At some point in your time in the SCA, you will probably have a friend who will be made a peer of the realm for their service, artistry or martial skill, and the night before there is often a vigil for the person who is being elevated. A vigil is a very special event typically hosted by their friends or household. Those who are invited to visit the soon-to-be-elevated peer may come bearing gifts, sage advice, unique insights or shared pasts. They might come hoping to mend bridges, get the last word in a running debate, to laugh, to cry or to share some emotion in-between. All of this plays a part in making this a special evening that the candidate will long remember.
Because a vigil must come to an end -- sometimes with the setting of the moon, sometimes with the rise of the sun, and sometimes just because the candidate can't stay awake any longer, it's courteous of the visitors to limit the length of their visit. These days this is often 5 minutes. Five minutes may seem long before you sit down with the candidate, but it can go very quickly. Sometimes a clock-watcher pokes their head in during the visit to let you know there's a long line of visitors waiting and you've actually spent more than 5 minutes with the candidate. How quickly that times flies!
There will be many people who may wish to speak to the candidate at their vigil and who must wait their turn. Since ceremonies are often on Saturdays, the vigils are often on Fridays. The hurley burley of setting up camp, followed by finding the vigil, followed by waiting for each person before you to complete their visits might become too burdensome to get through if all the visitors take more than 5 minutes. Unfortunately, some people get on a roll during their visit and broach subjects that deserve more than 5 minutes. Despite this unique opportunity to spend with someone the night before their elevation, the vigil is not the place for delicate or complex subjects that deserve more time. If you need to spend a long time with an issue of great importance, make a dinner date with them and give it the attention it deserves. You should be able to greet, hug and give some meaningful advice in something less than five minutes ... really -- it can be done.
In five-minute increments, 48 people individually should be able to chat briefly with the candidate in four hours. Even more can visit the candidate if you can go together in small groups. Receiving couples or small groups during a vigil does not cheapen the wonderful experience of a vigil for a candidate.
There are unique vigils where visitors have more time because of the logistics involved - a time and place that aren't actually during an event, a remote site, a vigil held on a Saturday night, or one that is planned to really run until dawn. In these cases, the etiquette changes because the circumstances change.
I bring this up because over the years I have seen vigils spread from the Chivalry candidates to the Laurel and Pelican candidates. The invited visitors, who were once only the Royalty and Chivalry, may now include Laurels, Pelicans, Royal Peers, personal friends of the candidate and, in some cases, the entire populace. With the growing crowd of visitors, the vigils themselves have become bigger and more elaborate (and longer). The person minding the list of invitees may be too intimidated by the crowd of peers to try to hurry people who are taking more than a reasonable amount of time with the candidate. The sad consequences are that many people who may wish to speak simply cannot wait the excessive time because somebody ahead of them may be recounting their life story or may have delved deeply into philosophy.
I ask you to be considerate of the others who wish to pass on some words. After all, at a wedding no one should monopolize a bride or groom and it would be considered rude to do so. Please extend the same courtesy at a vigil.
---Viscount Richard of Alder Tree, KSCA, OP, et cetera