Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Vendor Meals

A look at what they are and who should receive one.
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Senior Editor
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah has a passion for DE&I and plays an integral role in ensuring The Knot content highlights all voices and all love stories.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Jan 06, 2022

A meal is a big part of most wedding receptions. After the couple has said "I do" and is ready to party, they need some sustenance to keep them going. However, the vendors that are on-site working the wedding all day long also need to be fed. Wedding vendor meals are an important part of any wedding's catering order, but there are often a lot of questions surrounding those meals and expected etiquette.

To get a feel for what vendor meals are, who gets one and more, we tapped some of our go-to industry experts to shine a light on the topic. Before you finalize your wedding food needs with your caterer, make sure you peruse the vendor meal frequently asked questions below to ensure you understand what to include.

Do you have to feed wedding vendors?

Wedding vendors who are on-site for the majority of the wedding day should be fed and shouldn't have to provide their own food. Most vendors will have a clause in their contract that stipulates they require a meal which helps take the guesswork out of who to feed.

Vendors who are only at the wedding for a couple of hours, like a ceremony musician, officiant or getaway car driver, won't need meals. However, many other key people will.

Wedding planner Amanda Slater of Slater Events says that "any vendor that is on-site during dinner service should receive a hot meal, and it's usually included in their contract. Make sure to account for any photographer or planner assistants, as well as sound techs for the band." Michelle Gainey of Lemiga Events adds that "typically it's for vendors that will be working more than 4 hours over the dinner time period."

Which vendors need meals? How do you know if a vendor requires a meal?

From the wedding planning team who's present for the entirety of the wedding day from setup through breakdown to the photographer, videographer and band or DJ, many vendors will require a meal. Think about it this way—if someone is present for long enough that they will be hungry and couldn't just eat before or after coming to do their job then they should be fed. Your florists, hair stylists and makeup artists, for example, don't need vendor meals because they will likely be long gone by the time dinner rolls around. Your wedding coordinator or planner will be a great resource in figuring out who needs to be included in the headcount for vendor meals.

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Wedding planner Michelle Norwood of Michelle Norwood Events advises that "any vendor that will be onsite for the duration of the event" should be fed." Slater goes on to say that "typically the photographer(s), planner(s), videographer(s), DJ or band, photo booth attendant and any other entertainment vendor. If they're working through dinner, they should receive a meal. The catering staff takes care of their own servers and bartenders, so you don't need to worry about that," explains Slater.

When do vendors eat their meals? Do vendors eat the same meals that the wedding guests eat?

This will change from vendor to vendor, and may also change depending on caterer, venue and planner preferences. Lots of times vendor teams will cycle through taking a break to eat so that someone is always present should an emergency arise. Your main wedding photographer may go eat during dinner but have their second shooter stand guard to snap wedding photos until their teammate returns. Wedding bands, on the other hand, generally have very clear stipulations about when their meal needs to be ready, and it's often before their set during cocktail hour.

Norwood explains that, generally, "the band eats prior to the start time or during the seated dinner portion of the evening. The photographer and planners rotate between before dinner and after dinner." As for Slater, she usually likes to "the band at a separate time than the rest of the vendors because they have a different schedule and have to play while guests are eating. I often end up feeding them around when the ceremony is happening. With all other vendors, I try my best to make sure we eat while the guests are eating. Some hotels and caterers give some pushback on this and want to serve us after all of the guests are served, but at that point, we're having to coordinate speeches and first dances and end up not eating until 10 pm, if at all. Once I explain this to the client, they give the okay to have vendors served as guests are being served. It's the only time nothing is happening on our end logistically."

What do vendors eat?

When couples first hear the idea of vendor meals they may worry that they're expected to set a place for vendors amidst their guests. Fret not—that's simply not the case. While vendors should, by all means, be fed good food, you needn't splurge on them by serving them the lobster or steak your loved ones on the guest list may be enjoying as a main course, unless you want to.

Many catering companies have standard vendor meals that they serve to professionals. There is some debate between professionals as to whether the expected meal should be a hot meal or if a cold one, like a sandwich, is alright. Some vendors, especially bands, generally stipulate that they require a hot meal. And a hot meal, like chicken and potatoes, is generally something all vendors would like to receive. After all, they've been giving their all throughout the day to ensure the big day is a success. A nice vendor meal is a great way to show appreciation for their hard work giving you the best wedding possible.

Norwood notes that she likes "for wedding professionals to eat the same meal as the guests, however, oftentimes that is difficult. Most times it is a box lunch, sandwich, chips and cookie." Slater goes on to share that what vendors eat "completely depends on the location and client, but all vendors require their meal to be hot and account for any dietary restrictions (no boxed lunches). Usually, my clients want vendors to be taken care of and eat what the guests are having, but sometimes that isn't possible so we receive a vendor meal buffet set up for us to go through at our leisure. Either way, vendors should be served a nice meal as it's probably the first time they've eaten since breakfast, and they're working really long hours to make the client's day special."

How much should you budget for feeding wedding vendors?

The cost of vendor meals will vary across the wedding industry by market, but can range anywhere from $30 to $90 per person. Gainey advises that couples It's wise to ask your caterer upfront so you don't have a surprise bill at the end.

Where should vendors eat their meals?

Vendors are not expected to eat amongst guests. Rather, plan to have a green room or staging area where vendors can rest, store their equipment and enjoy their food. Not only does this save you money from having to pay for a decorated table in the reception room for them, but it also gives vendors a chance to rest away from the commotion of the event. "I've had clients want to seat their vendors at a guest table before, and while it's such a nice thought, we love being able to sit in a quiet room and relax for thirty minutes," explains Slater. "Anywhere comfortable that is out of view from guests is preferred."

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