At a recent New England Wedding Professionals meeting, one of our members brought up a topic that no one really seems to discuss...vendor meals. To be honest, I've never really liked talking about it, either, so my hope is that actually putting my thoughts into words will make it easier for me (and hopefully others, too!) to discuss in the future. While I'm clearly writing this from a DJ's perspective, the same concepts will likely apply to photographers, videographers, and other day-of-event professionals, as well.
DJs are a lot like mogwais (you know, the fuzzy little guys from Gremlins). We don't like to get wet (or at least our gear doesn't), and we don't like to be fed after midnight. It's no secret that weddings (and most other events) are long day for many people involved. Let's say that your event goes from 5-11PM...that means your DJ may be there as early as 3PM to set up, and likely won't be leaving until about midnight. So, it stands to reason that at some point in that nine hour window, we're going to need to eat. Now, fortunately, I've never had a client tell me that I'm not allowed to eat while I'm "on the clock", so it always kind of baffles me why vendor meals are such a grey area that often isn't discussed until the day of. The logistics that really need to be covered there are what, where, and when.
What: It's my personal philosophy that I never expect to be included in the event meal. Some vendors do require a meal in their contracts, so it's certainly something to be mindful of, but it's my feeling that every event is on a budget, catering is expensive, and I would hate for a client to have to choose between inviting another guest or feeding me. That having been said, I'm very fortunate to have such awesome clients, and virtually all of them do include me in their dinner plans. Many venues and catering companies offer "vendor meals" precisely for this purpose...they often don't include all the courses or fancy garnishes and flourishes, but certainly make for a lovely dinner for the people working so hard to bring your event to life. If for whatever reason you're not able to make meal arrangements for your vendors, I highly encourage you to discuss that with them in advance. It's really no trouble for your DJ or photographer to bring a sandwich and a granola bar to snack on...as long as we know to do so.
Where: This is going to vary venue to venue and vendor to vendor. Some of my clients are kind enough to count me as a guest and find a place for me in their seating chart, and while I do appreciate the gesture, I'll be honest, I don't make the best "wedding guest". Tables tend to develop a dynamic and a life of their own, and having the DJ or photographer crash for 20 minutes to stuff our faces kind of throws that off. I personally prefer to eat at my station so I can keep an eye on the playlist, and I'm easily available if a guest or another vendor has any questions for me. Again, this will vary, but it's a question worth asking. Another option that many venues can provide is a "vendor table"...it's often in an adjacent room, and provides a great place for your event staff to gather and eat. The venue knows where we are, and it's a wonderful opportunity for us to network. If you find that a vendor table works for your event, don't worry about a centerpiece or other decor...again, thoughtful, but an unnecessary expense (though I have kept my place card from every event I've worked as a souvenir). :)
When: This always seems to be the tough one, and again, there are variables. If your meal is buffet style, your vendors should absolutely wait until all your guests have been served, period. If dinner is plated...well, we find ourselves in a bit of a debate between manners and practicality. Good manners would dictate that your vendors should be served after all of your guests (or with their table, if they're seated among your guests). However, manners aside, you want your vendors to be ready to get back to work as soon after dinner as possible (as an example, many couples will schedule their first dance or parents' dances immediately after the head table has been cleared). With that in mind, I've worked at a few venues that actually serve the vendor meals immediately after the head table has been served. In those cases, the vendor table was in an adjacent room so as to not start a ruckus among the guests, and I thought it worked out beautifully. I was done with dinner by the time the head table was cleared, so I was available for first dances, parents' dances, or what have you at the same time my clients were. Again, communication is key...if this is something your venue or catering staff is amicable to (and if there's a separate and secluded vendor table), I highly recommend this option both to keep your event flowing smoothly and keep your vendors happy.
I hope this helps my celebrants and fellow vendors alike demystify dinner time. As with anything else, take the time before the event to discuss anything you possibly can. It's not unnecessary if it gives you one less thing to worry about on the big day. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back for more tips, tricks, and advice from behind the DJ booth!