occasionally end in a céilidh. However whether they are single sex or not, the formal suppers follow a standard format which is as follows.

Burns night supper – The welcoming speech

The host says a few words to welcome everybody and the guests take their seats. At this point the Selkirk Grace, a Burns poem will be read;

“Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Entrance of the Haggis

Everybody must stand as the haggis is brought in. At larger suppers, the haggis will be led in by a piper. The haggis is laid on the table and the host reads Burns’ Address to a Haggis.


Whisky is poured on the haggis and the haggis is then served with neeps and tatties – mashed turnips and potatoes.


The best single malt whisky is served for a long round of toasts as follows:

  • The Loyal Toast: A toast to the monarch or president
  • Immortal Memory: A toast to Rabbie Burns, often including the reading of some of his poetry
  • Appreciation: A toast to the host
  • Toast to the Lassies: An amusing and flattering toast to the ladies in the room
  • Reply to the toast to the Lassies: A toast by a female guest to the men in the room

Toast to the Lassies

Works by Burns

After the meal and toasts, some of Burns’ poetry will be read and discussed and some of his songs may be sung.


After some Scottish dancing, the host and guests will formally thank each other for the evening.

Before leaving, everybody will stand up, join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne, bringing the evening to an end.

More about Burns night

Read our selection of Burns Night recipes

Who was Rabbie Burns?

How do you feel about Rabbie Burns? Wil you be celebrating Burns Night?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below.

Tags: Last modified: January 25, 2022

Written by 10:12 am Food & Drink