Hi friends! Today we’re talking about one of my favorite subjects… food! Specifically- food, your wedding, and your vendors. Even more specifically, feeding your vendors this food that I speak of. :) All joking aside… whether or not you have to feed your wedding vendors might be one of your lingering, unanswered questions, and while the answer is quite simple (yes!), there are some particulars that you may want to think about as you come to your conclusion.
The short, simple answer is… YES. But perhaps your wedding is a bit more different from normal weddings. Or maybe you’re not sure who exactly to feed. So I’m going to try to provide some insight and answers to any additional questions that might come up when it comes to feeding your vendors.
Image via Ashton Events
Who should we feed?
Do you work for 12 hours without eating? No, right? You have a lunch break, maybe have a snack somewhere along the way. Well, vendors have things way differently when they’re “at work”… aka at your wedding. A vendor who is in attendance throughout your whole wedding should absolutely be fed. Now, a floral designer who is only there setting up during the day, before your wedding, they don’t need a meal because they won’t be there during your reception. But your photographer, DJ/band members, wedding planner… ANYONE who is a vendor and who is there during your wedding reception– they should be fed.
Shouldn’t they be responsible for feeding themselves?
Well, I suppose the politically-correct answer would be yes. Because you feed yourself at your job, right? However, you really don’t want your vendors going off for 30 minutes to an hour to find food, as they would during a “normal” word day, do you? Now, often times vendors will bring a sandwich or protein bar juuuuuust in case they don’t get an actual meal. But really, providing them with a meal during your reception is the polite thing to do. :)
What should they eat?
This is the age-old question. (Honestly, I think the venue or caterer should insist upon providing the vendor meals free of charge- and meals that are the same quality that your guests are eating. Because really, it’s free marketing for them.) Alas, it’s a rare occurrence that a vendor gets the same thing the guests are eating. The all-too-common vendor meal is a sandwich with chips or a cookie. I mean, I love me a good sandwich, but it’s kind of a kick in the shins when I’ve been staring at the delectable-looking steak and sea bass meal for the last hour. However, some brides are insistent upon their vendors getting the same meals as their guests. And let me tell you- it’s always a very nice and pleasant surprise for them! If you’re having a buffet, making sure that your vendors are included in the count is a great option. If you’re having a plated meal- well, you know what I think about that. But it’s of course ultimately up to you- any food is better than no food at all!!
Images by Hunter Ryan Photo
When should they eat?
This is a question that can be kind of up in the air, since every wedding’s timeline is a little different. However, it’s always a good idea for your vendors to eat while you and your guests are eating. There’s usually not too much happening in which the photographer would have to capture photos or your DJ would have to emcee anything. Try real hard to make sure they eat during that time, because if they don’t, they might not get a chance to eat the rest of the evening! It also helps to let your caterer/venue know that you want your vendors to receive their meals during guest dinner time.
Where should they eat?
This is another one that’s up in the air, because it’s dependent on the vendor, what kind of wedding you’re having, your space, etc. I know some photographers who actually have it written in their contracts that they need to be seated at a guest table, in an effort to still be present during dinner so they won’t miss anything. I myself put my vendors at their own table in my reception- they loved it! But if your vendors don’t care where they eat, it’s best to have them eating in a location that is close to where your dinner is taking place. Being up 2 floors and down a big long hallway (aka 5 minutes from your reception) is not the best idea. Usually a venue will have an extra room close to your reception where they will put the vendors’ meals- ask them if they have a recommendation.
Alright, so I think that covers the “long answer” in regards to feeding your vendors. Hopefully this answered any of your lingering questions about this little tidbit- it’s something that often gets forgotten in all of the hustle and bustle of wedding planning. (But I do still maintain that venues and caterers should definitely use vendor meals as an opportunity to market themselves for free to other vendors!)
If you have any other questions about feeding vendors- perhaps you’re having a different type of reception or a special circumstance- feel free to ask in the comments!!
This post was originally published June 21, 2012.
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27 responses to Do We Have To Feed Our Wedding Vendors?
This blog post is total win. Photographers, videographers are on our feet running around, literally, for 99% of the day, and by the middle of the reception we will be hungry, sweaty, and thirsty.
A warm meal is always appreciated :)
Thank you for clarifying all this Lauren, I certainly appreciate it and agree with all your points :)
Yes! Agreed! Avoid the unsightly chewing photos and prevent us from having low-blood-sugar-shakey-cam for the rest of the evening.
I agree you don’t want anyone working for 8-10 hours without a meal, but the vendors aren’t deducting any of their fees for their lunch/dinner break. like was mentioned, i work an 8-9 hour work day, i don’t get paid for my lunch, and i certainly don’t have my lunch provided. now if i have a photographer & a dj, that’s 2 meals. My venue charges whatever for their meal, say $100 if they are eating what we are eating. Now, the photographer has an assistant along with them, and instead of a dj, we have a 5-8 piece band. So now we are talking up to 10 extra meals., at $100 meal that’s an extra $1,000 (or the way I even see it, 10 more friends/famly I could have afforded) where is the cut off? feed them all? ask the caterer for a cheaper plate of food? in the beginning of this process, i had assumed that venues did feed the vendors. now with all the information out there, i see that isn’t the case. and in choosing the venue, we were careful to keep that in the amount of guests we could afford, if we have to add extra “non-guests”, we would have to take off our guest list.
We certainly do not want to offend anyone by not providing a meal,, and if we aren’t going to would it be best to let the vendors know that ahead of time?
Great advice! To be honest, I’m surprised that people don;t know this. Remove the wedding part and you have the question: should I feed my employees when they’re working a 8-10 hour shift and cannot leave the premises to get their own food? It becomes much clearer then, no?
Caterer weighing in here: providing the same menu to vendors is easier for us than doing a second menu, so hey, win-win! :)
Thank you so much for this post Lauren!
@Donna – check with your venue to see about vendor meals. Although, I agree with Lauren that the best thing to do is to provide the vendors the same meal as your guests, I realize it’s not always possible for reasons like you stated. But a vendor meal is still better than nothing and usually offered at a much lower cost. Also, sometimes band members/DJs prefer to eat before everyone gets to the reception (since they are usually playing some kind of music during dinner and hence are working). I’ve known brides who have bought subs for the band that they ate before everyone arrived. There are ways to cut costs (if you have to) and still provide your vendors a meal.!
As a photographer, I have it in my contract that I am to be fed at the reception. There’s just no way for me to do my job adequately without having food provided. And if I’m not provided a meal, then the client must be prepared that I will leave the premises to go find food. and if I miss a photographic opportunity, well, that’s unfortunate. But that’s when I refer back to my contract.
You have the flexibility in your job to go take a break… Vendors will be working 8 hours or more (my team and I average 10-11 hours per day) on their feet… It’s really important for them to get some sustenance. Most venues actually won’t charge you as much for vendor meals (even if it’s the same exact meal as the guests – silly but true). Like Ashley I write my meals and those for my team into my contract – every vendor I know (photographers, videographers, DJs) does as well. This means that if you don’t provide the meals as stated in their contract, you’re actually in breach of contract and they could leave (they probably won’t – most vendors aren’t spiteful – but then again being shaky and thirsty is not a good feeling). Feeding your vendors is one of the most important professional courtesies you can extend to them; while it’s true that you don’t get a paid-for meal at your job, you’re also probably not working for as long a stretch on your feet without a break (and if you are, your boss is probably in violation of some law!). Please don’t forget your vendors!
I have been in the situation of working 11 hours as a photographer at a wedding and I wasn’t offered any food at all (Even when a bridesmaid brought bacon rolls in for everyone during the preparation :( )
In the end I asked the caterers for some food and they gave me a plate of sandwiches, which really wasn’t enough given I had skipped lunch too, so I went into the kitchen and helped myself to a plate of whatever was left after service!
You make the point very well in your piece – I am fine if you don’t want to pay for a meal for me, as long as you are fine with me heading off site for an hour to find a meal nearby…
Personally I don’t have it in my contract as I prefer a personal approach, but that is just me.
Great input Lauren! Love your posts like always!!!!!!!!! :) I have to say… I think it’s funny because the only place we ever got just a sandwich was at one of the most HOITY TOITY and EXPENSIVE venues in town where as all the others were so gracious and offered us the good stuff!!! Haha. :)
Brilliant post. Lauren! We get asked this all the time – this is a wonderful summary.
Brides need to make sure to check their contracts! Most vendors have vendor meals included in their contract, so it is important to read what you have signed! :)
Yes! It’s such a nice gesture to have your meal provided while you’re working. As a planner, I am there usually 10-14 hrs. I do pack snacks for me and my assistant, but that just isn’t enough usually and I can’t lug a whole well-balanced meal around with me (heat it up, sit and enjoy it) as I am catering to not only my clients, but also to her other hired vendors, every need. And I usually make sure all vendors there get a meal before I get mine as they are working just as hard for our client. Can you imagine your photographer carrying around all their camera equipment and a cooler so they can eat later? I have recently added it to my contracts as I have missed too many meals and we need the nourishment to keep lively and on par while we are making your wedding day better than you could have imagined. Kudos to those caterers out there that have made sure the vendors ate even when a meal was not provided… they rule!
Erica, you took the words right out of my mouth! Thanks for educating on this Lauren! Excellent information.
I’m getting hungry just thinking about this article.lol.
As a photographer I really appreciate it when a client orders a hot meal for me. Thanks for writing this article Lauren!!!
My favorite is when a venue throws a horrible vendor meal at me because me having a piece of chicken off the buffet is too expensive and then tells me they cannot wait to get some free photos to use from the wedding. Ummm… no? It amazes me that most of the venues cannot throw a hot meal at 3-5 vendors when they’re already making $100 per plate on the bride. It also amazes me when a bride doesn’t want to feed a vendor anything (even a sandwich) when she’s paying $100 per plate for 200 guests. I got married 14 years ago, and I made my photographer eat, and I made sure he was taken care of all night. Even now, many of my brides put me a table and on the seating chart without me even asking and some of the venues try to still make me eat in a back room. It’s just the strangest thing.
I would also like to add that it’s best to have the photographers eat when the Bride & Groom are eating, instead of after all the guests have gotten their plates. That way they are available to shoot when the B&G are finished eating, which is when things start happening again (aka toasts, sunset, etc.). Great article, and I especially LOVE the idea of Caterers not charging the couple for Vendor meals…brilliant!
It’s important to note that while it’s nice to sit for a few minutes, it isn’t really a break. Phoographers use that opportunity to rest our shoulders and feet, but we’re also replacing batteries, checking cards, and double checking the shot list. If we are present (at a guest table) we are popping up every few minutes to grab that photo your mom asked for or something unexpected that happens during dinner that you want documented as well.
I have nothing against a substantial vendor meal, but if you’re having a fancy event and I don’t have a chair, I end up eating out of styrofoam on the floor in the corner… Classy
As floral designers, we are always glad when a venue offers us water – especially if we’re setting up outside on a hot day (we’re in Palm Springs, so that’s often a REALLY hot day). But Lauren is correct, unless it’s some seriously hands-on decor that we need to stick around for, the pre-reception set up folks don’t need to eat.
Nice of your to put it out there for everyone! I normally coach my brides to order a vendor meal because it is less expensive for them. And, as a photographer, I build anything over 5 hours into my contract. As a vegetarian however, it’s difficult to get real nutrition and energy out of a vendor meal so I wind up bringing snacks and energy bars with me, just in case.
A fantastic Article Clarifying an often misunderstood topic! Having the Caterer include the food as a complimentary is a great way for the catering company to market their services! Great advice!
So glad that you posted this. As sitters that are hidden away in the room with the kids, we are often forgotten. Sometimes we’ll be provided with the same meal as the kids but majority of the time we aren’t given anything.
Usually, the alternative to your providing vendor meals is that your vendors need to have a long enough break to go and get their own meals. So if you want them to be there all day, you need to feed them.
Thank you very much for this article. As a musician who typically plays for ceremonies, cocktails, and dinner, this is very important to me. Often planners or brides don’t factor in the 2-4 hours of driving and 1-2 hours of gear setup and breakdown as part of our “just 2-3 hours of playing music,” time spent working for them, and think we are cheeky to ask for food, even as they will be eating in front of us! I’ve had a very embarrassing situation where the other vendors were fed and we were not – yet we were seated in the green room at a table next to these other vendors/organizers eating our nuts from our bags, and plain white bread and water from the caterer who pitied us, while they enjoyed a 5 course meal with wine. We couldn’t help but laugh at our bad luck as our stomachs were growling and our heads spinning, and I’m afraid it was uncomfortable for the others who were being treated so much better to watch us eat our scraps. Save everyone the discomfort and feed everyone! Thanks again for this article, I will use it as a point of reference for those who don’t know this.
How about a free meal to photographers in exchange of free shots of my food!
We’re having a small wedding (about 26 people) and only expect to have one vendor present during the reception-our photographer. Our guests will all be seated at one long table. Are we supposed to include the photographer at this table where everyone is close friends or family? Or do we have them eat somewhere else by themselves?
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