The industry standard is that the photographer should be seated in a position at your wedding reception where they can easily see everything that is happening at all times-even when they are taking bites of food, so that they can quickly grab their camera and take a shot if something important happens (which it usually does). Most photographers have this in their contract in order to ensure they are able to effectively capture what is happening at your wedding (in other words, so they can effectively do their job).
You may not be able to guarantee the timing of when they are fed, but if at all possible, having them served at the same time as you will also help to allow them to capture everything at your wedding. (There is usually a large lapse of time between when the wedding party is served and when the last table is served.) This way they are available to take photos when you need them, not still waiting for food. Your photographer will need to have a place to sit and have a meal, after all-we will have been with you a total of 10-12 hours that day, working very hard and we likely have not had anything to eat or drink since we left that morning, and may have had a long drive to get to you as well.
Your photographer wants to capture everything in a professional and unobtrusive manner, they do not want to be seen running across the room to try to catch the shot of your kissing when the glasses start clinking, or standing near you like a weirdo waiting for that moment to happen because there are no chairs nearby to blend in with your guests while they wait for that moment to happen.
Our clients have us seated with guests, somewhat close to (close enough to see) the head table, sweetheart table, stage and/or what have you. Sometimes we even get seated with the groom or bride’s parents, which obviously is a huge honor, not necessary at all and definitely not expected! Just close enough to see you is fine.
If you have circumstances that make any of the above a challenge for you, talk with your photographer so they can be prepared and offer help or suggestions. Remember your photographer attends weddings almost every weekend, they are professionals- they know weddings. Your photographer will appreciate you being upfront and giving them an opportunity to be prepared-like maybe packing a cooler with some food and water if needed for their team for example. You never know-they may be hypoglycemic or have dietary restrictions, and we can all agree as human beings that everyone, whether it’s the bride, groom, parents, guests, vendors or servers should be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect. Think state labor laws.
Making your photographer feel welcomed into your space/event not only makes your photographer’s job easier, it allows them to capture better images in a less obtrusive manner. Blending in to the situation enables them to position themselves better for better images. It’s in your best interest to make sure the situation for them is optimal.
Another photographer’s take on this topic: http://www.ten2tenphotography.com/where-does-the-wedding-photographer-sit-during-dinner/
If you have any questions or concerns about this topic, it’s a good idea to be upfront and talk with your photographer. If you are a photographer or wedding planner who is new to navigating these waters-feel free to shoot me an email, I’m happy to help: firstname.lastname@example.org