Open thread: Will you feed your wedding vendors?

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Photo from Jacqui and Sam's wedding by Zac Wolf
Do you include your vendors in your head count for food? I ask because in my first wedding, I did not. And then my hired professional photographer got in line for the buffet and sat down with their assistant and ate. Should I be including my DJ, and some of the “hired help” in meal counts?

I can answer this as a former wedding photographer: Please, yes, include your vendors in the food-havings, if possible. I always packed a few snacks just in case my energy started fading, but a couple of granola bars can't beat a full meal after hours and hours of hard work, with more hours to go!

A lot of the times the venues actually had vendor meals — a much MUCH lesser version of the food everyone else was eating. But nothing makes your vendors feel like they're part of the event, and therefore want to go that extra mile for you, than when you keep their tummies happy.

That being said, what are all y'all planning (or did you plan) as far as feeding wedding vendors?

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Comments on Open thread: Will you feed your wedding vendors?

  1. My photographer explicitly asked that, as part of his fee, he would be fed. I would have offered that anyway, as he was stuck in the ballroom photographing the meal, and it would have seemed pretty mean not to include him in it. I figure that goes for basically anyone the marrying couple are requiring to be present during the meal–entertainers, coordinators, anyone who can’t really leave to go get a sandwich should be fed.

    An interesting wrinkle to this path is it makes you really think about the personalities of the vendors you hire–whether you’d be comfortable with them joining your guests for a meal. If the answer is no, maybe you really don’t want that person at your wedding at all. With our photog, I was pleased to have such a cool guy at our wedding, and sat him at a table with other similarly cool people so that they could enjoy each other’s company–he’s actually in some people’s candid shots of the night!

    • Yes! The personalities of our vendors was so important to us. Our videographer and his wife has actually become good friends of ours. We skype them every few months. I feel like my wedding day will be a really intimate time shared with our family and friends, and I cannot imagine having someone there who is basically a stranger.

  2. Our photographer has a section in her contract about an appropriate meal being provided for bookings over a certain number of hours. She laughed about it when we were going through the contract and said, “Yeah, you only make that mistake once!”

    We’re including all vendors and service providers who will be present in our head count: photographers, officiant, friend-who’s-DJing. The last thing we want is for our vendors to get hangry–it could get ugly.

  3. It is in the contracts for both my band and the day of planner. The day of planner will be with us for 12 hours and specified 3 meals in her contract. I assume they will be whatever we are all eating. The band asked for dinner and unlimited water and soda. I will also make sure the photographer knows she is welcome to eat as well. I assume that the vendors will grab their food from the buffet after everyone else has gone through, but that remains to be seen….

    • I wouldn’t assume this — our photographer hopped in at the front of the line (and missed us going around and chatting with all our guests).

      • I’m a photographer, and I’ve found that the best time to eat is when the couple are eating – that’s when I’m missed least, because who wants pictures of themselves eating? When I wait until all the guests have gone through the buffet, then I may be starting my dinner as the couple finish. Often that’s when they get up and visit tables to chat with their guests, and I don’t want to miss that. Usually I have a quick chat with the wedding planner or the couple and make sure we’re all on the same page and it’s OK with them if I jump in line early so I can be finished when they are. However, it sounds like your photographer didn’t check in and therefore missed something. I recommend making sure your photographer has a very clear, detailed understanding of your schedule so they know when they can safely disappear to eat.

        • That makes a lot of sense- and I haven’t even thought of it! Thanks for the insight 🙂

        • Yeah, our schedule wasn’t detailed to the point of the order of who was eating when, just that it was dinner time, and my partner went into host mode and wanted the guests to eat first (which of course means we ended up not eating).

  4. We did not have it listed in the contracts but we fed our vendors. They all told us we don’t have to but we really wanted them not to starve and be able to do their jobs without fainting from hunger or getting hangry. Out of all the vendors we hired, which wasn’t many, we looked at who was going to be there for more than 4-5 hours. We fed our DJ, photographers (we had 2) and even my photobooth lady because she was awesome. We did not feed our venue coordinator, and that honestly didn’t even cross my mind but she was ok and had no complaints so I figured she ate at some point (the food was provided by the venue).

  5. It was in our photographer’s contract to be fed, and while our coordinator didn’t stipulate being fed, we fed her and our videographer anyway. Our coordinator made sure our vendors had food put aside for them and ate in a separate area from the guests (not because we asked them to, but I think she felt it would be awkward), and it all worked out perfectly. As the posters above mentioned, we considered all the vendors who would be there at mealtime to be part of our headcount.

  6. Yep- we’re required to feed our vendors. Plenty of vendors (and even venues where you bring in your own vendors) require it as part of their contract. It makes sense when you think about it, since they’ll be stuck there for hours on end, during a meal time, and it’s much easier for them to have some of what’s already being prepared and served than to have each person figure out what to do with their own food and when they can sneak off to eat it. Feeding the staff is standard practice in most restaurants, too. It’s not the same food in those cases usually, but there’s an employee meal set out in the kitchen for the servers etc. to eat before the dinner rush starts. Grab a plate and some lasagna/ hot dogs/ fried chicken/ whatever else is easy to make, scarf it, back to work, is the norm. In catering or event situations you’re just bringing the restaurant to you, so it makes sense that those standard practices carry over. Easy thing to forget about if you haven’t read the contracts carefully or been in the industry, though.

  7. We fed all of ours! Both the caterer and the venue coordinator told us that since we were having a buffet we shouldn’t include vendors in the count since they always bring so much extra. We made sure that everyone working for us that day knew we wanted them to eat everything! Even with everyone including vendors eating tons of food we still had tons and tons of extras to take home. My advice would be to talk with your vendors about it.

  8. I did not include my vendors (which was actually only my photographer) in our final head count. It just never crossed my mind to include him! However, he did help himself to our “midnight lunch” style snacky foods and I was very glad he did. I may not have realized, but if I ever did realize he didn’t eat, I would have felt like a total ass.

    So with my poor planning and hindsight being 20/20, YES. INCLUDE your vendors. They are putting in a ton of work for your special day and deserve food. Feed all the vendors! 😉

  9. None on my vendors have asked for or required a meal in our contracts, but I would hate to work all day without a meal. It would make me grumpy and I’d be counting the minutes til I got to leave! I definitely don’t want the people in charge of very important aspects of my day to feel like that. Plus they are all cool people I’d like to feed! Having a buffet makes it easy and doesn’t break the bank to add a few more people. We even asked our officiant to stay for dinner (he was planning on leaving after the ceremony). A cool thing we discovered when asking vendors to join us for our vegan meal is that three of them were also veggies and are very excited to try our food!

  10. It was in our photographer and DOC’s contract. I don’t remember if it was in the food servers’ contract to be fed, but we felt it was only fair that they got to eat some after standing over it all afternoon! My hair and makeup artist got annoyed by how many times I asked her over the course of the morning if she wanted anything, from the hotel’s breakfast buffet or fast food or anything, but it was not in her contract to feed her. We hired a college student to be our DJ and on top of paying her, we fed her as well, even though we didn’t have a real “contract” with her.

  11. We included ours in the head count. Our photographer and videographer were friendors and we made sure that they and our DJ had an assigned table, escort card, and everything. Our DJ didn’t want to leave his booth for long enough to sit and eat so he just made himself a plate and ate up there. But yes, we felt it was only right to feed our vendors since they were basically working a twelve hour day for us!

  12. It was written into our photographer’s contract, but we were very happy to make sure she and her husband/assistant were well fed! Many of our other vendors were friendors/wedding guests, but even if they hadn’t been, we would have wanted to feed them as well. Partly because, as a former restaurant co-owner, it is in my nature to want to feed people – but also because it just seems like the right thing to do when someone’s working a long day for us.

  13. I’m at the very beginning stages of planning, but I personally am absolutely planning to include our vendors in the head count. I work with a theater union and am used to union style breaks. While weddings don’t lend themselves to quite that rigorous of a break schedule, I think I will try to plan an eating break for the reception vendors, and a few eating/snack breaks for the photographer and day-of-planner. Of course, my biggest deciding factor on how this will be done will be talking to the vendors themselves since they have more experience with how the day generally plays out for them. 🙂

  14. We’re contractually obligated to feed our vendors and their assistants. I think that works out to 2 photographers, 2 videographers, 1 day of coordinator and 1 DJ.

    Thankfully our venue is super special awesome and does vendor rate meals for a third the normal cost. 🙂

    I would say yes yes yes, please feed your vendors!

    • Although vendor meals seem like a great value, depending on the caterer, this can often equate to a soggy sandwich and an apple. With wedding days lasting 6-12 hours for some vendors, this doesn’t come close to enough calories to sustain your photographer or videographer through the rest of the evening.

  15. We’re definitely feeding our vendors! It was actually on our radar before we even booked. Our DJ comes with the venue, so he’s automatically included (as in, no vendor meal fee! Score!). Similarly, our coordinator is the owner, and the bar and wait staff are all part of the venue. The only outside vendor we likely have coming in is our photographer(s), and we planned on feeding them from the start. They didn’t include anything in their contract about it, but did request some kind of food (though they were fine with whatever, we’re likely just feeding them from the same buffet as everyone else.) They’re going to be with us for roughly 8 hours–they need to eat!

    Also, I used to work as a dancer for a DJ company back in college, and while that was usually only 2-4 hours of work (typically Bat Mitzvahs), it was still the BEST when someone let us eat, so I know it can make a huge difference.)

  16. We’re feeding them, setting up a table just for them on the floor with the rest of us and including them in the headcount. 🙂

  17. Yes! People need to eat, and the last thing I want is hangry vendors. We’re planning to make a little vendor table for them.

  18. We fed our photographers/videographers. They’re friends of ours so we just sat them at our people of awesome table and they went through the buffet with them first so by the time people were done eating and we were ready for speeches, etc. then they were ready too.

    We did offer to feed our DJ and he declined. I included him in the head count anyway in case he changed his mind)

  19. We forgot about this at first but thankfully remembered before we had to do our final headcount. So we told all our vendors they could eat, and I assume they did, even though I didn’t see them eat!

  20. Our photographer (a friendor) asked if she would be ‘invited’ (getting a meal), which we tended to do in any case. This will probably give us a little discount too!
    We also plan to have foods and drinks available for the DJ, another friendor.

  21. I offered food to both our photographer and DJ, but neither of them ate. Having said that we only had them there for the evening so they probably ate before-hand. I think my photographer may have been concerned about missing things if he ate, as there were no specific timings and people simply got food when they fancied it rather than sitting down to eat at the same time.

    If your vendors are going to be with you over meal times you really need to cater for them in my opinion. If you simply can’t afford it you can always give them a less fancy (but no less substantial) meal to keep their energy levels up. My DJ said hardly anyone offered a meal, and that made him appreciate the gesture even more.

  22. I don’t remember whether or not it was in our contracts, but we absolutely fed our photographer and DJ. They sat together in the DJ booth (this was not our plan, that’s just what happened) and hung out. I know we got a discounted rate for their meals, but I didn’t think to ask what they would be served (and the DJ booth was on the opposite side of the room, so I couldn’t see for myself). The photographer was with us for 8 hours (plus travel time to my mother’s house in the morning), and including setup & teardown, the DJ was probably at our venue for at least 5 hours.

    My personal benchmark is that anyone working 4 or more hours straight should have the opportunity to take a break / eat something, and that if you are eating a meal in front of a vendor, it is gracious to offer something to them (but I doubt anyone would blame you if you were too distracted to remember to do so).

  23. I don’t require a meal in my contract, although after reading all these comments I’m thinking I should add it in! I tell clients that a meal is always appreciated, but never expected – I bring high-protein snacks to keep myself fueled during the wedding. But a full meal always makes me feel more energized, not to mention more rested after a short break off my feet. And if I don’t have a chance to eat, my energy level suffers – which means my photo quality and customer service do, too. So if you’re on the fence about feeding your vendors, I definitely recommend it. At the very least, make sure they have access to water so they don’t get dehydrated.

    If you do feed your vendors, put some thought into where and when they will eat. A chair and table would be perfect, but I’ve eaten standing up, in the kitchen, on the back steps, in a closet (by choice!) and once on an empty boat deck overlooking downtown Seattle at sunset. Give them a seat at a guest table if you want, but be aware that some (like me) prefer to eat out of view of the guests. Sitting at a guest table means socializing, and I find it difficult to switch gears from professional to guest back to professional. I’d rather find a quiet corner and eat quickly so I can get back to work. Ask which they prefer.

    Also, it’s very important for us to know WHEN we should go through the buffet. For a photographer, the best time to eat is when the couple is eating, so we don’t miss anything important. Sometimes couples get up and visit tables immediately after they eat, so I want to be done with my dinner and back on the job by then. That means I have to get in the buffet line fairly early. I always check with the couple or the wedding planner to make sure that’s OK with them. I know many couples prefer that vendors wait until all their guests have gone through the buffet, and that is perfectly fine with me as long as I won’t be missing anything important. My job is to get photos of all those moments, and I’ve been known to choose to skip the meal if the couple starts to get up and do something photo-worthy before I’ve had a chance to eat.

    Most importantly, make sure your vendors know what you expect of them at mealtimes and that your day-of coordinator, if you have one, is on the same page and ready to help the vendors get their meals.

  24. YUP!

    I’m not even asking – I’m telling them that they CAN eat. I know how I get when I’m hangry, so why should I assume that my vendors would be any different? We are having a buffet and it’s easy enough to add them into the headcount to make sure there’s enough food, but it’s up to them if they decide to take a plate or not. Although, I will say that I HADN’T thought about WHEN they would eat, and other comments saying that at least the photographer eats when the couple eats makes total sense.

  25. I do include it in my contract and make sure to point it out to my couples as something that is important! Most venues offer a vendor meal option that is significantly cheaper than your price per head for guests but occasionally venues won’t feed vendors even if this was paid for in advance. If you’ve assigned someone tasks to accomplish or check in on during your reception, add this to their list!

  26. We feed EVERYONE. As someone who is know to get hangry, I didn’t want that to happen to anyone at our wedding. It also helped that I didn’t really think of vendors and guest as different groups. It was always more of just everyone we like that is going to be at our wedding.

  27. As a wedding planner/day of coordinator/wedding decorator, it depends on which ‘hat’ I’m wearing. If I’m the planner/coordinator, I have to be there all day, so being able to eat with everyone else is necessary. If I’m just doing the decorating, there’s a natural break for me to go get something to eat before coming back to take everything down.

  28. While I knew I had to include my photographers in my guest count, i was told to label them as “children” (under 21) because they wouldn’t be drinking (which may have made for crazier pictures if they had! But still) so it was cheaper by far to feed them. My DJ and wedding coordinator were included in my venue rental, but I still asked my coordinator if I needed to include them in the guest count for food. She told me that I did not, though she was there just as long as I was so I’m not sure what she ate, unless she brought something. But it was a wedding venue, and they do like 5 weddings a week, so I’m sure they knew what they were doing!

  29. I don’t recall seeing it in any of our contracts (so far), but I’ve been including the photographers and staff (security, bartender, two waitstaff), as well as our officiant in our head count for our food trucks. An additional five or six people grabbing a nom or two along with our guests isn’t going to break the bank and because we’re doing made-to-order food truck service, they can get what they want, when they want it.

  30. Should you provide food for your hired help? When you consider this question from a fair labor standards point of view, I would think the answer would be obviously and without a question: yes.

    You are hiring these people to do work, and legally, an employer must give its employees a meal break within the first 5.5 hours of work. In this case, you are the employer, and your wedding vendors are the employees: they are working for you. They are entitled to eat, and if your wedding is the only source of food in the area, you’d better give them food unless you’re okay with them leaving the venue for an hour to take a lunch break.

    Granted, there are exceptions to such laws for self-employed folks, but the law is there for a reason. Wouldn’t you want your self-employed vendors to get the same fair treatment as other employees do?

  31. I guess the problem I have with feeding vendors is when you’re serving a plated dinner, at $75-$100 per guest. That’s a lot of money when the photographers are already charging $4000. (Aussie prices.)

    I’m contemplating giving them a 45 minute break where they can go get their own food (e.g. hotel restaurant).

    • That’s exactly what I thought when I first started taking weddings – I am a contractor you are paying to work, not eat, for a set amount of time. Over time I learned to just take the meal if they offer, but sometimes I still feel weird about it. In a perfect world there would always be lots of extra food, or your caterers would provide a vendor meal for a reduced price (you may just have to ask), or it’s a buffet and feeding a couple extra people doesn’t change the budget too much. But it doesn’t always work that way, and most vendors will understand. The 45 minute break seems quite generous, especially if there are a few places nearby that offer options for their taste and budget. There are times when I’d be very, very happy to have a long break in the middle of a wedding.

      But there are trade-offs. One of the benefits of feeding your photographer is that they are right there and can grab their camera for unexpected candid moments – like a picture I got recently where the bride fed the groom some of her dinner with a fork. It was such a sweet, heartfelt moment that made a great picture, and I’m so glad I was there. And if something happens to delay them, or you finish your meal early and are ready to move on to the next thing on the schedule, then you’re stuck waiting for the photographer to return. If you’re willing to let those moments go and be without a photographer for that amount of time, I say go for it.

    • I’d certainly never expect to be treated like one of your wedding guests with a full $70-$100 table setting. The norm is to just order me a ‘vendor meal’ and I’ll happily find a quiet spot to eat and recharge, before getting back out there. Get me a $20 plate of food and what you’ll get back from me will be tenfold.

      Leaving the venue to go find food means I’m at the mercy of traffic to get somewhere quickly, the restaurant to get my food to me quickly so I have time to eat and drive back to your venue. Trying to do all that in 45 minutes creates a lot of unnecessary stress. All it takes is one thing to go wrong and I’ll have missed being there to capture something important.

    • The problem with just giving a ‘meal break’ time tho’, is that finding food isn’t always possible at every event venue. Many weddings are held at places where the only food is catered & brought in. Even if it’s at a place with a separate restaurant, do you want all your vendors held at the mercy of a restaurant that could be busy at dinner time & could be late returning? These are all reasons why many vendors put a meal requirement into their contracts — it saves them time so they can focus on performing their job for your wedding.

      And as many others have said, caterers & hotels can easily arrange for less-expensive vendor meals (like sandwiches) & even a separate table or slightly hidden away space for vendors to eat.

  32. I think it just makes good sense to feed your vendors. They are with you all day, for the most part. If you don’t feed them what happens? They leave to eat? Or they’re just hungry all day?

    I was VERY concerned about my photographers eating. I even asked if they wanted to sit at a cool table or in the back alone. I know they did eat but I have no idea why. I don’t see a gap in our reception pictures or anything!

  33. We have just asked our wedding planner, celebrant, & photographer to join us for dinner. They will get the same meal choices as our guests and will sit at our table with us all. They are all integral to our day going well, and they have become friends through the planning process, especially I suppose, because we are doing this in a different country, and we are sharing lots of emails and Skype conversations.

  34. I was definitely planning to feed my vendors from the start. I just think about how I perform at my own job with tasty food and while hungry, and the answer is pretty clear for me. If I want my vendors to be their best selves, I’m going to make sure they’re properly fed.

    I did not, however, think about when and where they would eat, so I’m glad that a few people brought this up! I’ll be asking my vendors what their preferences are.

  35. Well, I even went so far and sent my Vendors an official Invitation, so they get an additional feel for us. They get to see our Website and they get to RSVP and let us know if they have any Food allergies. It’s gonna be a Long day and I know I get hangry. I don’t want a hangry photographer or DJ, I want them to be comfortable and happy. I Count them as full guests; they get a table, they get place Cards and a guest gift.

  36. I would absolutely feed my vendors. Regardless of their status at the wedding (hired help, friends, etc), they are still people and who wants to go to an event and feel like their basic needs are an afterthought or even forgotten? I’m not saying you need to be constantly thinking about their bathroom breaks the day of the wedding, but perhaps a conversation beforehand about expectations and accommodations so everyone is on the same page.

  37. So, we pretty much all agree that all day vendors need to be fed after burning calories for 5 – 6 hours (I think the magician who showed up for an hour can fend for himself), and nobody does their best work when they’re ‘hangry’.

    But PLEASE, let us actually eat! Don’t have speeches that run at random times thoughout the meal, then go straight into the cake cutting, followed immediately by the first dance. This has happened at the last two weddings I shot, and eating a plate of cold food that’s been sitting at the bar for an hour does not leave me in the best mood. Nor does giving me (literally) 4 minutes to eat before having to run back to shoot the cake cutting, only to go back and find the plate of food I’d barely eaten has been cleared away by wait staff. I almost always stay a little later than I’m required to, but for that one, I left the second my required time was up so I could go find something to eat. There were no open restaurants, so I had to settle for a bag of peanuts from a gas station (destination wedding).

    I can be easily manipulated into going the extra mile, staying a bit later when things run late, and generally being the happy guy you want at your wedding, all for something as simple as a 20 minute break to sit down, have a rest and eat a hot meal. I may be “the photographer”, but I’m still human.

  38. The venue I work at offers “vendor meals.” They’re not a lesser quality of food, we just take out the open bar, wine, etc. from the cost since your vendors (generally) aren’t hitting the bar. It’s actually listed in our pricing options, so that we’re bringing it up to couples as they sign contracts. We work with a lot of the same vendors all the time. We want them to be happy too!

  39. we only have our photographers to feed, and we hadn’t really thought that feeding them might be a thing until we saw it in the contract. I’d always just assumed that they would bring their own food, but I don’t really mind feeding them either. Since we’re having our dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t “do weddings” (they’re treating us just like they would any other private celebration), we still need to discuss with them the option of having them put something aside for the photographers where they can sneak off for a quiet break moment. I hope it won’t be an issue, otherwise they’ll just have to mingle with us 😉

  40. As a wedding photographer, I can tell you that while we don’t require it, feeding us really helps! Including travel, we’re often working 10-12 hour days with no break, and a little food can go a long way to making sure we’re not flagging at the end of the day. Also, I’ll second the point made above which is to make sure your photographers (and probably other vendors too) are eating when you, the couple, are eating! That’s the best time for photographers to eat because who wants pictures of themselves eating? Also, another photographer tip for food – while I totally understand setting up separate vendor eating tables away from everyone else, it’s helpful to have your photographers sitting close-ish to wherever YOU will be sitting so that in the event something super fun happens while you’re eating, they will be able to react quickly to grab a photo of it, which they would not be able to do if they’re in another room eating and can’t even see you. Moral of the story – feed your wedding vendors. It’s the nice thing to do and they will appreciate it!

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