Let’s tackle a sticky question today — which vendors do you have to feed at your wedding events, and what do you have to feed them? It comes up with every wedding I plan, but because Vieques is so small and I work with the same handful of vendors over and over again, we have a system for handling this. That’s not the case everywhere else. But there is a way to handle feeding your vendors and staff at a destination wedding that usually ends up making almost everyone happy.
Okay, now this is a blog that you brides and grooms really needed, and that’s why I’m writing it — but it’s a topic that sometimes gets me into hot water with vendors and service staff. Here’s why — in my humble opinion, if you’re being paid a huge amount of money to work at an event, you can be responsible for feeding yourself. That doesn’t mean that’s what I do, I’m just saying…. where else in the world do you go to work and expect a free lunch? Hey! I want to work there. The reality is that if you are working a long shift at an event, you should expect to get a break long enough to consume a meal. With that said, nobody has to provide your meal — you should come prepared with something to eat unless you know otherwise.
When I first started wedding planning on Vieques, I wasn’t sure what to do with this. You see, some caterers bring their own service staff, and with others we bring people in on our own. It’s up to the caterer as to whether they want to feed the service staff or not — most of them do, using leftovers once everything has been served to the clients. Most of the time, that food would go to the garbage anyway, so it’s no skin off the caterers’ noses to feed their waitstaff and bartenders.
Musicians and DJs do not, as a general rule, get included in the headcount for meals. I’ve noticed they don’t starve to death (passed appetizers) nor are they dying of thirst (I’ve been the one to pick up the beer cans behind the band setup), but they don’t expect to be fed a meal. Nor should they. They’re all getting paid good money to work for the duration of the event — usually five hours — and there’s no time for a meal in between. Eat before you come.
Photographers and videographers vary in policy. Some will tell you that you have to feed them in the contracts Others won’t specify it, so you need to ask the question. My policy is that you should feed the photographer and/or videographer if they’re going to be working for you for six or more hours straight, or if they’re from out of town. This out-of-town policy may be unique to Vieques, but it’s an important one because I want my vendors from out of town to want to come back and work again. And if you spend all night shooting pictures or video and you don’t get any dinner, and then you go back to your room at a little guesthouse someplace on the island, you’re going to starve to death!!! There is no fast food on Vieques. There are a few pinchot stands you can run by late night, or if you happen to roll through Esperanza on your way home and Geigel is open with his Tripaburger stand, you can get a heart attack on a plate for late night munchies. But in general, out-of-town vendors need to be fed at the event or they probably won’t get to eat.
Every wedding planning company has its own policies. I make my clients pay for a couple of my staff members to eat at the reception because everyone on our team has been working since 8 o’clock that morning and I know that nobody has time to eat during the day. We always have at least two staff members on hand at weddings planned and executed by Weddings in Vieques. But every company has a different policy. Remember, depending on how your wedding planning contract works, your planning company may be taking a piece out of the catering budget. And if that’s the case, charging you to feed them as well would sort of be double dipping.
Finally, where do the staff go to eat when they do eat? WE HIDE! No, really, we do. We pick the farthest out table, away from everybody. Someplace where we can see everything that’s going on but not be noticed by the guests. I’ve eaten a lot of lovely meals in the pitch dark because we commandeered one of the tables hidden on the side of the house for our own dinner. I have, on occasion, been seated at a table with the wedding guests because that was what the bride and groom wanted. But to be completely honest, we much prefer to be footloose and fancy free for the duration of your dinner hour. We need to pop up and down the whole time and it’s significantly more professional when the guests don’t see you running around checking on everything.
With that said, any staff who do eat should eat someplace out of sight of the wedding guests, as much as possible. Unless the photographer is a friend of the wedding couple and would have been invited anyway, there’s no reason he should expect to be seated with the wedding guests.
I hope that clarifies things a bit for those of you who struggle with this issue — if not, be sure to ask your own wedding planner to explain how they usually do it wherever you’re getting married.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques!