Which Wedding Vendors Do You Feed?

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There was a little bit of drama last week when a very well known wedding industry blog published a post by a highly-regarded destination wedding planner who implied that couples shouldn’t feed their photographer. Immediately and instinctively, I looked at the calendar

No, this is not an April Fool’s joke.

This planner was serious and very quickly put in the hot seat: Wedding pros from all over chimed in to disagree, urging couples to think through their culinary obligations. If you’re interested in reading the original post (which has since been removed, but you know – nothing on the internet can be deleted), you can read it here.

As a planner who works with couples who have a budget to keep in mind, it’s my job to find ways to maximize the savings and stretch the dollar. I like to think I’m pretty good at it. I’ll be blunt: wedding food can be expensive, costing anywhere from $60 – $200+ per person in the Boston area. So if you can cut 5-10 meals, potentially you can shave over a grand off your overall budget. So it’s easy to see how a planner, who’s job it is to master the budget and keep the clients happy, would suggest not feeding vendors. I think this debate is about prioritizing: are you willing to risk a hangry photographer snapping pics of your guests in exchange for some extra padding on the budget? Or worse, if your photographer is with you from 10am until the last dance (and sometimes beyond that), they have to eat at some point… if you don’t feed them, then they’re going to have to leave your wedding to get their own nourishment and come back. Is that a risk you want to take?

So here’s the advice I have to offer: first, decide whether or not this is really a concern for you. If it is, let’s work together to minimize it. Is your concern budget-related? If so, let’s talk to the caterer to see if they can provide a lower-cost meal (caterers take pride in their work so it’s important to point out that lower-cost does not mean inedible!) – some caterers are willing to provide vendors a chicken dish, for example, while you and your guests are having filet mignon. And that’s okay! I’ve never met a wedding vendor who arrived expecting a lavish meal.

If your concern is specific to a vendor not working while they’re eating, have an open and honest conversation with that vendor at the time of booking. Some vendors put in their contract that they must be fed. I tell my clients it’s a pretty safe bet to let the photographer eat when the guests are eating: first of all, most people don’t want to have their photo taken mid-bite – these aren’t photos you’re going to want in your album. Secondly, the photographer (and any other vendor for that matter), is probably going to scarf down the food: for a lot of us, it’s the first time for the majority of the day we’re able to sit.

Also, keep in mind that most wedding vendors have a knack for finding a private, hidden place to stuff our faces. I’ve personally eaten in stairwells, closets, and private rooms. Don’t worry, we’re not going to pull a chair up next to your mom!


Having said that, here’s our punch-list on who to feed at your wedding, and some notes on why:

Officiant: Not usually – if they’re only staying to perform the ceremony, you are not obligated to invite him to join you for dinner. If it’s a friend or someone with a stronger connection, it certainly would be a nice gesture to invite him/her to share the meal with you, but again, not required.

Ceremony Musicians: I personally don’t think you should be obligated to feed a vendor if they are only hired for the ceremony portion of your wedding. However, if the musicians are also performing during cocktail hour and the reception, it’s certainly a consideration. This really depends on the amount of time they are playing. Do make sure, however, to keep your musicians hydrated, regardless of the climate.

Wedding Planners: I don’t personally have anything in my agreement with clients about feeding me, but I have never had a client not offer. Honestly, your planner has been with you since the beginning (or maybe a month before your wedding for those who contract day of coordination). We share your nerves and I speak honestly when I say we are just as emotionally invested in your day. It’s our livelihood!

Photographers & Videographers: Yes. See above. I may be young, I may not be a fancy-pants high-end celebrity wedding planner, but I do urge my clients feed their photographers, videographers, and anyone else who has put in a considerable amount of time to document your day.

DJ: Yes. DJs often have an involved set up before any of your guests arrive and then have to stay late to take it all down and pack up. If you want to have a high energy dance party with your guests, you need to get them on the dancefloor. Your DJ can help you make sure everyone shows off their dance floor moves – but only if they too share the high energy. So feed your DJ, think of it as an investment.

Catering and Bar Staff: Typically the answer here is no, you’re not required to feed the catering and bar team at your wedding. It would be a nice gesture, however, to let the catering manager know they are free to help themselves to any leftover food that is not consumed by guests (this does not go towards your final count so there shouldn’t be an extra cost in making this offer).[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section]

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