The Vendor Meal Dilemma: To Feed or Not To Feed

Vendor Meal Etiquette and Considerations for Your Wedding Reception

Your wedding day is a joyous occasion, filled with love, laughter, and meticulous planning. As you’re ironing out the details of your reception, one question may arise: Should you be required to supply a vendor meal for the professionals working at your event, such as the DJ, photographers, bartenders, and catering staff? It’s a nuanced topic that involves etiquette, practicality, and fairness for all parties involved.

Traditionally, providing a vendor meal has been seen as a gesture of appreciation and hospitality. After all, these individuals are instrumental in ensuring your celebration runs smoothly and beautifully. Offering them a meal demonstrates gratitude for their hard work and dedication throughout the long hours they spend on-site.

However, the decision to supply vendor meals isn’t always straightforward. Here are a few factors from a wedding vendors point of view to consider:

Vendor Meal Considerations

Contracts and Agreements:

Review the contracts you have with each vendor. Some contracts may explicitly state whether or not meals are required or included in their compensation. If it’s specified in the contract, it’s essential to honor those terms. I mention this one first because the first thing to come out of a vendors’ mouth when they don’t get a vendor meal is “It’s in my contract to be provided a meal”.  Followed by “I can’t believe they did this to me”. Yeah, I know, when I hear it, it rubs me the wrong way too. So make sure you read vendor contracts thoroughly before your wedding day. And just a side note: I don’t require my clients to supply me with a meal, but I love it when they do!

Work Hours:

Consider the duration of your event and the length of time each vendor will be working. If your wedding spans several hours, and they all do, it’s reasonable to assume that these professionals will need sustenance to keep them energized and focused. Providing meals ensures they can perform their duties effectively throughout the event.

For example, as a wedding DJ, I typically arrive at a venue for setup 2 ½ to 3 hours before the event starts, and an hour or so after for take down. Most of the time I’m looking at 10 to 11 hours without a break, not including drive time. I do come prepared with plenty of snacks and drinks to keep me going throughout. Your photographers might be covering the bride and groom as they get ready, and first look photos at another location. Then shoot the wedding and reception. They could be looking at 8 hours or more with no breaks.

Logistics and Convenience:

While some vendors may be able to bring their own provisions, others may not have the means or opportunity to do so. Photographers, for instance, may not want to step away from capturing crucial moments to grab a meal elsewhere. Providing vendor meals on-site streamlines the process and ensures everyone can eat without disrupting the flow of the event. In the Monterey area finding parking at events is harder than most areas I work in. So keep in mind that if a vendor leaves to eat, they might be delayed returning in a timely manner. I mention this from experience. I recall a wedding where the videographers left during dinner and were delayed returning due to a traffic closure. Not their fault, but it set the schedule of events back over an hour.  

Professionalism and Comfort:

Your vendors are an extension of your wedding team, and their comfort and well-being are paramount. By offering them a meal, you create a hospitable environment where they feel valued and appreciated. This can contribute to a positive working atmosphere, enhancing the overall experience for everyone involved. I’m not going to though anyone under the bus here. But I have witnessed many so called wedding professionals through a fit over not being included in the meal. If you make the decision to not provide your wedding vendors meals, make it clear ahead of time.

Budget Considerations:

Of course, the financial aspect cannot be overlooked. While providing vendor meals may incur additional costs, it’s essential to factor this into your overall budget from the outset. Discuss meal options with your caterer or venue coordinator to find a solution that aligns with your budgetary constraints. Some caterers and venues have a separate vendor meal menu, and it can save you a lot of your hard earned cash going that route. Recently I DJ’d a wedding locally in the Monterey area and the meal choices were Veal, Prime Rib or the kids’ meal. Crispy Beer Battered Halibut Fish and Chips, ah, yes please, I do love fish & chips!  And it probably saved the wedding couple 50 bucks!  

Ultimately, the decision to provide vendor meals at your wedding reception is a personal one, influenced by various factors such as contractual agreements, logistical considerations, and budgetary constraints. However, if feasible, extending this gesture of hospitality can go a long way in fostering goodwill and creating a memorable experience for all involved.

If you choose to provide a vendor meal, communicate your intentions clearly with your vendors ahead of time. Include meal preferences and dietary restrictions to ensure everyone is accommodated. By showing thoughtfulness and consideration in your planning, you’ll set the stage for a harmonious and enjoyable celebration for everyone involved.

By Justin Warwick | Owner | DJ | DJ Enterprises Mobile Disc Jockey Email: [email protected] | Phone: 530-277-2483 |