Stomach staples are for sallies. If you really want to shed some pounds, become a wedding photographer.
It's a sad truth about receptions: Photographers are so low on the food chain, they're rubbing chest hair. Millions of plates of fatty beef and dried chicken are served at wedding functions each and every year. With all that nutritious booty, it should be a no-brainer that the photographer would get fed, right? Not so. Booty is in the eye of the withholder. And some banquet halls have turned food denial into an art form. When it comes to dietary relations with reception sites, photographers traditionally receive a swift kick in the pork medallions.
And brides and grooms are none the wiser.
For sure, this is in no way a recent injustice, but one that's older than time. In fact, just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, someone may well have turned to the wedding photographer and said, "Sorry, dude - you get the cheese plate." Indeed, it would seem that a few banquet managers have taken to heart Henry Kissinger's famous quote: "He who controls the food supply, controls the people." (For a deeper understanding of how this brilliant socioeconomic model works, flip through any of the fine biographies on Robert Mugabe.)
This little piece of gum is a three course dinner!
- Willy Wonka
One of reception halls' favorite tricks is the ol' "Bait & Switch." This is where the dearly beloved drops an extra $80 a plate for their vendors' meals, which, when served, magically turns into a flaccid stack of damp baloney sandwiches. "It's all we've got" is usually the accompanying sniffle. That's a pretty low P/E ratio (price to edibility) in my book. But hey, it's completely understandable. With the cost of oil these days, the expense of microwaving a chicken breast has skyrocketed.
One photographer in the northeastern U.S. said this happened to him several times at one particular site. The final straw came one night when he walked into the back room and saw the wizard behind the curtain. "The banquet staff is eating your prime rib that you were told was not available!" Hardly a sporting move. That's why it's always a safe bet to order the haggis.
No matter how much they cry, no matter how much they beg, never never feed them after midnight.
Worse than being fed sweatshop fare is getting fed too late. In an unfortunate twist of irony, a photographer's mandate is to snap people while they're running around and having fun. Which dictates that the best time to feed your picture-taker is when everyone is sitting and eating. Sadly, this happens about as often as Paris Hilton asks, "Will this affect my credibility?"
The reason most wedding shooters prefer to eat when the bride & groom eat is so they're immediately available for the first dance and cake-cutting. But, inexplicably, some caterers insist on holding their food hostage until the entire room has been fed, burped and had their nappy changed. When the friendly waiter finally drops those wilted green beans and fish sticks in front of the photographer, the music suddenly flares and she must leap across the room to cover Uncle Lou's 'just outta detox' rendition of "Baby Got Back."
WPJA award-winner Dan Harris recounted the time a banquet manager told him his food was on the way. Almost an hour later, the entire room was fed and Dan still had nada. So he stood right next to the manager until she brought him his meal. Which she did. A Styrofoam box with four cold chicken nuggets and a glop of cole slaw. To split with his assistant.
He never got to dine on this epicurean delight, however, because the best man immediately began his toast. Said Dan, "For the next year I got a lot of sympathy from my brides when I shared with them this story." He's never had a bad experience since.
Get in my belly!
- Fat Bastard, Austin Powers, the Spy Who Shagged Me
But hey, at least they're getting fed something, right? Remember, by dinnertime, most photographers have been on their feet for five or more hours without a break; usually with five more hours to go. In a few extreme situations, they've bellied up to the table to feast on a big steaming bowl of jack squat. And it's not always the reception site's fault.
Abigail Seymour, a decorated WPJA member, booked a premium package for a high-end wedding. When her client worksheet came back, the line about providing a meal simply stated "NO." She was stunned, but held out the option that it was just an oversight. Sure enough, when she and her assistant arrived at the reception, "We were told then that we were not welcome to eat from the buffet." Ouch. That would have been a good time to demonstrate the benefits of a sneeze-guard.
Or, she could have done what one photographer did when the reception site offered him the Empty-Plate Special: "We called a pizza house and had a pizza delivered directly to the banquet hall." Large combo, extra spite please.
But even when the planets align, fate can still land a sucker-punch. WPJA founder David Roberts had his meal served at a table just outside the reception tent. Before taking his first bite, he jumped up to shoot something and returned five minutes later. That's when he found the parking lot attendant doing a Gene Simmons on his dinner. Roberts was stunned. "It was the last one (meal) and they had nothing else to get me."
Of course, as O.J. taught us, there are two sides to every obvious crime. What do the banquet halls say to all this? Your guess is as good as mine. Most every one I tried to contact never returned my overtures. But what did I expect? I was basically asking the catering equivalent of that old comedy saw, "When did you stop beating your wife?" Unanswerable in any form.
However, there are a few good ones out there. Lorraine Camara, Catering Manager for the Laurel View Country Club in Connecticut, charges clients half price for vendors meals; they are served the same food as guests and eat at the same time as or before everyone else. She hosts monthly meetings of the Connecticut Professional Photographers Association, whose members rave about their treatment. Adds Camara, "And they should because they're one of my best forms of advertisement."
Ah. Food for thought.
So how do we keep from inadvertently starving our highly-skilled documentarians? Simple: Communication. Hammer out all the food issues with the reception site/caterer before D-Day. Because nothing will ruin an inebriated massacre of the Electric Slide like having to stop and administer your photographer a saline drip.
Amongst themselves, most wedding photojournalists agree on three points: 1.) - Put everything in the contract. Food, time and place. 2.) - Before the date, provide your written wishes to the bride and groom to deliver to the caterers. Also, try approaching the caterers as soon as you arrive. And 3.) - Bring backup. A quick sandwich in the back of the van has saved many a hypoglycemic face-plant into the trumpeter swan ice sculpture.
And you know good and well the videographer is going to catch that.
— by Jeff Corriveau for the Wedding Photojournalist Association