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Feeling Tip-sy? The Who, What, Why and how much of wedding gratuity.

December 17, 2018

Being born and raised in New Orleans, I always thought I knew what to tip nearly anyone. We are, after all, the tourism capital. It wasn’t until I became a wedding planner, however, that I realized I had absolutely no idea what (or how) to tip any wedding vendors. Did big-ticket items require big-ticket tips? And which vendors expected a tip versus which didn’t? Navigating gratuity as I began meeting with vendors was, by far, one of the most stressful parts of my pre-wedding planner knowledge. So, to help you avoid those last-minute budget surprises and unhappy vendors, I’ve broken down the ultimate wedding vendor gratuity guide for you below. Start putting cash in envelopes—you may be surprised to see just who expects a tip and who doesn’t.


Start by Checking Contracts

 

Some contracts include a service fee or gratuity as part of your bill. Be sure to check your contracts to ensure you’re not double-tipping, then. If contracts don’t include gratuity, you can always ask to add it in when you sign and pay the deposit to avoid awkward or missed exchanges on the day-of.


Reward Extra Efforts

 

Before we get into what to tip who below, it’s important to remember that tips are a simply a way of saying thank you (hence the word gratuity). When someone goes above and beyond for you and your spouse on the day of your wedding, even if gratuity isn’t expected, a nice tip is the perfect way to show your gratitude. This could mean slipping a $20 to the busboy who keeps opening the door for your grandma, or adding an additional few hundred dollars for vendors who may have already included gratuity in their contract, but who deserve more than the standard amount.


Thank-You Cards & Online Reviews

 

Never underestimate the power of a handwritten thank-you letter. Even for vendors who don’t expect a tip and who you’re not tipping, sending a thoughtful letter (sans cash) once you’re back from your honeymoon talking about how much you appreciated their service and efforts will make a wedding vendor’s day. Plus, if things get too crazy on the day-of and you realize afterward that you didn’t get a chance to tip someone, sending the cash after the fact in a thank-you card is always a nice touch. Another great way to say thank you is by dishing out a solid online review detailing just how amazing a certain vendor was—just be sure to put some time and effort into it (and proofread!).

 


Who, What, How & When:


Wedding Planner:


What & Why: We’ve starting with the most important person (besides your spouse) involved in your wedding—your wedding planner. For nearly every wedding they plan, planners go above and beyond for their clients (oftentimes in ways you might not even be aware of, because they’re so seasoned at working out kinks without a soul noticing). While gratuity isn’t ever expected, we recommend tipping between 15-20% of the total bill. Your planner, after all, is the one person who keeps things running smoothly and absorbs the stress of the day so you don’t have to.


When & How: Send it with a nice thank-you card after your back from your honeymoon (no more than 1-2 weeks after the wedding), or slip her or him an envelope with cash on the spot after your reception. If you’re particularly worried about forgetting, you can always add the tip onto the final check amount when paying your contract ahead of time.

 

 

Catering and Bartenders:

 

What & Why: Catering and bar services exist in many different forms, so your format of tipping might change under your specific circumstances. Certain venues have in-house catering, which might mean your contract includes service and gratuity. Some caterers add in gratuity automatically as a line-item, and you find that you have tipped in your final payments already. Other caterers leave gratuity up to the discretion of the client, so you’ll need to bring along cash in envelopes for your wedding coordinator to handle for you. Some caterers use staffing companies who typically include gratuity into their labor contract, so don’t be afraid to ask questions to avoid paying twice. Fifteen to twenty percent of the food + equipment total is customary, but do keep a few extra bills handy for those servers or bussers who go above the call of duty ($20 goes a long way!). Keep in mind any bridal attendants or servers there specifically to take care of family, elderly folks, etc. Did you have an on-site manager keeping the food going smoothly all evening? Slip them a thank you, as well.

 

This is a good time to think about your bartenders, as well. If hiring bartenders through your caterer or venue, ask what is customary for their bars – do they keep a tip jar out? Is there no tip jar, but bartenders can accept tips without soliciting them? Or, do you prefer for your bartenders to refuse all cash tips from guests altogether? Come to a mutual agreement with your venue/caterer, and go from there. If your bartenders are allowed to have a jar out, feel free to show them a little love with a small token of thanks , although it isn’t expected. If they have no tip jar at all, but can accept cash in hand, set aside around $40-$50 for each bartender. If you prefer to keep the bar totally cash-free, an envelope with $100+ dollars is thoughtful to everyone involved.

 

When & How: Tip at the end of your service, either as an addition to your full amount (paid with check or credit card) or as cash in an envelope.


Makeup Artists & Hair Stylists:


What & Why: Tips are definitely expected when it comes to your hair and makeup—just as they would be on a regular visit to the salon. Tip between 15-25% of the total service cost (or even more if your stylist went above and beyond to cover up that tattoo or hide those brassy highlights). If your bridesmaids are paying for their own hair and makeup, you’ll want to figure out if they’re tipping individually (they should) or if you’ll need to tip for their service as well (which you definitely should if your maids aren’t tipping).


When & How: Tip at the end of your service, either as an addition to your full amount (paid with check or credit card) or as cash in an envelope.


Wedding Setup Staff:


What & Why: Anyone who’s delivering or setting up anything at your wedding should receive a small tip as a thank-you for carrying in all of those chairs or lugging around those boxes. Slip them an extra $20-$50 per person, depending on the task performed and time spent performing it.


When & How: Before your wedding, give your wedding planner or someone you trust a handful of twenties in envelopes and ask that they take care of delivery and setup staff throughout the day, as you’ll be way too busy to keep an eye on this yourself.


Photographer & Videographer:


What & Why: Typically, if your photographer or videographer is the studio owner, you don’t need to tip. It’s nice to offer assistants, studio employees, and photo-booth workers, however, a small tip—though it’s not typically expected. $50-$100 per shooter or assistant is plenty.


When & How: In cash on the wedding day. Assign someone, like your planner or a trusted friend, to take care of this for you.


Ceremony Officiant:


What & Why: If your officiant is part of a church or synagogue, it’s typically expected that you donate to that church or synagogue as a gesture of gratitude. You can also slip your officiant anywhere from $50-$100 as a personal tip in addition to your donation.


When & How: Take care of the donation ahead of time, as it will be one less thing to worry about on the day-of. For the officiant, you can either add this amount onto your check when you pay the contract, or give her or him cash in an envelope on the day of or at the reception dinner the night prior if they’re in attendance.


Musicians, Bands, DJs:


What & Why: While tips for wedding musicians are optional, they are very much preferred. Anywhere from 15-20% is a good amount on the final contract for a single DJ. If you have a band playing, tip each member anywhere from $20-$50 depending on how happy you were with the job they did or the amount of equipment they had to lug to the venue.


When & How: You can add this amount onto the check when you pay your contact ahead of time, or tip band members individually in cash during the reception.


Transportation:


What & Why: Just as you’d tip a limo, Lyft, pedi-cab or taxi-cab driver, tips are common and typically expected for wedding transportation drivers.


When & How: Be sure to check your contract first—but if gratuity isn’t included, you’ll want to tip your drivers in cash at the end of the night. Designate a trusted guest to do this, as you probably won’t be riding on the bus back with your guests.


Florist:


What & Why: Tips for florists aren’t at all expected. That being said, if you were beyond thrilled with the job she or he did, feel free to add an additional 10-15% to your final tab.


When & How: If you’re going to tip your florist, it’s best to either add this amount on to the check when you pay your contact ahead of time, or send cash along with a thank-you note after the wedding.   

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