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A Guide to Serving Vendor Meals at Your Wedding

by Staff

A wedding day is a long one for all involved, and that’s especially true for the professionals who are there to ensure everything runs smoothly. At some point, they’ll need to refuel—and that’s where vendor meals come in.  

“Beyond it being the courteous thing to do, people also work better when they’re fed and have a chance to recharge,” says wedding planner Allie Biek of the service, which couples are expected to provide to their vendors. “And if you don’t do it, a lot of contracts will stipulate that the vendor can leave to get a meal elsewhere, which means they won’t be on-site.”

Meet the Expert

Allie Biek is a partner in Polka Dot Events, an East Coast-based full-service wedding planning company. 

Ahead, Biek breaks down everything you need to know about vendor meals, including who gets fed, what to feed them, and how much vendor meals cost. 

What Wedding Vendors Need a Meal?

If your wedding takes place in the evening, you’ll be serving your vendors dinner. Per Biek, the vendors that will be included in this meal are “the people that have been around for most, if not all of the day, or are there for the full reception.” This typically includes:

Your catering team will take care of meals for themselves, but you should plan to provide meals for your bartending staff if they have been hired separately from your catering team.  Vendors that leave before the party begins, such as your floral and decor teams, will not be included in the meal. Hair and makeup artists and personal attendants are also typically not included in the meal unless they’ll be staying on for touch-ups—or even hair chops!—through at least the first half of the reception. 

How Do I Coordinate Vendor Meals? 

“Whether or not you have a planner, your caterer should bring this up first,” says Biek. “They’ll ask which vendors need meals and for any dietary restrictions.” If you are working with a planner or coordinator, they will handle gathering this information and providing the final headcount.

Check your contracts before making your final vendor meal tally. Vendors that expect to have a meal provided will most likely include one in their terms. 

What Is Served for Vendor Meals? 

“It varies wildly,” says Biek. If dinner is served family-style, from a food truck, or if guests will be ordering at their tables instead of pre-selecting their meal on their RSVP card, vendors are often served the same meal as guests because the caterer will have extras of the menu options on hand. 

Other venues or caterers may do a hot buffet—”chicken, green beans, whatever is easy for the kitchen to make for a bunch of people,” Biek offers as examples—and, in some circumstances, the vendor meal may be sandwiches or boxed dinners. Generally speaking, though, if the meal you’ll be serving your guests is a hot meal, your vendor meal should also be a hot meal.

When Do We Serve Vendor Meals? 

Your caterer will determine when vendor meals are served. “Fifty to seventy percent of the time, it is after guests are served their entrees,” says Biek. “That’s because if the caterer is serving vendors extra guest meals, they have to serve the guests first.” 

That said, and though caterers don’t always agree to it, Biek prefers to have the vendor meal served before the entree whenever possible. Reason being: once dinner is wrapped, guests will be ready to hit the dance floor. If they have to wait another 20 minutes for the band to finish eating, attendees will start to get antsy. It’s often easier to make this happen if your vendors will be given a different meal, as those dishes can be served during cocktail hour or the first course. 

Where Do We Serve Vendor Meals? 

Your vendor team will most likely eat their meals together at the same time, and they’ll want to do so in an area that’s separate from your guests so they can properly take a much-needed break. If you’re marrying at a hotel, ballroom, or another type of venue that primarily hosts large events, those sorts of extra rooms will be readily available. If your venue is more of an open-air loft, consider screening or curtaining off a separate space for the vendor meal. (Your vendors can also use this area to store their supplies and personal items.)

 How Much Do Vendor Meals Cost?  

The cost of vendor meals will vary, but pricing is often linked to the cost of your guest meals. “If the vendor meal is what your guests are eating, usually it’s about half of the guest food pricing,” says Biek. “If it’s more like a buffet, usually that’s $35 [per person] and up.”  

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