The Lowdown on Feeding Your Vendors

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I think it’s safe to say that it is proper etiquette to feed your vendors, particularly those who are providing 6+ hours of service for you. But beyond that, there seems to be some gray area: What to feed them? When to feed them? And where should they sit?

I’ll start with our story…

Given that our vendors were with us the whole day, we definitely wanted to provide them with meals. (For many vendors, it is actually stipulated in the contract that the couple is to provide a meal.) We consulted everyone, ranging from recently married couples to our reception coordinator, on proper etiquette. Our caterer offered vendor meals at a 25% discount, and based on all the advice we heard, we went with those. Our reception coordinator also reserved us an extra room next door to the banquet hall, where our vendors could duck out and take a breather during mealtime.

A few days before the wedding, I sent out a wedding day schedule to our vendors. For each of them, we allotted time for a one-hour break during the reception. We figured it made the most sense to do this during the mealtime itself, when Mr. D and I planned to go around to each table and greet each guest – It would be a time when there wouldn’t really be anything taking place that needed formal coordinating or documenting.

Come the wedding day, and everything flows extremely smoothly. I didn’t really get asked any questions from anyone… except once. When dinner was about to begin, one of our vendors asks us, “So, where do we sit?” I begin to answer, “Oh, check with our coordinator, and she’ll direct to you to the room she reserved…” But then I am met with a look of surprise on our vendor’s face. Suddenly, a sense of momentary panic and embarrassment gripped my heart. Uh oh, did I say something? Did I do something wrong? Oh no, gotta put my wedding planning hat back on…

Luckily though, before I came anywhere close to freaking out smiley309, Mr. D smoothly gets up from our sweetheart table, walks around to our vendor, and says, “Come with me.” He takes our vendor aside, chitchatting with him, then walks off over to our coordinator, comes back, and seats our vendor down at a table. Then nonchalantly, Mr. D walks back.

“What happened?” I ask. Mr. D told me that he inferred that our vendor was accustomed to being seated in the reception hall, in close reach in case anything happened. So he quickly went over to our coordinator to check if we had any no-shows, then promptly went back to our vendor, apologizing for the confusion and seating him/her down at a table…in turn, saving the day aka saving us from embarrassment. Yes, ladies, that is my man! He rocks smiley1024.

So here’s the skinny on our lessons learned when it comes to feeding your vendors, which we learned through consulting other brides and our own experience… though, as you will see, I definitely still have questions too!

What: For buffet or plated meal receptions, most hotels or caterers provide vendor meals at a discounted price. While it is not necessary to provide your vendors the same food you are providing your guests, oftentimes it is just easier and something your vendors would appreciate. At times, that might not be an option, particularly if you are doing a banquet-style reception. In that case, your options are probably to include your vendor in your headcount (if you plan to seat them), or to order individually boxed meals that your caterer can prepare separately.

When: We found that the best time to give your vendors a break was during dinner. At that moment, all your guests are just eating and conversing, and there isn’t any major action going on. If you are planning to use that time to greet your guests and take table pictures, one thing you can consider is getting a friend to help take those, giving your photographer/videographer a break. In terms of how much time, it seems there’s a range there. We chose to give them an hour, but I hear that is on the longer end.

Where: Well, I don’t know if there is a consensus on this, but for me, the key lesson learned was this: Establish beforehand what your vendor’s expectations are! It seems to me that vendors have a range of expectations. Some of our vendors expected to be seated in a separate room, since it would give them a real break (as opposed to a sense of being “on call”). On the other hand, some vendors feel it is necessary for them to be seated in the room. I believe the reason is so that they can see what is going on and be ready to service you should any circumstance arise, while not sticking out obviously and awkwardly (though I have heard stories on the wb boards of vendors who expect to be treated as guests and slack off…lucky for us, our vendors were NOT like that). But to be honest, I will admit that I actually didn’t really know about the latter scenario, since at all the previous weddings I had been to, the vendors ate out of sight of the guests (which our reception coordinator told us was typical). Thanks to Mr. D for bailing me out of that one!

So…I’m interested in what you all have to say…

Has there been any consensus on where vendors should sit during their meal break, and how much time to give them?

BLOGGER

Mrs. Daffodil

Location:
Los Angeles
Wedding Date:
May 2014
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  1. Member
    anniechenvln 15 posts, Newbee @ 3:10 pm

    This is great! Thanks Daffodil!

  2. Member
    Bizz1011 82 posts, Worker bee @ 3:25 pm

    Thanks for writing about this– I’d been wondering about this, myself!

  3. Member
    MissEsq 159 posts, Blushing bee @ 3:29 pm

    this was so informative. But I just have to say, that vendor who expected to be seated with the guest was acting very unprofessionally. He was not a guest. He was there to do a job. It was up to you what kind of accomodations you wanted to make for him and it was just tacky and ungreatful for him to expect anything that wasn’t specifically laid out in the contract. I do commend your Hubby though. I think he didn’t save you from embarassment but rather saved your vendor from looking like an unprofessional idiot.

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    StefM, Guest @ 3:31 pm

    Great post! Interestingly, we just had our venue sit-down final detailing meeting and all that. At that time, our venue coordinator sketched up the room and where each table went. He numbered the tables the way he’s used to. He specifically told us, “Table #1 will be your vendor table” — Totally helpful. I always appreciate when the pros tell me how it’s done. I would advise asking your venue coordinator as much as finding out the expectations of your vendors, which I think is a little easier. Also, a lot of times, the vendor has worked there before so their expectations match that of the venue coord. And if worse comes to worse and you end up in the situation you were in, your vendors should be understanding (it sounds like yours was/were). In moooost cases, this is, after all, our first (only :) ) wedding! :)

  5. Member
    mrsbic 96 posts, Worker bee @ 3:31 pm

    i will definitely say that for us, the what and when we’re as much of an issue as the where. we had established a food credit with a restaurant at the venue holding our reception, rather than the catering department. Most of the vendors were fine with this. Our photographers were not. My coordinator had already bailed (that was our wedding catastrophe) so they came and asked me in the middle of dancing where they were to sit. Unlike Mrs, Daffodil who has a suave hubbers, mine was no where around. when i told them about the restaurant they left in a huff!

    Great article–something all people should consider!

  6. Member
    daffodil 598 posts, Busy bee @ 3:41 pm

    @MissEsq: thanks for coming in defense of me! :-) it wasn’t like that at all though – i don’t think the person expected to be at a table necessarily, just somewhere where they could still see what was happening in case we needed them for anything!

    @mrsbic: omg, i can’t believe ur coordinator bailed!!! and that is so unprofessional of ur photographers…the nerve!

    @StefM: great point…if i could do it again, i would’ve checked with the vendors themselves! don’t know why i didn’t think of doing that at the time haha.

  7. Member
    KateMW 2704 posts, Sugar bee @ 3:43 pm

    Thanks for that! Very helpful. I don’t know what we’ll do, because we’re having a very small reception (destination weekend/30-40 guests, etc.) and there will only be one long table and one table for kids. I do know that the DJ that we’ll be using doesn’t ask for a meal until the end…we used him for another party we’ve done here and he took a boxed dinner with him when he left. As far as the photographers go, I have no idea what I’ll do, but I’m sure they’ll let me know what they expect and we’ll go from there.

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Dawn, Guest @ 4:47 pm

    Thanks for posting this. As a wedding vendor, this is often overlooked. (and when I was a bride, I had NO idea about feeding my vendors). In response to MissEsq: certain vendors *cough*photographers*cough* prefer to be in the same room so that they can capture any photos of moments as they happen and don’t miss anything. And I agree with Miss Daffodil, that they don’t expect to be treated as guests and sit at a guest table (probably usually prefer not to) but just don’t want to miss any important moments.
    But anyway, food is SOO important when you’re working a 10+ hour day (think about it people, we get hungry just like the rest of you!).
    So thanks for the informative post!

  9. Member
    mdarrah 1205 posts, Bumble bee @ 4:57 pm

    Ok – knew about the feeding the vendors. Completely understood with a “wow im glad i just read that b/c I would NOT have thought about that” about the scheduling of their meals. Never in my life would have thought they would expect to eat with the guests!! Oof! Add that to the list of “someone double check that we have an understanding here”.

    MAHALO!

  10. Member
    suzanno 2683 posts, Sugar bee @ 5:01 pm

    The best advice you gave was right at the end: establish expectations. We just asked each of our vendors where and when they would prefer to eat. Not surprisingly, it was different for every vendor.

    Our photographers also preferred to be in the room with the guests, so that they could keep tabs on the action as it were, in case anything appeared to be happening that they should photograph. They also preferred to eat during dinner, as they indicated this is the point in time when most people prefer NOT to be photographed (while eating). Given that they ate when and where we did, we just included them in our headcount.

    Our band preferred to have a small table reserved for them just off the dance floor – not for dinner, but for regular breaks. They preferred to stagger their breaks, so that we could have continuous music. They indicated that they generally arranged with the chef at our venue to have meals set aside (a version of the “vendor meal”) to be served when the wanted them, and also to actually eat in the staff lounge.

    The officiant and his wife (not really vendors IMO, although sometimes I see them considered as such on weddingbee) ate at the head table with us and our families.

    The rest of our vendors, based on their schedules, did not expect to be fed.

    Discussion up front with each vendor, and a quick confirmation of arrangements before the day of (just include it in your regular interaction with them!) will absolutely avoid the kind of thing where your vendors don’t know where to sit, or even who to ask.

  11. Guest Icon Guest
    Hybrid Photography, Guest @ 5:19 pm

    Don’t worry, I don’t think you did anything wrong. As a photographer, I LIKE to be in the same room as the guests because as Dawn suggested, I don’t want to miss anything if it happens. It’s absolutely not necessary though and I consider it an honor when there are place cards waiting for me and my assistant to sit in the main area.

    As already stated, we just eat when everyone else eats because who wants a picture of themselves eating? No one likes that.

    And I don’t know about any other vendors, but I’m so not picky with what I’m fed. I just want to eat! :) 10 hours gets to be a really long day without food.

  12. Member
    missm 808 posts, Busy bee @ 5:55 pm

    definitely an important reminder. most of our vendors clearly indicated if a meal was expected. i do need to verify where they expect to be fed, though! :)

  13. Guest Icon Guest
    Candace Jeffery, Guest @ 5:56 pm

    I agree with Hybrid Photography. I am also a photographer and I do appreciate a meal at the end of a 12 hour work day. I do feel that being in the same room as your guests, but at our own small table (maybe with the DJs as well) works the best. Many times your guests do cute things that I would hate to miss, and sometimes DJs make last minute changes to the timeline of events, and that could be really bad if we are in a separate room. My husband and I work together, but would never consider drinking or dancing at a reception. I have heard of other photographers acting this way, and I think it is completely crazy!

  14. Guest Icon Guest
    Becky, Guest @ 7:46 pm

    My FI and I moonlight as wedding videographers. In 3/4 of the weddings we have done we have sat at a specified ‘vendor’ table which is usually tucked away but still in the reception room. I will be honest – when we are told by the coordinator that we are sitting, down stairs, behind swinging kitchen doors, or at some far away room it does give us a moment of panic. At a two camera wedding we set up a relay in that situation while one takes a few bites the other is back on the floor. We rely heavily on the DJ for the layout of the night; take an uncommunicative DJ or one who doesn’t care about the other vendors and a meal away from the room and we could very realistically miss something – thankfully this hasn’t happened yet. In any meal situation we certainly aren’t sitting with our feet up licking our fingers. We eat what we can to get our energy and get refreshed and are back doing our jobs.

    I agree with Mrs. Daffodil – ask what, when and where – also be aware that the option of a meal or no meal may be in your vendor’s contract.

    I have seen this subject come up numerous times and opinions are split right down the middle. Many wonder over the extra cost for vendor meals but in most situations there is a lower cost for these meals just like kid meals. Between the cost of no-shows and the sheer waste I have seen, the cost of vendor meals looks light in comparison.

  15. Guest Icon Guest
    Corey, Guest @ 8:13 pm

    I actually just posted a blog on my site about this :)

    One thing I noticed is that there are trends for different areas of the country. I know that most of my west coast photographers typically get a boxed lunch in a seperate room but here in the midwest it’s very typical to be seated with guests and recieve the same meal. More often than not, I take the place of someone that didn’t show up so I’m really a meal that would have gone to waste. I don’t put it in my contract and DO have food with me in case my brides choose not to feed me. It’s something that most of them just don’t think about. :) I know that I totally spaced on it at my own wedding until about 3 weeks before. Luckily it was easily taken care of and they appreciated it. However where I got married (NC) the vendor meals were essentially unheard of but I wanted them to have meals!

    It’s really up to you and you should feel no pressure to do something you aren’t comfortable with. I usually wolf down my meal and then get to work with all the detail shots while the bride and groom are eating (that’s when I usually take ring shots). Discuss it but don’t be afraid to tell your vendor that you don’t want something a certain way :)

  16. Guest Icon Guest
    AoK, Guest @ 8:35 pm

    We had our reception at a restaurant, and the photographer and his assistant were our only vendors there (besides the chefs and wait staff, who handled their meals and breaks as they always would on any given work day). We sat the photographers at their own table, because they needed space for their laptop so they could view photos as they took them. And it was close enough to the action that they could jump up if they saw something funny or poignant happening. They ate from the same menu we all did, getting to select from a variety of options. We were really concerned that they eat well because they were working so hard for so many hours!

  17. Guest Icon Guest
    darleene, Guest @ 12:08 am

    Great post. As a former florists crew member, I never liked to actually sit with the guests, though — especially being stinky from decorating the whole day. I usually left. But these guidelines are good for vendors who have to be there during your reception — deejay, photographer, videographer, band members.

  18. Member
    daffodil 598 posts, Busy bee @ 1:19 am

    @mdarrah: glad to be of service! :-)

    @Corey: that’s a really great point that norms can be so different across the country…all the more important to communicate clearly beforehand! :P

  19. Guest Icon Guest
    jenn, Guest @ 2:40 am

    excellent post mrs d! just wondering if the same goes for wedding coordinators… they are usually provided a meal as well, right? does this happen during dinner time as well? would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this :)

  20. Guest Icon Guest
    Sandra, Guest @ 3:36 am

    I’m a wedding photographer who shoots and travels in many cities. Also, please keep in mind when your vendors eat will vary per what area of the country you live in.

    As an example in the midwest Chicago area, it’s custom for the dinner eating part to last 1-2 hours and then the dancing stats. As a photographer it’s easy to eat at this time and then watch for things that happen such as toasts during dinner. Midwest photographers will want to sit in the dining room to watch for glass clinking kisses and toasts.

    But then markets like NYC where a course sitdown meal is served – there is dancing in-between courses – and a vendor meal usually only consists of the last course which is usually served after 9:30-10pm. Honestly this stinks as at this point I’m already with my clients at least 10 hours and am beyond famished, and feeling very sick. So please if you have a course meal like this – ask your photographer or other vendors who have been with you all day if they even want to bother eating at that point. I know I don’t – as the wedding will be over in another hour. I much more appreciate being able to grab and eat something during the cocktail hour at NYC course meal weddings which is usually around 6pm – or I can just plan on having something with me that I can eat and grab on the go earlier in the night.

  21. Member
    daffodil 598 posts, Busy bee @ 5:05 am

    @jenn: jenn, to be honest, i’m actually not sure…the reception coordinator that was employed by the hotel did not expect to be fed, but the person who was acting as our day-of-coordinator was actually a friend of ours, which we considered a guest! but yea, i would think that the same would go for day-of-coordinators more generally…they are definitely providing so many hours of service, and i almost think of them as being one of the most important people of the day. having them eat during dinner time makes the most sense to me…though i could imagine them eating earlier too? i’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts as well!

  22. Guest Icon Guest
    Guilty Secret, Guest @ 5:38 am

    Thank you for posting about this. The only person we’ll have there is our photographer, so I think he should just sit at one of the tables with guests, but this was a great reminder to check with him what he’s most comfortable with.

  23. Guest Icon Guest
    HCB, Guest @ 8:04 am

    As our photographers commented at our wedding, we had the biggest vendor table they’d ever seen. 13 people. 10 band members + 2 photographers + 1 coordinator = a table larger than any of our guest tables!

    Because there were so many people and because of who they were we did discuss this beforehand. As far as I was concerned, they needed to be in the room for many of the reasons given above. Snap photos of important moments (photographer), be ready with the audio and microphone for toasts and announcements (band), solve crisis (coordinator), etc.

    They had their own table just off the dance floor. It was in the same ballroom, but set sort of apart from the guest tables. It worked out well.

  24. Member
    decenturbanlifestyle 7 posts, Newbee @ 9:21 am

    Yes! Please feed your photographers well! Of all the vendors, we are usually the ones who arrive first, run around oozing creative energy all day, then stay til the end. Here are my experiences:

    1. Yes, we want to eat. At the same time as the guests. No one wants to be photographed while they are eating. No one.
    BUT—
    2. Most caterers think they are doing you a favor to serve us (photographers) last, after all the guests. Not sure if this is to make sure there’s enough food or just a courtesy, but it actually prevents us from doing the best job we can because by the time we get our food, you guys are done and up dancing again.
    3. I have been served a vendor meal before, different from the guests. I’m not opposed to not sharing in your filet mignon, but the one time I was offered a different meal (once out of the 70+ weddings I have photographed), it was a country club that served us a deli meat sandwich and cold french fries. We were not impressed… or nourished! I’m guessing the couple was still charged $30 for each of those plates of horribly prepared food.
    4. Most elegant venues have an area adjacent to the main ballroom where vendors can still hear announcements and music while they take a break and eat. Sitting with other guests is not a break; it can actually be kind of awkward (think small talk after you’ve been running around for 6 hours without a break). Wedding photographers are divided in their experiences and opinions on where they prefer to be seated, but in the end we all know that every venue is different.
    5. When I eat good food, in a timely fashion, you get the absolute best photos that I can provide. If you don’t provide a meal, of course I have snacks in my car as a backup.

    From a wedding photographer’s standpoint… please feed us! We are working hard all day and want to be the best we can for you!

  25. Member
    pinotnoir 799 posts, Busy bee @ 9:32 am

    Thanks for this post. While we had talked about the meals for vendors it never occured to me where they might sit… I’m off to call the site coordinator!

  26. Member
    MissCamera 770 posts, Busy bee @ 9:34 am

    For vendors like photogs and videographers we prefer to be seated in the same room where the action is happening, so that even when we are taking a break or eating we can see everything thats going on, and jump up and catch anything we may have missed if we were eating halfway across the other side of the venue. Also, if we’re placed away from the action we never really get a moment to enjoy our food. We choke it down as quickly as possible and get back to the party, because usually if we’re fed in another room, its also after all the guests have already eaten and started dancing.

    I think I read that someone gave their vendors an hour break?! I dont think I’ve ever gotten an hour break at any wedding I’ve ever worked. There’s always 2 of us, so every once in awhile we can catch a 10 minute break and rest our feet and get a drink of water while the other covers, but usually after you finish eating its back to work. There isnt an established break time, but a meal is always written into the contract. Working 8-12 hours definitely calls for a refueling. Especially since dinner is the first chance we’ve gotten a chance to eat since meeting up with the bride in the morning.

    I’m glad you chose this topic Mrs. Daffodil, it seems like there’s a lot of interest in the subject.

  27. Guest Icon Guest
    Danielle, Guest @ 10:41 am

    As a coordinator, I am confronted with this issue in EVERY SINGLE WEDDING… and I see all sides. I typically work a 12 hour day on a wedding… other vendors will vary from 8-10 hours. There is no “lunch break” and so really, dinner is the only time that we have to have a quick bite and avoid a horrible fainting spell mid-cake cutting. So, yes- it is important to feed the vendors.

    However, I will also say that all brides have a budget… and despite the extravagance or modesty of that budget, feeding a vendor a “guest meal” is an unneccessary expense. I feel really aweful telling a bride that she must spend upwards of $50 on each vendor meal in addition to the service fees that each of us has charged… thus I will say confidently that I am okay with the cheapest vendor option available. Typically, this will be a burger or a turkey sandwich and a sugar cookie- so be it. I actually look more to the caterer to take it upon themselves (which many do) to WANT other vendors to sample their foods and thus recommend their services…. but not at the expense of the bride. I have delt with pre-madonna type vendors that have it written explicitly in their contracts that they must eat “the same meal as the guests” and typically I ask brides to negotiate this early in the decision making process if it is going to affect their budget.

    As for placement of vendors… I always include in the pre-wedding timeline that vendor meals will be served once the second course begins for guests IN A SEPERATE BUT AJOINING ROOM- and this includes photographers and dj’s. In truth, when we are all on the same page, it means that we all eat in a timely manor and are back before toasts and whatnot begin. There is typically still plenty of time to catch candid moments. I personally do not like to sit with guests or even in the same room as guests. The catering manager is great at handling the issues during dinner and we are right there should anything need to be done- but this gives us time to sit back and talk about the game plan of the wedding if it is running behind…. or just to network over a speedy meal.

    So- for all you brides out there… the best advice I can give you is to come up with a plan for vendor meals early, relay the information to each vendor early in the process and put it in writing in your timeline so that everyone is on the same page. No one likes unruly guests or vendors and proper planning can aliviate both.

  28. Member
    daffodil 598 posts, Busy bee @ 11:05 pm

    wow, this is all really great advice…if only i could have chosen this topic earlier! :P

  29. Member
    Amanda_B 209 posts, Helper bee @ 6:59 pm

    Comments from decenturbanlife are dead on!

    I’m a photographer who is with a couple between 3-10 hours on their day. If I’m shooting 3-4 hours, I really don’t need a meal. On shoots more than 5 hours, it’s greatly appreciated ( and I stay extra to give the couple their full shoot time ).

    The best thing to do is to plan in advance and let your vendor know if you are offering dinner.
    My own preferences:
    Eat when the guests eat ( otherwise, I don’t get to since stuff will be happening ).
    Sit me at a table or another room – it doesn’t matter. Just tell me where to go so that I’m not still standing up and getting funny looks from your guests ( who don’t want to be photographed while they are eating ).

    Amanda
    http://www.bayarea-wedding-photography.com

  30. Member
    gammongirl 168 posts, Blushing bee @ 5:19 pm

    Great post! But, what about alcohol as part of the vendor meal? Our venue is including bar costs in the price for a vendor meal (@ 50% of guest charge), but I’m not comfortable having our vendors drinking alcohol, especially while I’m paying them for a service. My FH generally agrees with me, but thinks the band will expect to be able to drink alcohol like the might when performing a gig at a bar or other venue. He’s worried we’d offend them. Do musicians/band members expect to be able to drink alcohol during the reception?

  31. Member
    smiles1979 574 posts, Busy bee @ 3:22 pm

    Very good advice! :) (glad I found this thread…even though it’s been posted for 2 yrs..hehe)

  32. Member
    EchoPark 37 posts, Newbee @ 9:12 pm

    @gammongirl:

    My venue requires all vendors to sign an agreement that they won’t drink during the event. I think this is very smart.

    None of my vendors had any problem signing this agreement, and if your vendors are professionals, they should not be drinking while they are working–even band members.

    If you go this route, you certainly should get the venue to cut the bar charge. I’ve read up-post that many caterers give a 25% discount for vendor meals since they usually get just an entree.

  33. Member
    MissBright 8 posts, Newbee @ 2:37 pm

    So I am opening this thread back up…I am having a small 50 person wedding and the vendors won’t be there all day. The photographer will be there a max of 6 hrs, DJ 4hrs (do I need to feed the bar tenders and the wait staff that comes with the carterer?) Thoughts on feeding them?

  34. Member
    ADBK2011 748 posts, Busy bee @ 7:24 pm

    Great post! Exactly what I am trying to figure out.

  35. Guest Icon Guest
    Amanda_B, Guest @ 8:41 pm

    MB : It’s up to you. A photographer can go 6 hours without a break and a dj can definitely go 4 hours. It kind of depends on timing though too. If part of that 6 hours is a sit down dinner, you might want to just say something like ” We would like you to eat with us , so would you mind taking a break for 30 minutes and just staying until 8:30 instead of 8 ?” This is my preferred way of doing things because I’m always conscious of giving the couple their full shoot time and not taking part of that time away to sit and eat. 20-30 min. is good for a break .

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