Feeding Your Wedding Vendors :: Four Issues, Solutions, and Why These Details Matter :: Do You Need To Feed Your Wedding Photography?

Feeding Your Wedding Vendors

Four Issues and Solutions Explained

When a bad article is written and then posted by a publication that is noted as supposedly reputable in all things wedding, it shocks me. I have an emotional reaction really. Where's the fact checking? Where's the actual logic? And I just read one of those articles, which I won't give any more publicity by linking. It gave bad advice on which wedding vendors should be provided a meal at a wedding. I can’t blame any bride or groom-to-be that comes away thinking what was written is the standard, the norm for all weddings. Most couples have little to no experience in planning a wedding before their own, and they look to these articles for advice.

So I figured, lets turn this lousy article into something productive, lets talk about your wedding and the meals provided to the people working with you. Lets talk about the reality of it all and what many neglect or feel awkward talking about. We're going to talk about dinner. Specifically, my dinner!

Timing

If there was some driving between your venues, I may have been able to eat a granola bar on the road. Otherwise I don’t stop until you do as well. And that is at dinner. While you and the rest of your guests are eating, enjoying good conversations and good food – that is when I’m able to eat as well, without the fear that I’ll miss a great moment. Plus, I know that no one loves a camera in their face as they're eating! This would be the best time for me to eat too. If you’re eating, you don’t need photographs taken. Logical, right?

Many venues (not all – some of them really get it!) refuse to feed vendors until last. Dead last. They want to serve every guest first. From their point of view, this may seem to make sense. The actual guests are a priority. We're the help. The logistics of food service are difficult, especially at a large event, which I completely respect. But in terms of photography, videography, and music.. it means that when you’re done with your meal, ready to mingle or dance, I’m just being served. Shouldn't the priority be the whole wedding experience? Which includes the vendors you, as a couple, want there doing the best work possible. The reality is, we've probably been going for at least five or six hours now with hours to go. Food matters.

So I’m finally served last; I either shovel food into my mouth as fast as I can without choking, leaving three quarters of a plate on the table in the hopes that I can return for a few more bites only to find out later it has been whisked away OR I don’t eat. I suppose there’s also the option to sit, eat my meal in a civilized manner, and miss the photographs for that moment.. usually the parent dances are just after the meal.. those aren't important, right? (In case it wasn't clear, that's a joke, I could never do that. )

Added Note: In case you're wondering, buffets aren't always any better. A photographer I know went through a buffet line, had food and was ready to sit, only to be told by staff that vendors go last and have that plate taken from him just to be tossed in the trash.

The Solution: You can insist that the caterer feed the vendors at the same time as you, you the couple, regardless of their policy. It still may not happen, but it can be worth a try. You, as their client, have a lot more sway than I do advocating for my own meal.

Location

Once again, I’m going to generalize here because there are venues that have this covered. Every venue has a different policy. They all have a different layout and space constraints. But they all also have vendors at every event. So they should have a solution to this one already, yet many do not.

So, Where will I eat? Simple question, right? I’ve been served at a table off to the side in the same ballroom with guests. I’ve been handed a plate and told I could sit on a crate or pallet in the kitchen where I’m clearly in the way. I’ve been placed in a room so far away that I could no longer hear the dinner music or anything else that was happening in the room. I’ve been directed to eat outside, under a tiny overhang at least, while it was raining. I’ve eaten standing at a bar table where cocktail hour was held (I remember dreaming of a chair). I’ve been seated at a table with guests, next to mom actually, and served with everyone else. And I've had a caterer give me a plate and tell me to figure it out. I’m sure there are other vendors with even more unique meal locations to tell you about too!

The Solution: Have a vendor table included in your floor plan. A table with linens, utensils, and chairs. If we’re in the room with you, we can be ready for an impromptu toast or a group photo before your aunt has to leave. It also gives me a place to keep a glass of water or put my camera down for a moment without it being in someones way. Some venues have adjoining cocktail areas with tables and chairs or side rooms, this works really well too!

The Food

This one I hear horror stories about. I’ve been very fortunate. I can’t remember the last wedding I photographed where I wasn’t eating a hot meal comparable to the one the guests had. BUT I’ve seen other vendors post photos of the leftover cocktail hour scraps handed to them, a couple of cold cuts left out half the day on a table for ten vendors, the moldy (no joke) sandwich provided. There are venues that offer a reduced price ‘Vendor Meal’ and it’s not always what you think you’re paying for your vendors to eat. And the hardest part of it all, it’s not the venues and caterers that you might ‘expect’ to give out lousy or gross meals.. more often than not it’s places that might book hotel rooms starting upwards of $700 a night.

The Solution: If it is a Vendor Meal instead of the meal you’re offering guests, just clarify what this meal is. Make sure you’re getting your moneys worth and your vendor is getting something that actually will be edible and provide some sustenance. Extra points if you also contact the vendors to take into account if any of them have allergies or dietary restrictions.

Who Eats?

This is where this conversation started. Who gets a meal? A meal that you’re paying for. Off the top of my head, I would include your wedding planner, their assistants, the photographers, the videographers, the band and/or DJs, and any other vendor who is working four hours (that’s just my standard number and it should really take into account the time for setup and breakdown) or more through dinnertime. Opinions here may vary, but it seems like a waste to have any kind of vendor feel they have to leave to go out to hit a McDonalds or be running on fumes by the end of the evening. Keeping our energy up, staying positive to continue doing great work, is a big part of being at a wedding. Working in my office or while writing this blog post now, it doesn’t matter quite so much that I’m getting hangry!

The Solution: Check the contracts. Professionals include language about meals in their contracts so you are obligated to feed them and their assistants if this is the case. But you can also go a step further and just ask them. There are professionals who don’t see language about food in a contract as necessary, probably because they’ve been lucky enough to have good experiences thus far. I realize how expensive weddings are but is the cost of one or two more meals the tipping point? What it comes down to for me.. it really is the human thing to do.

We’re all in this with you to make this day amazing. Sadly, some places overlook or have contrary policies to the points above, some even see the other vendors they work alongside as a nuisance to deal with that day. They’ll do the bare minimum at best (you don’t actually want utensils with that food, do you?). Searching for a place to eat, hoping to be fed at all.. it's all a little silly.. and it's not something I love adding to your plate. Pun intended ;) But the few extra minutes it may take to make sure all of this is a non-issue, that you'd getting the meal you pay for, that you know the policies; it can really be worth it. Setting the right tone for an amazing day!

 

Tips on How to Have a Packed Dance Floor at Your Wedding :: Ways to Get and Keep Guests Dancing :: Wedding Reception

I love hanging out on a full dance floor, photographing all of the twirls, laughs, high kicks, break dancing, and classic sprinkler moves! While I'm photographing, it's hard not to dance along (so you may see me moving to the beat as I'm hitting the shutter!). I'll be with you and your guests in the middle of the action, capturing it all. So, if an awesome dance party is what you envision at your wedding reception, how do you keep that dance floor packed? Here are some thoughts, tips, and things to consider on how to keep the dancing going all night!

We all know that the DJ or Band can really effect whether or not guests are dancing. The energy that they give needs to line up well with your crowd and the way they’ll be celebrating that night. Find out if the DJ you're considering will know how to read a crowd. If they are switching from upbeat pop to slow oldies to country, it could just kill the overall vibe. Read reviews and ask friends and other trusted vendors for recommendations. Wedding vendors see a lot of wedding receptions and can most likely give you some good advice. After choosing a DJ or Band that is a great match, what else can you do to help ensure the dance floor is packed all night long? Your DJ/Band will be a great resource (they do have a little bit of experience with this after all and you probably chose them because you trust that they are great at what they do), so make sure you ask them if they have any advice for you. 

Start with the invitations! Or add something to your wedding website. Give people some cues that you mean for this to be a party and they should come ready to cut a rug. (This topic really lends itself to some corny phrasing! Be prepared!) If your wedding isn't in a hotel, think about having a shuttle available for guests so that they can have a couple drinks and be a bit silly without worrying.

Getting people up and onto the floor can be half the battle! Once your aunts, friends, parents, etc. are already there they will likely stay for at least a song or two. So get everyone up and dancing with you at the very start of the night! At many Jewish weddings you’ll see this happen with the tradition of the Hora and that energy really compounds. So pick a song or two with some real energy and get your guests out there together, dancing, holding hands, and coming together to celebrate. 

Create a floor plan and atmosphere that prioritizes the dance floor. Make sure there is ample room to dance, if the floor is too small then guests will be knocking each other around, but if it’s too large it might feel like it’s empty, though that gives you plenty of space to bust some moves! Add in some lighting that let’s people know that this is a party. Make sure you don’t seat guests next to the speakers who will absolutely hate the volume of it, because they won’t be getting up to party if they have a headache. You don't know how many times I've seen uncles or grandparents looking miserable seated by a pounding speaker. That also puts the DJ in the awkward position of having to lower the music when they ask and then balancing that with everyone else who just wants it louder.

When you plan out your timeline with your coordinator, make sure that you aren’t stopping the festivities right as they get going. Many weddings will pause the dancing to cut the cake, to do the parent dances, or for some other planned event. Getting that floor packed again afterward could be a challenge. Look at other options for your timeline, for example you could start the dance floor back up after dinner with those parent dances instead of having to clear the dance floor for them. If you have to schedule something in the middle of that dancing time, keep your guests up and moving with you if possible, instead of sitting back down. After you’re finished, make sure another catchy song comes on that makes people want to get back into it. Another option for something like the tradition of cutting the cake, some couples won't even announce it. They'll just take a few moments to slice the cake for the camera and send it off to be served without much attention.

Do you have something fun planned for your guests like a Photo Booth or a caricature station? Schedule it with your dance floor in mind. People will line up for those awesome caricatures and, instead of dancing, will just be waiting there. I’ve seen it. So cut it off after cocktail hour. Photo booths are a fun experience all night long! But don’t place yours on the opposite end of the room from all of the dancing. It’ll pull your guests away. Have it close by where their energy can flow from dancing to photos and back again. (If you're looking for a Photo Booth I do have to plug The Sharp Drop here!)

Lots of guests, women especially, have sore feet after a day in formal shoes. So offer them some ‘dancing shoes’ so they can keep going into the evening! I’ve seen flip flops, ballet flats, and colorful socks offered up at receptions for this purpose. This is safer than bare feet and shows how much you want everyone to get their groove on. 

This is a celebration! And, without getting cheesy about it (or maybe a little cheesy is what is actually called for!), you can add in some 'props' that will make everyone want to be on the dance floor with you! If there are balloons dropping or there is confetti flying, who could stay seated? So consider adding in some surprises throughout the night to keep your guests engaged and excited. Just make sure the props are going to be safe in the hands of guests who may have had a drink or two at this point!

If the floor is emptying have your MC get interactive. I’ve seen Band members move out into the crowd while singing, even dancing with grandma! DJs can orchestrate some fun ‘competitions’ or reinvent the ‘dollar dance’ for a playful moment. If you really can’t get them out of their seats, have your DJ and photographer orchestrate a group photo on the floor. Once the photo is taken, they are already out on the floor so the DJ can go right into the music. And since they are already there..

Some couples hire professional dancers, from hip hop to belly dancing, to get out on the dance floor and teach everyone some moves. Not only is it fun to watch but it's interactive! The energy of those dancers is absolutely contagious!

Mainly, you want to keep the energy alive. It’s really about having music that is consistently making people want to move their feet. If a song does flop, there are ways to get them back out there with you. And keep in mind, this is your day.. you’re the stars.. who there is going to deny you the dance party that you dream of on your wedding day? So let them all know what it means to you to have them out there shaking it with you! 

Lenox Wedding Tour :: Table Design Challenge :: Centerpiece and Place Setting Inspiration - Part III

This post is continuing on from my last two posts (scroll down to see even more beautiful designs below) about some of the most gorgeous table designs at Cranwell Resort in Lenox as a part of the Lenox Wedding Tour that I photographed earlier in November. Each of the attendees at the Lenox Wedding Tour were given a beautifully designed invitation set by Ceci New York to base the design of their table off of. Below is the last set of inspiring designs from that day!

 

Table 13

Designed by Weddings by Trista 

Flowers by Carolyn Valenti Flowers

Invitation by Ceci New York

Table 14

Designed by Leslie Barbini from The Wedding Belle 

Flowers by Crocus Hale Flowers

Invitation by Ceci New York

Table 15

Designed by Liz Quill from elegant Aura

Flowers by Bella Flora

Invitation by Ceci New York

Table 16

Designed by Gina Manlove of Ceci New York 

Flowers by Gillooly & Co. Design

Invitation by Ceci New York

Table 17

Designed by Becca Olcott of M Starr Event Design 

Flowers by Gillooly & Co. Design

Invitation by Ceci New York

Table 19

Designed by Tara Consolati 

Flowers by the Berkshire Flower Company

Invitation by Ceci New York

Table 20

Designed by Brittny Drye of Love Inc. 

Flowers by Crocus Hale Flowers

Invitation by Ceci New York

Lenox Wedding Tour :: Table Design Challenge :: Centerpiece and Place Setting Inspiration - Part I

I had the honor of photographing some of the most gorgeous table designs at Cranwell Resort in Lenox during the Lenox Wedding Tour earlier this month. Each of the attendees at the Lenox Wedding Tour were given a beautifully designed invitation by Ceci New York to base the design of their table off of. There were twenty tables total, which is a lot of awesome inspiration to look at, so I'm going to post five here today and follow up with more in the next few days!

 

Table 1

Designed by Michele Hotchkin at Classical Tents with Flowers by Bella Flora and Invitation by Ceci New York

Table 4

Designed by Caitlin Campbell of True Event

Flowers by Carolyn Valenti Flowers

Invitation by Ceci New York