An Eagle Scout Court of Honor (COH) is a ceremony used to honor young men and women who’ve managed to attain Scouting’s highest rank. When I earned my Eagle rank, I held an Eagle Court of Honor — and you likely will too! In this guide, I’ll be walking you through 6 simple steps so that you can be fully prepared to hold an Eagle COH of your own!
How is an Eagle Court of Honor planned? When planning an Eagle Court of Honor, the new Eagle Scout’s family often handles the venue, invitations, and reception. However, troop leaders and the Eagle Scouts themselves help to plan and script the ceremony. An Eagle Scout’s friends, family, and supporters should all be invited to their COH, as it’s truly a celebration of one’s Scouting journey.
PS. This article is based on the experiences and research of Eagle Scout, Kevin A and Cole 🙂
When it comes to Eagle Courts, troops often handle things differently. During the regular Court of Honors in some troops, there’s a dedicated portion set aside to celebrate scouts who’ve received their Eagle Rank. For others (including mine and Cole’s!), an entirely separate and special Court of Honor is held to exclusively celebrate a single scout (or multiple!) who’s reached the Eagle Rank.
It’s up to each Troop to decide whether they want to hold a special Eagle Court of Honor. However, in my opinion, you should definitely hold one, if possible! Reaching the Eagle Scout Rank is an immense achievement, and while there’s no problem awarding the rank during a regular Court of Honor, this is a great opportunity to celebrate a very special milestone with your Troop, friends, and family!
In some cases, Troops may not have the manpower or funds to hold a complete Eagle Court of Honor. However, Eagle Courts of Honor don’t have to be that elaborate or costly! They could even be as simple as holding a short 30-minute ceremony where the new Eagle Scouts have a chance to speak about their time in Scouting and be recognized.
For more info, you should check out my other article where I’ll be giving you a ton of creative and engaging Court of Honor ideas! (in progress)
So, if you’re wanting to learn about how to hold an Eagle Court of Honor, you’ve come to the right place! My Eagle Court of Honor was one of the greatest experiences of my life and, in this article, I’ll be sharing my own story so that you can get a better idea of what an Eagle Court of Honor might look like!
Feel free to put your own twist on things as you plan your own Eagle COH. Really, the ceremony can be however you’d like it, as long as it upholds the values of Scouting. Now, with all that being said, below are the basic steps for planning most Eagle Courts of Honor:
- Set a Venue, Date, and Time
- Send Invitations to Eagle Scouts’ Friends and Family
- Develop a Program and Script
- Gather Props and Supplies
- Plan the Reception
- Rehearse the Ceremony
Clicking each of the above steps will allow you to jump to the related section of this article (to make things easier for you 😉 ). Now that you know what we’ll be covering, let’s dive into learning how to actually prepare for your own Eagle COH!
Eagle Scout Court of Honor Planning Timeline
There’s a lot of preparation that goes into making sure an Eagle Court of Honor is a magical experience. In the steps I’ve detailed below, you’ll be learning what needs to be accomplished first, the timeframe it should get done by, plus the other COH planning steps that you can save for later on down the line. Time for step one:
1) Set a Venue, Date, and Time: 2 Months Prior
A crucial first step is to decide on a venue, date, and time to hold your Eagle Court of Honor. After all, you can’t have an Eagle Court of Honor without a location to hold the ceremony!
Eagle COHs are typically held outside of regular troop functions, and often take place during a Friday or Saturday evening. When selecting your venue, date, and time, it’s important to consider locations and dates that most of your friends and troop will easily be able to show up for (after all, a scout is courteous).
This venue, date, and time should be agreed upon by all of the Eagle Scouts who will be honored at the ceremony. The date should be relatively far out into the future (at least 1 month out is ideal) so that the Eagle Scouts and their troop have time to prepare.
The choice of venue is up to the Troop, but the easiest location to hold most Eagle COHs is to rent out space from the organization your troop is affiliated with. My troop typically met at my church, so we simply reserved the gymnasium that they owned! Other possible venues could be spaces in local community centers, or even outdoor venues.
2) Send Invitations to the Eagle Scout’s Friends and Family: 1 Month Prior
Since an Eagle Court of Honor is such a significant moment in one’s Scouting career, I’d recommend sending an invitation to everyone who’s supported you over the years. These invites should contain the date, time, and location of your ceremony. They can be physical invitations that are mailed out or e-vites that are sent via email.
Letters of commendation tip: If you’d like to obtain a letter of commendation from a public official, be sure to reach out at least 1 month before your actual Court of Honor date so that they have time to reply.
It’s important to get your invitations out as quickly as possible so that people can start marking their calendars sooner rather than later. I’d recommend sending them out a month beforehand, at the latest.
It’s a good idea to ask guests to RSVP beforehand so that you know how much food and supplies to order (This will save you a ton of money and headaches, trust me). I’d recommend either making a Facebook group or using a google form to do this. In your invitation, include a link, phone number, or return address so that they can contact to confirm their reservation.
Unless you’d really like them to be, your Eagle COH invitations don’t need to be too elaborate. In my Eagle Court of Honor invitations, the only things I included were the date, time, location, RSVP link.
In your invite, I’d also recommend leaving a little note saying not to worry about bringing an expensive gift. I’ve found that sometimes non-Scouting people get confused about this, so it might be best to clarify that all you’d really like from them is their attendance (This is what I did for mine and it worked well)! 🙂
3) Develop Your Eagle COH Program and Script: 3 Weeks Prior
An Eagle Court of Honor program is usually a pamphlet or nice sheet of paper that’s delivered to attendees through their invitation, once they RSVP, or upon arrival to the actual COH. Your program should provide a good description of what the Eagle COH will be like, and can be customized to suit your own tastes.
Having a Court of Honor program agenda will help guests of the Eagle Scout to follow along with what’s happening during the event. Plus, a well-made Eagle COH program can even serve as a valued keepsake item in the future! (In fact, I’m using the original program from my Eagle Court of Honor to help write this portion of the article) 🙂
Below, as an example, I’ll be walking you through my own Eagle Scout COH program! These programs were distributed to each attendee upon their arrival and were formatted as a brochure. When creating your own Eagle COH program, feel free to change the components up as needed. As every journey to Eagle is different, you should create a program that best suits yourself and your troop!
Components of an Eagle Scout Court of Honor Program
- The date, time, and location of the Eagle Scout Court of Honor
- The order of events for the ceremony, as well as a list of who will be leading each aspect.
- A list of the Eagle Scouts (or scout) who will be recognized
- A short description of the Eagle Scout Rank and the significance of reaching it.
- A short biography of each of the Eagle Scouts who are being recognized.
- A list of all the past Eagle Scouts in the Troop, listed alongside the year they each earned their own Eagle Rank.
- A list of adult leaders who are involved in the Troop and a list of the scouts in the Troop, with their ranks listed as well.
Eagle Scout Court of Honor Scripts
You should always follow some sort of pre-planned script when running an Eagle Court of Honor, even if that means borrowing one that your troop has used in the past. If you need some inspiration, here are a ton of example Court of Honor scripts that you can adapt to fit your own ceremony!
Keep in mind that an Eagle Court of Honor is usually a long ceremony, so both the speakers and the master of ceremonies (MC) will need to have a detailed outline of what’s going to be said, when. I’d recommend printing at least 3 copies of your script (one for the podium, one for you, and one as a backup/keepsake) so that you’ll be prepared if someone accidentally walks away with the main copy.
Some parts of an Eagle Court of Honor script are more necessary than others. In the list I’ve included below, I’ve bolded the most important items that should be included in any Eagle COH script!
- Opening Remarks and Presentation of the Colors
- The Pledge of Allegiance
- Eagle Court of Honor Special Ceremonies
- The Eagle Charge
- Presentation of the Eagle Award
- Eagle Project Resolutions from Eagle Project Beneficiaries
- Letters of Commendation
- Eagle Scout Speeches
- Scoutmaster’s Minute
- Closing Remarks and Retiring of the Colors
Now that you know the components for a successful COH, you should check out my other article for a detailed walkthrough on how to run each of these sections during your own Eagle Court of Honor!
4) Gather Props and Supplies: 2 Weeks Prior
To hold your Eagle Court of Honor, in most cases you’ll be using the same supplies as a regular Court of Honor, plus a few extra items. At least two weeks before your ceremony, I’d recommend meeting with your Scoutmaster to assess what supplies your troop already has, and which ones you’ll need to get.
The list below should give you a good idea of props and supplies that are generally used during an Eagle Court of Honor (I’ve bolded the supplies that someone will most likely need to purchase):
- Flags and Flag Stands
- Items for the color guard, honor guard, and flag bearers
- Podium for Speakers
- Seating for the Audience
- Ceremonial props, decorations, and scout memorabilia
- Candle Holders
- Eagle Court of Honor Scripts
- Photos from your time in Scouting
- Something detailing your Eagle project
- Candles (you’ll probably want to to buy nice new ones, beforehand)
- Sign in and contact sheet (For thank-you notes)
- Eagle Scout Award Kit (sometimes purchased by the troop, other times by the Eagle Scout’s family)
- Decorations for the reception (like Scouting-themed banquet supplies)
- Food for after the event (Catering is usually paid for by the Eagle Scout’s family, hence the RSVPs)
- Eagle Scout Portraits (with a surrounding frame for visitors to sign)
This is just a general list, so I’d encourage you to do some critical thinking to decide what’s needed at your own ceremony. Begin writing your list of supplies out at least 2 weeks before the actual event.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night, days before the ceremony, realizing that you forgot something! Planning your props in advance and writing out a clear list will give you time to get fully prepared. 🙂
5) Plan the Reception: Around 1 Week Prior
After almost every Eagle Court of Honor, there’s a reception held which includes light refreshments. Your Eagle COH reception is a great chance to chat, reminisce, and celebrate with your guests, friends, and troop. I’d recommend drinking some coffee, as most Eagle COH receptions run long and are a ton of fun!
In most cases, Eagle COH receptions are catered with different food options. However, it’s also possible to organize your reception in a potluck style and request that everyone contributes something. You should clarify your reception plans and expected timeframe when sending out your invitations/after receiving the RSVPs so your guest can plan to attend.
Here’s an idea: For my Eagle Court of Honor Reception, we all ordered cakes to celebrate our Eagle Scout Award. They were decorated with the colors on the Eagle Scout Badge, and had a special flavor: guava! This is a completely optional idea (and a little expensive), but it was a really fun and memorable way to celebrate! 🙂
6) Rehearse the Ceremony: Within 1 Week of Your Eagle COH
A few days before holding your actual Eagle Court of Honor (or even the morning of), a rehearsal should be held so that any kinks can be smoothed out. Since an Eagle Court of Honor is a formal ceremony, all speakers should be well aware of what they’ll need to be saying, when, well before the event takes place.
While you don’t need to hold a full-on dress rehearsal, you should check out the venue ahead of time to get a good idea of where your props will be set up. Additionally, it’s a good idea to send each speaker a copy of the Eagle COH script (with their sections pointed out) a few days in advance.
I’d recommend that everyone playing a role in the Eagle Court show up an hour or two before the event to go over their parts. Flags should be checked over, and candles secured so that everything can run smoothly later on. This your chance to use what you’ve learned in Scouting to make sure your Eagle Court of Honor goes off without a hitch!
Now that you know all the steps that go into planning an amazing Eagle Court of Honor, it’s time to see how it looks in action! The video (48:41) below provides an awesome example of how a smooth Eagle COH should be run. I’d recommend skipping through it while paying close attention to the beginning and ending:
While there are a lot of steps that go into planning an Eagle Court of Honor it’ll all be worth it when you see the new Eagle Scouts receive their Eagle Awards. As an Eagle Scout myself, I was immensely appreciative of all the work that was done in helping me share this achievement with all of my family, friends, and troop!
Now that you know how to plan the Eagle COH, it’s time to learn how these events are actually run! In my next article, we’ll be going over a Sample Eagle Court of Honor Agenda. Thanks again for reading, and congrats on your upcoming Eagle rank! 🙂