Courts of Honor are an essential and exciting part of everyone’s Scouting journey. If you’ve never attended one, a Court of Honor is a ceremony in which Scouts are honored for their achievements, whether that be merit badges or a new rank (except for new Eagle Scouts, who have their own Eagle Court of Honor).
One of the best elements of every Court of Honor is that Scouts get to plan and organize it themselves. This can be a daunting task if you’ve never planned one before, but it’s also an amazing opportunity!
PS. This article was written by Eagle Scout, Chandler M, and edited by Cole 🙂
In this guide, I’ll walk you through my tips for how to plan your own Court of Honor the easy way so you’ll have a fun and successful event. 😀 Here’s a handy table of contents if you’d like to skip to the section that’s most relevant to you right now!
- What is a Court of Honor?
- Planning a Court of Honor
- Choosing a Location for a Court of Honor
- Scripting a Court of Honor
- Decorating a Court of Honor
- Getting Scout Participants for a Court of Honor
- Rehearsing a Court of Honor
- After a Court of Honor (Potluck!)
What is a Court of Honor?
If you’re new to Scouting, you may not be aware of what a Court of Honor is and all it entails. A Court of Honor is a ceremony in which Scouts receive their rank advancements, as well as their merit badges.
Scouts can receive any rank except for Eagle at the Court of Honor. During these events, Scouts will be separated by their new rank and receive the new badge from their advancement chair, SPL, or Scoutmaster.
Parents are encouraged to attend Courts of Honor so they can participate in their Scout’s achievements. A rank up or handful of merit badges earned is a big step in any Scouting journey and something to be extremely proud of!
Why Are Courts of Honor So Important?
To some Scouts, a Court of Honor can seem like a long, drawn-out ceremony that takes up their entire evening. I was once this Scout and I had a period where I rarely attended a Court of Honor. I later discovered what makes these events so special!
Not only is your troop celebrating the ranks and merit badges of those who have earned them, but they are also celebrating all that every Scout has done to make Scouting great. This is a wonderful time to reminisce on fun trips, interesting merit badge classes, or just spend some time with your fellow Scouts.
It is really meaningful to your fellow Scouts that you attend a Court of Honor, even if you haven’t earned anything. Showing your support is part of the Scouting spirit. You want your fellow Scouts to know that their friends – not just their parents and mentors – are proud of their achievements.
“Court of Honor” is really just a fancy way of saying a Scouting celebration. While there are serious moments where you should be quiet and respectful, the point of a Court of Honor is to recognize and celebrate your fellow Scouts. The intent is to have fun while congratulating others on their achievements.
How Often Should A Troop Hold Court of Honor?
A Court of Honor should be held 4 times a year, at most, and is not something to plan monthly. You want to give your fellow Scouts time to earn ranks or merit badges before you hold a celebration. Since the goal is for a Court of Honor to be a big ceremony honoring lots of Scouts, you’ll want to leave time for achievements to be made.
In my troop, we typically held a Court of Honor every three or four months. This way, we’d have about three or four Courts of Honor throughout the year, pretty evenly split apart. Scouts could then plan around when the next Court of Honor should be so they can earn their ranks and badges in time!
How To Plan a Successful Court of Honor
For the most part, each troop Court of Honor is going to run similarly. There are a few variables that can change but you’ll likely be following the same script your troop has been using for years. Be sure to use others who have planned Courts of Honor as a resource, and don’t be afraid to ask your Scoutmaster for help.
In this section, I’ll walk you through each step in the Court of Honor planning process. Most Courts of Honor will look similar every time, but there are a few decisions you should make if you’re planning the ceremony. You should also learn from your experience with prior Courts of Honor and incorporate this into your own ceremony.
Pick a Location, Time, and Date
Picking the where and when of your Court of Honor is one of the most crucial steps. Not every Court of Honor has to be at your troop’s meeting location. You can pick a park, a community center, or whatever else comes to mind.
My troop had some of our Courts of Honor at our meeting location, but many times we picked other spots. One of the most frequent locations was our local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post. The veterans were very welcoming of Scouts and it allowed us to get out and show our achievements to others.
You’ll want to coordinate this information with your advancement counselor and your troop 1-2 months ahead of time. This allows Scouts to prepare for the upcoming event and your advancement counselor to finalize any badges or ranks that are still pending.
Announcing upcoming Courts of Honor at your regular meetings is the best way to make sure attendance is high. Make sure you announce it every week before the event so it stays fresh in everyone’s mind. you should also send out an email or pass out flyers to every parent so they have the info on hand.
Prepare a Script for Your Court of Honor
Having a script will ensure your Court of Honor runs smoothly. At nearly every Court of Honor, the MC will say pretty much the same thing. In my troop, we typically used the same framework each time we held a Court of Honor:
- Presentation of the Colors
- Scout Oath and Law
- Welcoming the Scouts and their families
- Rank Advancements
- Merit Badges
- Scoutmaster Minute
- Return the Colors
If you’re in charge of the next Court of Honor, check with past MCs or Scout leaders to see if you can use the script they used for their presentation. If there’s one available, make sure you practice it with someone who has already held a Court of Honor.
If you’re starting from scratch, I’d encourage you to check out the video (14:20) below for a great example of what your Court of Honor could look like.
If your troop doesn’t have a script that they always use, the Scouting website has some scripts along with helpful suggestions to make your Court of Honor a success. This is also a fantastic script that’s very similar to the one used in my troop. Make sure you practice reading through your script aloud before holding the event.
If you’re expecting a lot of Scouts to earn a new rank at the upcoming Court of Honor, you may want to look into personalizing the ceremony for each rank. In this resource, each rank has its own typical ceremony, with a few small differences to encourage those Scouts to continue their journey.
How To Set Up and Decorate A Court of Honor
Some troops like to use props for their Court of Honor, while others may not. There are many troops who incorporate a candle-lighting ceremony as part of giving Scouts their new ranks. Even if your troop doesn’t add anything like that to their ceremony, there are other things to consider:
- New badges: If there are going to be Scouts receiving ranks or merit badges, you’ll need the badges to present to them! This is something you’ll need to coordinate with your advancement chair.
- Neckerchiefs: In my troop, once a Scout reached First Class, they were awarded a new neckerchief. This is another thing you’ll want to discuss with your advancement chair.
- Chairs: This may sound like a no-brainer, but you don’t want to be stuck without enough seats. If your ceremony is outside, ask Scouts and families to bring camp chairs if there will be nothing else available.
- Flags: Every Court of Honor has a color guard, so you’ll need to have your flags ready. Make sure someone, if not you, will be able to transport them to your venue of choice ahead of the ceremony.
- Podium: If there’s not one already, your MC will require a podium in order to read the advancements to the audience. If your venue is not where your meetings are held, ask to borrow and transport your troop’s podium for the event.
- Snacks: Snacks are not always required but can be nice if you’re planning on having a longer ceremony. Cookies and drinks are always a good choice, but make sure you talk to your Scoutmaster before purchasing anything.
- Decorations: These are not always necessary but can add a nice touch to your Court of Honor. If you’re expecting a lot of Scouts to be receiving ranks or badges, you may want to consider talking to your Scoutmaster about décor.
There are definitely more things that your troop could need, but these are typically what you’ll find in most Courts of Honor. Make sure you ask around to find out what others brought to past Courts of Honor and make a list.
A Scout is prepared. A Court of Honor is one of the last places you want to show up unprepared. At my first Court of Honor, I arrived without my full uniform. While it wasn’t the biggest deal, I did stick out like a sore thumb! Double-check that you have absolutely everything you’ll need before leaving for your Court of Honor.
Learning from how others planned similar events is probably the best way to make sure that your Court of Honor goes smoothly. Older Scouts like your SPL, or even Scoutmasters, are also a fantastic resources you should consult with, as they’ve likely attended quite a few Courts of Honor by now.
Get Other Scouts Involved
A Court of Honor is not a one-person assignment. For every Court of Honor, you’ll need an MC, the color guard, and a few helpers to distribute badges and set up the event. If you’re tasked with planning a Court of Honor, get the rest of your patrol involved.
Having others participating in the planning of your Court of Honor is going to ensure that it runs smoothly. With the people who have volunteered (or been voluntold 😛 ), practice how your Court of Honor is going to run before the main event.
Make sure you take suggestions from other Scouts as well. They may have some useful ideas on how to make your presentation more efficient, or give you some tips on speaking publicly. If you can, try to get one older Scout on board to walk you through the process.
Rehearse Your Court of Honor Ceremony
Organize as many practice sessions as you need in order to feel confident when the Court of Honor takes place. Anyone who has volunteered to participate can also be included in the rehearsal, but you’ll want to go through the script a few times by yourself.
I’ve already mentioned this a few times but I cannot stress the importance of rehearsing your ceremony enough. While a Court of Honor is much less formal than an Eagle Court of Honor, you’ll want to sound prepared and professional.
Ask a Scout leader for any suggestions on your rehearsal performance. They may have some constructive criticism on how you can improve when the event actually occurs. Don’t be afraid of criticism as it is meant to help you improve, not put you down!
Plan a Potluck Ahead of Time
If you’re looking to get a lot of engagement during your Court of Honor, I would suggest planning a potluck. This is more than just a couple of snacks for those who waited until the end — a potluck is a wide array of food from everyone who attended to create a magnificent feast! 😀
If this sounds like something you want to incorporate into your planning process, talk to your Scoutmaster first. You’ll also want to check for food allergies and restrictions within your troop so you know what foods to avoid.
This was always one of my favorite parts of a Court of Honor. Being able to relax after the ceremony with my friends and eat more than I probably should were some of my fondest Scouting memories. I was able to get to know some of my Scouting friends better and build relationships I otherwise wouldn’t have had.
Next, brainstorm a list of easy but delicious dishes that families can bring. You don’t want everyone bringing the same thing, so having a list of dishes that people can sign up for is a great way to diversify your options. Make sure to stare signing people up around a month before the event, and send out reminders at the 1-week mark.
Finally, you’ll want to come prepared with plates and utensils. This sounds like something you shouldn’t ever forget, but I know from personal experience that it can happen. Your quartermaster should be able to help you with this.
If you’re looking to go all-out, catering isn’t a bad option. Many restaurants, at least in my experience, will give you a reduced price on catered food for being a Scout. I once was able to get food from a local chicken chain nearly free because it was for a Scouting event!
In Closing – Wishing You An Amazing Court of Honor!
Planning a Court of Honor may seem like a big undertaking, and sometimes it can be. But this doesn’t mean you should stress over every detail! Courts of Honor are still meant to be fun, celebratory events. Even on the official Scouting website, it’s encouraged for Courts of Honor can take on many different forms.
Plus, small hiccups will likely go unnoticed. If you know you’ve made a small mistake, roll with it. Parents especially will never notice if you’ve fumbled a couple of words or done something out of order. The only big mistake you can make is to dwell on a little fumble and let the slip become a slide! 🙂
I’ve messed up during plenty of presentations. It happens and it’s nothing to get stressed out about. My strategy is just to act like nothing happened and, typically, no one will notice. People will always notice if you stop and need to start over. The best thing you can do is just roll with it.
The more confident you act, the less people will notice how nervous you may be. The old trick of “imaging everyone in their underwear” definitely works in times like these. It may make you feel more at ease, give you a quick laugh, and make your presentation more entertaining.
Remember, this is a time to celebrate you and your fellow Scouts as they make achievements through their Scouting journey. Everyone in Scouting knows that this is a learning experience and no one is perfect. The best thing you can do is not stress yourself over planning a Troop Court of Honor, and you’ll be sure to have a great time. 🙂
If you found this article helpful, you may also be interested in reading another one here:
- 7 Fun Scout Meeting Ideas to Engage and Strengthen Your Troop
- The Essential Camp Packing List: A Scout’s Trek Gear Checklist
- 67 Epic Scouting Quotes To Keep Scouts Prepared And Inspired
- A Brief History and Timeline of Scouting
- Advance Fast in Scouting (5 Rank-Up Keys To Earn Eagle Quickly)
That’s all for this article. Until next time, I’m wishing you some incredible Courts of Honor, and an epic Scouting journey ahead!