If you could peek in at private wedding photographer discussion groups, there’s one topic that comes up a lot…food. Wedding photographers love to share war stories of what they’ve been served… a day-old club sandwich. A side salad. And good stories too… I once had the most amazing sea bass at the Hyeholde. I really need to go back there…

For couples planning a wedding, I completely understand this can be a puzzle to figure out. Yes, your photographers are there all day working hard, and we will surely be hungry at dinner time. But we’re not guests. What to do with us?

I’ve worked with many different photographers over the years, and I can tell you that there is no one size fits all answer. Here’s my take on the what, where and when of feeding your wedding photographers.

But first, the very basic question…

Should we feed our wedding photographers?

Are you and your guests eating a meal? Is your photographer working more than 5 hours? If the answer to both questions is yes, then yes, you should. As humans, we need fuel to function. But, check your contract. My contract specifies that a meal is required for events beyond just a few hours. But I would suggest common sense. If the shoot has gone on long enough that you and your guests are hungry, your photographer is hungry too.

What should we feed our photographers?

Check your contract. Some photographers’ contracts require a “hot meal.” I do not. On a wedding day, dinner time is often so rushed that it’s not like I’m going to be sitting there savoring every bite. If your caterer offers a vendor meal at a lower rate than the guest meal, that’s fine with me. (Some of Pittsburgh’s finest caterers have really high quality vendor meals – I’m looking at you, Rania’s and Common Plea!) Ideally, our meal has some protein and isn’t just a plate of pasta or a side salad. I don’t eat meat, so I also request a meal that is an actual meat-free meal. I’ve been given a grilled chicken salad with the instruction to “take the chicken off.” That’s really not much of a meal, but it’s not the end of the world…. I always have some granola bars in my bag. And, look out, cookie table!

Receptions with a buffet or stations are great! One of the best meals I had last year was the cedar plank salmon station at the Rivers Casino. So good! And even more amazing because a guest insisted that I cut in front of her in line, knowing I had to get back to work.

When should our photographers eat?

Ideally, we should be served at the beginning of the meal, along with the bridal party. Some venues feed vendors “after the last guest has been served.” I get it… we are not guests, and you want the guests to be happy and taken care of. I don’t like to be high maintenance – the wedding day is not about me! I feel awkward asking to eat when the bridal party eats. However. What’s happening at the end of dinner, around the time the last guests are served? That’s when you are likely going to be cutting your cake, or doing parents’ dances. We might want to head outside for a few night portraits.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just been handed my meal, and the DJ comes over and says that the bride is going to dance with her dad in 4 minutes. I commence shoveling and hope no one is pointing a camera at me at that point!

Where should our photographers eat?

My first choice: at a table in the same room where you and your guests are eating. Not a guest table. This can be a table off to the side, or tucked in a corner. The table doesn’t have to have a centerpiece, or a number, or anything fancy on it. Well, maybe a bread basket. Mmmm… bread. I love bread. What was I saying? Right, tables. I prefer not to sit with guests. The wedding day is a bit of a marathon, and dinner is a brief time where I can empty my mind and zone out a little bit. I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s a little hard to be chatty when I’m preparing to shovel my food and get ready for what’s coming next. However – if you have some kind of seating dilemma and it will simplify your life to seat us with guests, that’s fine. Not a big deal.

My second choice: at a table right outside the room where you and your guests are eating.

Last choice: in a separate room, out of sight or hearing distance from you and your guests. I want to be sure to avoid a situation where we’re still in the back room waiting for food, the couple decides to cut their cake, and no one comes to let us know…

Still have questions? Contact me and I’ll be happy to help you figure this out!