Short answer: Yes, please.
Longer answer: I want to write this in the least entitled way possible, to help you (the client) get the best photographs of your wedding while also making my life easier. Let’s talk about this with the 5 W’s.
Your photographers. I can’t speak for the other vendors at your wedding, like the DJ or band, who I assume eat at some point during the night, etc. Right now I’m talking about myself and your second photographer.
It’s a very physical job. All day I carry a ton of weight in camera equipment on my body — so much that, if I put my bags down on the right front seat, my car beeps that my passenger doesn’t have a seatbelt on. I run probably 2-3 miles back and forth over the 8 hours.
Most likely, we have been photographing for at least 4-5 hours before your dinner service begins. Most of my clients have us photographing the getting-ready portion of the day, ceremony, formals, portraits, and cocktail hour, before we see any food. Before we’ve been shooting, we’ve been in the car to get to the venue, so it may be 6 hours since we’ve had a meal. I always make sure to pack some protein-heavy snacks to nibble on between events, but by the time the hors d’oeuvres start making their rounds and we’re still photographing your guests socializing at cocktail hour, our tummies are rumbling. So a meal in the middle of what amounts to probably a 10-hour work day (7-8 hrs of coverage and perhaps 1 hr for travel each way) is much appreciated.
What should you feed us? Your catering service can include us in your catering head count, or you can opt to give us a vendor meal. Either one is appreciated, although I do want to point out the difference between the two, because I’ve had clients who have said they’ve put us in the catering count but the caterers gave us vendor meals instead. And when the clients found out what we’d been served, they were upset that they’d paid essentially for two full meals and learned their money went into what is essentially a cold sandwich and chips. If we are added to the catering head count, we eat what you have chosen for your guests to nosh on. Typically it is hot, and if it’s part of the buffet line we can avoid foods that we can’t eat (I’m lactose-intolerant so I’m always saying no to the mac-and-cheese plates that are so tantalizing!) and double-up on things we can eat (like an extra helping of grilled veggies… mmm!)
I am not a diva about food, and will happily take any meal that I can get — as long as I can eat it. I always feel terrible when I have to find a coordinator or catering manager to say, I’m really grateful that you’ve given me this cheeseburger, but I really can’t have cheese… could you please take the time out of your day to find me something else? 90% of my clients have buffet weddings… it’s seriously easier to just let us pop through the line and help ourselves to foods we can eat.
We photographers really appreciate being in the same room or area as your guests when we have our dinner. It doesn’t have to be at a table — I’m fine with perching on a bench somewhere — but we would really like to be able to see what is going on. If there’s an impromptu toast by your Aunt Muriel, for instance; or maybe people are clanging on their champagne flutes for you to kiss… we will see that happening and can grab those shots. If we’re banished to a separate “vendor” room for our meals, or the kitchen, we won’t know what is going on.
This is the biggie! Your photographers should be fed at the same time as you and your wedding party. I’m not saying this because I know I’ll be ravenous, or because I really want to cut the line, or anything self-serving like that. It’s actually in your best interest to have us eat when you are eating. You probably do not want photos of yourself chewing — no one does — so by the time you are finished eating and making rounds at your guests’ tables, or your toasts begin, or your first dance starts, or you’re about to cut your cake — we’ll be done too, and able to take photos of those moments.
There have been instances where either the venue or the catering company would not give a morsel to any vendors until after every guest was fed, and this is usually a negative thing… because what happens is that we’re waiting, everyone else lingers over their meals, and things like toasts or dances start before we have a chance to properly sit down and have a bite. It’s terrible when we’re given a meal 3 minutes before the first dance is supposed to start, and we wolf it down without chewing.
I have been lucky enough to have so many couples who have been looking out for my well-being during their weddings. They understand that I’m not an automaton, I’m a person who has a long day (doing what I love, yes, but still a long day!) and that a filling meal is incredibly important. I’m not a person who can go 12 hours without eating. The totally lovely Olivia and Amy had me sit at the head table with their wedding party, which was uncommonly sweet; still others like Liz and Steven had guest cards for us; I’ve had others tell the catering staff to feed me when other forces seemed to be against that happening. My clients want me to be fed because they know that a hungry person is not a sharp person, and that a happy photographer means I won’t be focusing on my ravenous belly but instead on making amazing photos with extra energy during the second half of their wedding day.
Why do I write this post, if that is the case?
Because oftentimes, couples don’t realize all that’s going on behind the scenes. Caterers can be strict about their rules; venue owners or coordinators can be over-controlling. Even with clients’ best intentions, sometimes wires get crossed or suggestions get omitted.
The easiest way to be proactive about this, and to make sure that we’re in the same room as the rest of your guests, are fed at the same time as your guests, and make sure that we’re taken care of before the dance party starts…
…is to treat us like we are your guests. :)
I’m friends with most of my clients by the time the wedding day rolls around, so to me it’s not out of the question to suggest this. But I can almost hear a few vendors who are very strict on the personal/business boundary line gasping with horror at the impertinence of my suggestion. Really, though: having two places set on a table (it can be in a shadowy corner!) for myself and my assistant/second shooter will make all of our lives easy-breezy.
This is obviously not required; I will be happy to eat what I’m given, when I’m given it, where I’m told to eat it, and this post was not meant to be a ploy to ask for a seat at a guest table. I understand that it’s a big commitment to assign two extra seats to people who are working. But I did want to make this post to educate clients about when and where their photographers should eat for the best possible outcome for their photos :)
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