When finalizing your catering order, there are a few folks you may have inadvertently left off the final count – your vendors. While not all vendors need to eat during your event, many do.
For example, a florist dropping off centerpieces at the reception won’t need lunch or dinner because they’re not staying at your event, but a photographer shooting the day’s happenings should definitely be fed. “Vendors that will be with you for more than four hours need to be nourished in order to give you the best service they can,” says Lisa Lucia, Owner and Lead Wedding Planner at L Squared Affairs, who explains that it isn’t an option for vendors to leave the wedding to grab something to eat.
“Each one of them will be on their feet for hours making sure you have your best day ever, and you want to make sure they have the energy to do so,” she says. Weddings typically happen around mealtimes, and long days take their toll. “Some vendors work 10-plus hours on a wedding day, so ensuring that a vendor is fed is healthy and important,” say officiants Jennifer and Rick Tan of Tan Weddings and Events.
Talk About It
Meagan Lucy, Photographer and Owner of Meagan Lucy Photographers says “fed vendors are happy vendors.”
Still, she eats a big breakfast and carries snacks with her to the wedding not necessarily expecting a complimentary meal. She thinks caterers and venues should lead the conversation about vendor meals. And if meals are provided, Lucy prefers light fare like protein and a salad, plus plenty of water to drink.
Don’t be afraid to ask your vendors about meals. Have that conversation early on so both parties know what to expect. It’s a fair question to ask during your initial consultation and again at the time the contract is signed. Some vendors will tell you whether or not they require food on the job; some even put it in their contract. Either way, it’s best to know early, so you can factor in vendor meals to your budget.
“Personally, I think that that while this is very nice of the couple to consider the vendors for meals and it is appreciated, it no way should it be a requirement,” says Michael Anderson, Wedding Entertainment Director™ at Creative Memories Entertainment, who says he’s prepared to pack a lunch, snacks and drinks in lieu of expecting his clients to provide him with a meal.
Rita Temple of Temple Photography and Photo Booth has vendor meals in her contract. While she provides her own snacks and drinks, she’s often working eight-hour days and welcomes a hot meal. “Most of the time I wouldn’t be able to run and buy a hamburger within the time I have before toasts starts, and I usually only have 15 minutes to eat,” she says, noting even a simple sandwich is nice.
One time Temple worked a seven-hour wedding without a meal. When she asked the venue if she could buy one, they told her they could only serve her after the guests had eaten and if there were leftovers. She was hungry and ended up getting bread, salami and cheese late into the event.
Many venues offer vendor meals at a reduced rate so couples can provide an affordable lunch or dinner for their vendors. “As long as it’s healthy and palatable, your vendor team will be thrilled,” says Lucia. “More likely than not, the meal will be similar to make it easier on the caterer.” There’s no requirement that vendors need to have same food as you and your guests. “If we do, that is a pretty cool thing, but depending on the style and level of dinner service, providing the vendors with the same meal as the guests can add anywhere from $20 to over $100 per vendor that they are feeding,” says Anderson, explaining, there’s a big difference between offering a simple buffet or a four-course dinner.
Just as if you were to work a standard day at the office, a few breaks are needed to recharge. So, the next question is where and when vendors will eat. Often, it’s in a separate room at the venue; while other times it’s in the same room as the wedding itself. It just depends on the venue and where your vendors are comfortable taking a break. Consult with your caterer and vendors beforehand on when they should break and eat.
Vendors including planners, photographers and videographers typically will eat and rest during low points in activity, such as when you and your guests are eating dinner. Musicians and DJs should eat beforehand, often during cocktail hour, so they’ll be ready to perform during the reception.
Lucy says photographers have a 20-minute window to eat when the couple is eating. After that, when the newlyweds are mingling with guests is a great time for candid photos.
Anderson says often venues feed the vendors last – after guests have been fed – which is nice for guests but slows down the process for vendors and stresses them out too. “Eating last usually means the vendors get their meal right about the time they are ready to do other events like the toast, cake cutting or first dance,” he says. These important parts of the day won’t run as smoothly without the necessary vendors.
Temple prefers to eat when the wedding party eats and after she takes table pictures of the guests. If it’s not buffet style, where should would make her own plate, she’ll ask the couple to have the venue serve her meal when the newlyweds eat. She wants to be ready to capture all the remaining action of the day.
The Tans say wedding planners coordinate meal times with the catering staff, venue, and each individual vendor to determine the best timeframes to eat. “Vendors working as a team such as photography, DJ and planners will take turns so that someone is always fully present at the reception,” they say.
Providing vendor meals is a show of appreciation for the team of wedding professionals helping to make your day run smoothly. The success of your wedding day relies on great vendors, and keeping them happy and fed helps to keep their stamina up to par with the high-energy atmosphere the wedding.
Blog post by Real Weddings Magazine’s Contributing Writer Kristen Castillo.
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