The world wide web was set ablaze this week by the photography community when Brides.com published an article telling prospective brides which vendors they should and shouldn't be feeding, and this advice strongly suggested photographers should not be fed. Of course, anger ensued. Surely, in this day and age, the author would have crafted a rebuttal or an apology to the legion of photographers in the trenches that she had scorned. Nope. They silently covered it up.
The article had been published for a week before anyone noticed it — treating photographers like cattle, calling for them to not be fed alongside the royalty of the wedding planners and DJs. Photographers were quick to grab their pitchforks. Several hours into the firestorm, I stumbled into the conversation, but upon reading the article myself, I couldn't find any mention of photographers at all. In fact, a quick ctrl/cmd+F search of the page did not yield the word "photographer" anywhere in the article. Imagine my surprise when I am trying to figure out why everyone is so upset and I'm starting to chalk it up to a misunderstanding. The author, Sandy Malone, does mention that vendors who are only working the wedding itself needn't be fed. I could see the confusion in this. After all, she's referring to the 5-6 hour period where DJs and caterers are doing their business, not the other 5-6 hours a wedding photographer has been working before this point.
Fast forward to right now. I'm submitting this article to the editors for publication. I'm proofreading and I click the links to make sure they work. I think, "hmm, that's strange, the link isn't working." I go directly to the Brides.com homepage to find it the old-fashioned way. I see right there on the right sidebar that it's one of their top trending articles, but when I click the link, alas, it's dead. It is an ex-article.
Let this be a reminder to each and every one of you: Once it's on the internet, it's there forever. Even though it had only been up for a matter of hours, the article was quietly revised. And then. just an hour later, it was totally removed. But I found the web archive of the original. Indeed, Malone callously suggested that wedding photographers shouldn't be fed because they should be working during this time, right after she specifically mentioned how the wedding planners "will probably be on deck from the crack of dawn until your reception is over." Malone is a wedding planner herself, by the way.
There are exceptions to every rule, and Malone is right in one regard: Common sense should be exercised to some extent. The problem is that a publication is speaking to soon-to-be brides. And the vast majority of brides have no experience planning a wedding, nor do they know what is expected in the industry. This is an article in a position of educational authority. You cannot expect common sense to be so common. Yes, I wouldn't be concerned about feeding your wedding photographer if you're having a courthouse wedding or even a quick 2-4 hour elopement. As a photographer, I'd probably be taking the couple out to dinner on my dime if it were just the three of us out on the town anyway! The fact is that your average wedding is going to fall in the 8-12 hour range, and the average wedding is also going to be very demanding for your photographer, more so than probably any other vendor.
"Vendor." I hate the word vendor. But more than that word, I hate that vendors are so many times treated like second-class citizens. It still happens when you read about vendor meals, or hear stories about wedding planners yelling at photographers for talking directly to the bride. In my initial consult with a bride, I'm always very sure to explain to her the importance of liking her photographer on a personal level no matter who they choose, because they will be spending more time with us and interacting with us more than almost anyone during the entire day. We can't expect to perfectly click and be best friends with every couple, but we strive to earn some level of admiration and respect organically. I regularly refer to how we strive to view ourselves as "guests that have been hired to document the day." I use the word "guest" as a symbol of both status and humility. While I believe we have some sort of elevated position above "vendor," we are not more important than any other guest.
The bottom line is that photographers should be fed during a full wedding. Brides.com even suggested it in another article from two years ago. Let's be completely honest here. No one wants pictures of their faces stuffed with food. We eat when the bridal party eats. It's in our contract and discussed before the wedding. We need to be done when the bride and groom are done. Even pre-eating table shots are awkward and irritate the shy guests (and it shows in their faces). The social butterflies are irritated because you stopped them in the middle of a story they were telling a long-lost friend they haven't seen in 15 years, so that you could shove half the table over to one side for an awkward non-family photo. The average guest is upset because they're in a group photo with people they don't even know. I personally don't do table shots unless asked, and in over 100 weddings, I've been asked twice, both times by the mother of the bride.
The moral of the story is to regularly review your contract and get it checked by a lawyer. If you don't have something in there about receiving a guest meal after a certain number of hours (typically 4 to 6), be sure to add it. More importantly, make sure you are engaging in quality communication with your clients well before the wedding to make sure expectations are understood. Even if it's in your contract that you require a meal, if your clients feel blindsided on the wedding day, you're going to be the only one that looks bad.
Oh, and remember: You can't delete anything from the internet. Don't even try.