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 , 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 .
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?