Hey couples, coordinators, caterers and venues, here’s a message from hungry wedding photographers everywhere.

Want your photographer to adore you even more? Feed us as soon as the bride and groom have been served, and BEFORE the guests.

This should be the industry standard, but it’s not, currently. Why should photographers be fed before guests? The technical reason is easy: so we can be done eating and back on our feet, ready to photograph the bride and groom as soon as they’re done eating. Plus, there’s no genuine reason to make the photographers wait until everyone else has been served, but there are definitely good reasons not to.

1. You should know that if you feed us last, we often don’t get to eat, or eat very little, shoving food into our mouths as quickly as we can, so we can rush back out to shoot. There’s not much more frustrating than waiting for 200 guests to get their food and then being handed a plate of jumbled leftovers almost as an afterthought. We finally get to sit down and eat, and then BAM! Five minutes in, the Bride or coordinator runs over and says “Oh, we need you to photograph such and such!”…and of course, because we’re great at what we do, we say, “NO PROBLEM!”, and rush back out to starting shooting again, leaving our food to die a lonely death on the table, likely to never be eaten again.

That’s a solid enough reason on its own. But an even more compelling reason to feed us first?

2. Because we’re highly-experienced, talented, professional ARTISTS. An artist that you spent hours, days or even weeks deciding on, and you’re paying us thousands of dollars to create one-of-a-kind art for you – images of your once-in-a-lifetime event that can never be created again, EVER. By dinner time, we’re hours and hours into a day that still has hours and hours to go. You should want us fed well and early, so we have the energy and heart to keep giving you everything, instead of rushing around with a rumbling tummy, a mild headache and a distracting urge to consume every cupcake on your dessert table.

And no, please don’t let the caterer give us a “vendor meal” – I hate to keep harping on it, but we’re not just vendors, we’re artists hired to create art. We’re up at 6am prepping. We’re at your wedding at 10am and for the next eight to twelve hours, we’re on our feet carrying 10 lbs of gear…all day long. Down on our knees then back up again…all day long. Fully engaged with you and your guests with our best personality forward…all day long. Do you know how draining it is physically and mentally to be constantly “on”? Constantly alert and on the search for great moments and people to capture, all while chatting with your guests and answering questions, and helping your timeline stay on track? And to make matters worse, we do all of that often with few or no breaks at all.

3. “But all the vendors get the same thing!” While we love our compatriots in the industry, we are not the same beasts. Every vendor works super hard to make your day amazing and we would go toe-to-toe for them just like this, but few other vendors have the same requirements or schedules as we do, or have to be on their feet for as long as we do or have to do it all while working in a *creative* capacity which requires a different type of mental fortitude. On your big day, the florists are busy at the start but are gone home relatively quickly, the caterer starts much later and gets to be behind the scenes, the DJ only plays for a few hours, but us? We’re there from start to finish, often for ten or more hours and we’re on our feet, in motion for almost the entire day – and we have to be at the top of our game all of that time…and you want us to eat whatever is left over after the rest of your wedding has eaten? Or worse, a sandwich, an apple and a water in a to-go box from the kitchen? And though I’m not vegan or vegetarian, how about more than just a plate of plain zucchini noodles or salad for those who don’t eat meat?

I’ll close with this: couples, we ADORE you. We love our job and we earn decent money doing it, but we need you to feel the same way about us that we feel about you – we need to feel like you value us and the service we’re providing enough to hand us a plate overflowing with the same gorgeous food your guests receive, and that you’ll give it to us early enough in the evening that we can take the proper amount of time to actually sit down, relax a little and enjoy that amazing food without the constant worry that we’ll be interrupted five minutes in to photograph a toast or an uncle or a group of guests who already have full bellies.

Note: I write all of this into my contract already – this article was written for my fellow photographers who have suffered the same fate but haven’t figured out how to avoid it yet. And if you’re the kind of photographer who can work on your feet non-stop for 12 hours without eating a full meal and you choose to work that way, then more power to you! But that’s not a lot of us.

P.S. – Happy to send anyone the meals verbiage I use in my contract, for free – just email me. It may not be appropriate for your specific circumstances, though, so please have it looked at by an actual attorney before using it.