We often receive questions from clients regarding the etiquette behind feeding their wedding vendors, specifically photographers. "Do we have to feed our wedding vendors?" Yes. The last thing you want on your wedding day is a low-energy DJ or an exhausted photographer. Your vendors are putting on your affair so that you do not have to. Plan on feeding any wedding professionals who will be working during the reception. This includes your wedding planner, photographer, videographer, and DJ or band, plus their assistants, (but not your florist or the ceremony musicians). We understand where these clients are coming from - if they did not hire a planner, the only guidance they will typically get regarding this issue comes from the catering manager at their venue. In this article, Grand Lens Photography shares thoughts and a few tips regarding feeding your wedding photographers.
number of photographers
Each photography team varies, so it is smart to ask your photographer how many people will be on the team for your wedding. The same goes for videographers if they are from a company opposite the photographer. If your photography team will only be present for the ceremony and reception then food probably is not needed. However, if they are there for the whole day from first thing in the morning right through until the night, then that is a very long day and a long time to go without any substantial food.
Coverage time/type of meals
It is critical to factor in the amount of time the photography team will be shooting and determine which meals this time will span. For a typical wedding, we start before or around lunch time and shoot for 9-12 hours until well after dinner. If your photographer does not state in the contract their expectations regarding meals, it is a good idea to just ask in advance. Photographers usually provide lunch for themselves but do request the client to provide them with dinner during the reception.
The client generally has a choice between providing hot meals identical to what the guests are eating or providing the photographers with vendor meals. Vendor meals are a less expensive option and can range from a boxed meal consisting of a lunch meat sandwich, apple and chips to something warm but more basic than what the guests are being served. This choice is up to you. One thing to keep in mind when deciding what to feed your photographers is that your photography team has typically been working for 6 hours straight without eating when the reception rolls around. We are thankful for ANY food at this point, but a hot meal really hits the spot and gets our energy back up. We wish we did not have to eat on a wedding day - that way we could just focus and stay in the zone. However, unfortunately, we are human. Food will help your photography team get a much-needed boost in energy so they can finish the night strong.
When you ask your photographer how many people will be working with them at your wedding, another great question to ask is if any of them have any food allergies or sensitivities. For people who are lactose intolerant, this is usually not an issue. There is typically something dairy-free on the plate that but there have been a few weddings where the food is extremely dairy-centric. It not a life-or-death issue, but it is something that is easy to ask and make note of for your caterers.
what & where
Near the beginning of the reception, we typically check in with the Maître D' regarding when and where our team will be eating. The answer we ordinarily receive is "after the guests are served & in a room down the hall." While this answer makes sense at first glance, it is problematic logistically. The catering manager has things set up this way because the guests are more important than the photographers and we completely agree. The issue is, if we start eating after the guests are done being served, we do not have time to eat. We need to be up and shooting the continuing events of the reception. The other issue is, if we eat down the hall in another room, we will likely miss events that we need to be shooting. We need to be in the same vicinity as the reception while we are eating in case we need to jump up and shoot a toast or a dance. In our experience, catering and venue managers just do not recognize this. It is frustrating. We do our best to work with their rules, but logistically these rules make it difficult to do our job AND eat food. Given the choice between one or the other, we do our job. So there have been times where we ended up shooting entire receptions without eating. We survive, but we are unable to perform at the height of our ability.
One thing you could do to ensure that your photographers will not miss any events during your reception is to ask the catering or venue manager to serve them at the beginning of the meal in a location in or right outside the doors of the ballroom. We will definitely be out of the way, but we are able to jump up at a moments notice when the DJ or emcee announces the next performance.