Wedding FAQs: "What's With Providing Vendor Meals?"
As wedding planners and coordinators, we receive many questions from our couples. Some questions concern pre-wedding planning processes while others involve day-of coordinating questions. This new blog series serves to help couples with important questions that can sometimes contain gray areas. Stay tuned for future blog posts on FAQs!
Today, we’re going to talk about meals and vendors. Wedding etiquette is a special kind of its own, and trying to navigate the waters of what is right and wrong can be difficult when you’re new to wedding planning. When we act as a wedding planner or coordinator for a couple we’re not only there to ensure everything runs smoothly the day of the event - we are also there to bounce ideas off of and to guide you into creating the best wedding possible.
When it comes to food, there are always questions about how much to serve or what type of meal to have, but many of our couples also ask us about the vendors and meals. Here are the four questions we receive the most from couples concerning vendor meals and our answers:
Do I have to feed my vendors?
Yes! Helping to run and organize a wedding is extremely rewarding, but weddings do involve a lot of time on the day of the wedding for many vendors. That's why providing a vendor meal is definitely the 'correct' thing to do in the eyes of the etiquette gurus.
You might be thinking, "Ugh, but we already paid these vendors so much...and now we have to pay for a meal?! How is that fair?" Asking a vendor to run out and grab food isn’t really practical. For example, your photographers should eat while the couple is eating because that way they are done eating when you are and can get back to taking important photos such as you mingling with the guests. Requesting that a vendor run out to grab food will only take time out of the work they are being paid to do. If the closest place to eat other than a fast food location is 20 minutes away, your vendor will have to take time out to call and place an order, run out to pick it up, and run back to the venue to eat it. At best, you're looking at an hour of time taken out of your day. This means they may miss photographing your parent dances, cake cutting, or other important pictures you don't want missed.
If you provide a meal, your vendor can be finished within fifteen or twenty minutes.
Many vendors have started to require meals in their contracts, but even if they don’t, it’s seen as good etiquette to provide your vendors with meals. Typical vendors who should receive meals are:
DJ or Band Members
Officiant (if you are inviting them to stay for the reception, which is not required)
Venue Representative (if on-site for the vast majority of the day and is an active part of the wedding)
Wedding vendors such as your makeup artist, florist, and baker are usually gone from the venue by the time you start your ceremony and cocktail hour, so you are not being rude by not providing a meal for them. By feeding your wedding vendors you will avoid having any woozy vendors on your hands, which makes for a better event!
One note on hair and makeup artists - they are often there for four to five or MORE hours doing bridal party hair and makeup in the morning/afternoon. It would be nice to offer them a snack and a drink of water while they are there to keep their energy up while making you all look even more beautiful than you already are.
Our best advice: when in doubt, ask your vendor! A handful vendors will pack meals, but most do not because of the lack of places to store food at venues. They’ll appreciate your concern for them.
Will I have to pay for my vendor’s meals?
Most likely, yes, but some caterers will offer meals for free or at a discounted rate for your vendors. Keep in mind, your caterer is not obligated to discount pricing for your vendors, so you may want to check with them before you book.
Side note: Caterers should NOT ask you to feed their staff. While that may seem backwards since caterers are onsite a good portion of the day, unless it’s in the catering contract, providing a meal for the caterers is not required. Caterers will usually make extra food for their staff.
Do I have to feed my vendors the same meal my guests are eating?
It’s not required that your vendors eat the same exact meal as your guests, but you should ensure the meal is palatable and fairly similar to what your guests are eating. Most likely it will be more affordable to have your vendors eat the same meal since your caterer will not have to deviate from your original menu.
To be honest, as long as the meal you’re serving your vendors is healthy, your vendors will be thrilled. If your caterer offers boxed lunch style dinners with sandwiches and wraps, this option is acceptable for vendor meals.
One note though - be sure to check your vendor contracts. Some vendors will have in their contract that they require a hot meal.
Where do the vendors eat?
Another question we often get asked is where to sit the vendors when they eat. Do we have to sit them with the guests? No, actually most vendors do not want to sit at a table with wedding guests. It can be awkward for both the vendor and the guests! If you have the room, a separate table just for vendors inside the reception is great, but we realize that can add extra costs for you (extra linen, extra place setting, and extra centerpiece) and it can take up space. Most vendors are completely fine eating in a separate room (just not too far away) or often times we will go out to where cocktail hour was and eat at those tables. If you have a wedding planner/coordinator they should keep an eye on the reception and report to the vendors as they're eating if something is about to happen (such as cake cutting) so no pictures are missed. If you don't have a wedding coordinator then make sure your Maid of Honor or Best Man know where the vendors are eating and have them notify the vendors if something is about to happen.
When it comes to hiring vendors, you want to think about product, service and reputation. While it’s quite common for a vendor to ask for a meal, they should not be requesting access to the bar — drinking while working is unacceptable even for wedding professionals!
With our staff’s help from Stylish Occasions, we’ll ensure you know the ins and outs of all wedding etiquette questions. Stay tuned for our next FAQ blog!