The Washington Post

The wedding photographer food blues

All the delicious food served at weddings? It sometimes never reaches the lips of the photographer shooting the event. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

What’s not always so great about being a wedding photographer is the food. Not the food the guests get — that looks amazing, smells great and can make for great detail shots. It’s the meals that often are given to vendors like me. Typically, it’s a boxed lunch: a sandwich, chips, cookies and maybe an apple. This spring I’ve had dry deli sandwiches with no condiments, and a hoagie slathered with mayonnaise and cheese served at a tiny table just outside the kitchen — in the path of servers — while heaping portions of leftover food remained on the buffet.

View Photo Gallery: The innovations changing American’s dining styles are being adopted by caterers and wedding planners, as farm-to-table and sustainable approaches are increasingly being incorporated in reception fare.

Now, I understand such complaints can ring a bit hollow when I’m still getting a free meal, regardless of what’s actually in it. But for photographers working eight hours and longer to capture the memories of a lifetime, a little nutritional acknowledgment goes a long way.

So while I’ve watched a wedding planner’s assistants get hot food while I received a box lunch, I’ve also had a bride offer me the mushroom risotto off her plate just because it was delicious. And sometimes, I’ve actually been asked which reception entree I prefer: the chicken, beef or seafood.

I don’t mind a boxed meal if some thought goes into it. A side salad, a sandwich (with mayo or mustard as an option) and a little something sweet to finish will do. When it gets to be 9 or 10 at night and I haven’t eaten, I’ll take nearly anything that’s put in front of me.

Typically, I get to eat after all the guests have been served, which can be a problem because that’s when the bride and groom get up to visit tables, which can make for nice photos. Or there are speeches sprinkled throughout the dinner, so I run back and forth between bites and shooting pictures. The best-case scenario: I and other vendors get to sit down — preferably near the reception room but someplace private enough to relax for a few minutes and have a conversation — and enjoy a hot meal.

I learned a valuable lesson at a wedding many years ago in which I wasn’t fed at all. Ever since, I’ve carried a few essentials in addition to my camera gear. If it’s a late start to the day and I know I won’t have dinner until after 8 p.m., I bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another staple in my camera kit is a small bag of Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered cherries, which have gotten me through more than a few lengthy church services and overly long best-man toasts.

A lot of photographers require a hot meal as part of their contract. In the past I’ve relied on the good graces of my brides and grooms to feed me. Maybe it’s time to get it in writing.

Lindsey, a former Washington Post photographer and editor, shoots for the Food section. (And we feed her.)

Further reading:

* Wedding food: A new marriage of sustainable and trendy


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