In early October, the headlines read, “Photographer Deletes Couples’ Wedding Photos after Being Denied Break to Eat and Drink,” and it caused an UPROAR across all social platforms that resulted in conflicted feelings for most.

Either you agreed with the photographer’s stance or you found it hard to believe that a vendor was due a break and meal while servicing a full-day event.

What is a vendor meal? Food and beverage paid for by the event host for the professionals serving the event to eat onsite.

Well, here’s my opinion – that I’m sticking beside!

In all the noise, discussions and articles this topic generated, there was one thing missing: an explanation of the role an event planner plays when it comes to vendor meal management from the point of preparedness to day-of execution.

Let’s discuss!

Educate Your Client on which Vendors They Should Feed

Vendors are crucial to making the event day a success, so their policies on working conditions and meals are important details for you to not only understand but to also cover with your client. They will need a general sense of how the event day is expected to flow. There is no room for assumption in this area, so it is important to take the time to discuss this early in the planning process, especially due to potential impacts on the budget.

My general rule of thumb for vendor meals is typically based on the amount of time a vendor will spend at the event. If they are staying on-site for 6+ hours, a vendor meal should be included. For weddings, this includes the planner, photographer, videographer, and band/DJ, plus their assistants. If the event requires a major setup production, this list will expand. This should not include the catering staff as it is usually covered in the service charge added to the final food and beverage bill.

Inquiry about Meals and Break Rooms with the Venue

Vendor meals are handled definitely by the venue, so it is important to check and see what options are available. First, you should look at the different types of meals available. Will it be the same meal the guests are served or something less? No matter what it is, it’s key to provide something that will keep the vendors properly fueled and focused.

Next, you should inquire about where the vendors will eat their meals. This could mean a free designated break room, a different room reserved for a fee, or off to the side in the main event space. Of course, a separate area with tables and chairs available is best so they can privately enjoy the meal.

Building Breaks and Meals into the Timeline

Time management and flexibility are key when adding breaks to the timeline. The best time for breaks are dependent on the event type, but for weddings, it is typically recommended to have the planning team, photographer and videographer eat while dinner is being served. For other vendors that provide entertainment, such as the DJ or emcee, it is ideal to have them fed just before the event or reception starts.  

There are times when your official timeline may not include specific breaks for vendors, but it is important to have mental awareness of breaks for each of them. This may involve you asking vendors if they have eaten yet or by reminding them of their window to eat. Your guidance will go a long way.

Overall, the goal with managing breaks is to avoid disruption to the flow of planned activities. Everything will move so fast!

Get to know the Captain Before the Event Starts

Upon arrival on event day, I make it a point to meet the Event Captain of the evening. The Events Captain works for the caterer and serves as the liaison between the staff and the client. It is their responsibility, alongside the venue lead, to ensure a high-quality and well-executed food service for the entire event.

Spending a few minutes with the captain gives you a chance to have a mutual understanding of the plans for the event and the vendor meals. Listen, a good Event Captain will make sure you and all vendors are kept fed and hydrated throughout the event day. Even if you are unable to eat your meal during the event, the captain will have it packed and ready for you in a to-go bag.

It is another thing to love about this industry. We look out for each other!

Simply put, vendor meals are required. As much as we believe this to be shared knowledge, the recent uproar proved that it is not. As event professionals, it is our job to inform and guide our clients through vendor meal planning. We have to advocate for ourselves.

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