Venues hate us and the dreaded “The Vendor Meal”
Pardon me while I kinda go off here, but before The Season really kicks into high gear, I want to get out in the open something I KNOW every photographer has experienced. I really prefer and try not to use the blog as a negative place, yet I see this more as informative for brides rather than pessimistic. Its a little something that drives we photogs batty yet brides have absolutely no awareness of, and caterers need to consider.
And what that is, is the simple fact that many venues and catering facilities treat photographers, dj’s, bands and videographers like second class citizens. Low life slobs. Their attitude one of our ‘being in the way’ rather than all working together for the common good of the bride and groom at their event.
It can start many ways, but of late begins with the ‘introduction email’. Disguised as friendly, it is in fact rather the rules, regulations and demands of the venue. This can include anything from simple things like when to arrive or the need for liability insurance, up to the extreme of telling you what to wear, how to act and – my personal fave – that if you’re caught near or eating any food you’ll be billed for what you dared consume (…you think i’m joking? Guess again.)
These emails are downright insulting and begin the event – months before anything has even happened – with a sour tone. Now in their defense…food service can really suck. I’ve done it–I know. My first job was that of a busboy. Long hours – hot kitchens, handling other peoples half chewed food items. It’s disgusting. Add to that the need to get it out hot and fast to 150 people–and I GET IT! I really do.
That does not mean we need to be treated guilty before proven innocent. Have they dealt with their fair share of obnoxious vendors? You bet they have; people whose behavior would make yours and mine skin crawl. Unprofessional jerks who set such a low standard that the rest of us suffer. So I can truly understand that they want to protect themselves.
However that being said, THEIR actions the wedding day should match their expectations of US on the wedding day. Being treated in a fair, professional manner. Yet what happens more often than not is the polar opposite. You are treated rudely. You are told to store your $10,000 of equipment down some hallway or half lit room. They act as if it’s the first time a photographer has been there. One place in particular (and i’m not naming any names here) REALLY gives you the stink-eye if you dream of even rolling in your stupid bag into a corner before they deem the time ‘appropriate’ (even though they are all in there already setting up) It’s absurd, belittling, and condescending. You’re trying to stay positive for your couple and you have to deal with these jokers who bring your mood down the minute you arrive.
Let’s talk for a moment about food: The Vendor Meal. You know the one. The meal the couple have paid for. The meal they THINK you are going to enjoy and be served hot and in a timely fashion. Did I mention the meal they PAID FOR? Right. And what happens about 50% of the time? (come on photographers—I can feel your hearts racing with anger now…)
You get zip. Zippo. Nada. Nothing. AND IF YOU DO, you are not only served last, but are often given what’s remaining and lying around (old, cold and covered with icicles), have to hunt for silverware and sit on an ice chest with the plate on your lap. A local photographer was recently fed a MOLDY sandwich at a HIGH END Watch Hill RI. ( see photo ) Rooms there start at about $690 a night, yet it’s somehow OK for them to serve THIS:
I wonder if this is what the bride and groom had in mind for you when after they ask “Did you enjoy dinner?!!’ What are you supposed to say to ruin their night? “I never got fed.” “I had a turkey sandwich made yesterday.” “I ate, but have no idea what it even WAS.”
What I don’t get is why this is such a big deal. The amount of food shoveled into the trash at night is appalling. And so to act like putting something together that’s edible being beyond their comprehension and such an issue – is mind-boggling. I often wonder if we presented to the bride and groom our dish of food what they would think. I know a few clever folks who photograph their meals (if they’re bad) and include it in the couples photos. A smart, sneaky trick. Yet only fair as they should know what they paid for. I often bring this up with couples, as I feel venues pull this nasty stunt on brides to, in a sick way, see what they can get away with. Why NOT say its a sandwich if its not a big deal? Oh wait—I know: because you couldn’t charge $50 for it then.
Now not all places are like that. Quite the opposite! Some have it down and REALLY get it. Some go as far as to offer you a selection of white or red wine!!! (can you imagine the civility?) while others are ready to call the cops if you go to the bar for a soda. Some (and this is the weirdest of all) will ‘get it one week’ and then the next it’s a completely different experience. This of course, makes me wonder how inconsistent their wedding service is as well.
And as far as the “feeding us last scenario” (and believe me when I say this: every SINGLE wedding professional reading this knows EXACTLY what I am talking about) …will someone please explain this to me how this came about and what logic it holds. If we are fed FIRST (as some places do, because they GET IT), we can eat, finish and get back to work. Which is why were there. But as too often is the case you’re fed last; shuttled off into the back room, told you have 5 minutes before the cake is cut, jam your ‘Mystery Wedding Chicken’ down your throat and run back out with a stomach ache. I am not there for fine dining – I’m there to work. But to be treated in that manner is degrading.
The interesting assumption venues have, is they seem to think they are immune – that word doesn’t spread. That couples don’t ask about particular locales. That photographers, videographers don’t talk and compare notes. They are mistaken. Believe me – we all talk.
So my plea is this: treat us like professionals. Humans. Let’s work as a cohesive unit to make our couples’ day as great as it can be.
A small degree of humanity can go a very long way.