Tipping Guidelines for Wedding Merchants
Originally the word ‘tips’ was an acronym for ‘to insure prompt service’ but times have changed quite a bit, as have tipping customs. Tipping customs also vary by geographic area and sophistication too, with tipping be more common in urban, coastal and higher income areas and less so in more rural areas. When to tip should also be determined by the level and excellence of service you receive from a wedding vendor not viewed as a mandatory requirement.
First of all, check the contract you have with each service provider. Some wedding service providers, most commonly bar or food service purveyors, have a gratuity figured into your estimate and bill, so it never hurts to ask if a gratuity is expected. You can still tip that service provider or the employees providing the actual service if they are exemplary, but usually you tip less or approximately 5 - 10% on a bill that has a gratuity added to it.
“ One way to gauge who or when to tip might be to think of tipping as a reward... ”
Most tips for wedding service providers are more of a reward for exceptional service and not a mandatory requirement. It is customary to not tip a business owner themselves too, although there are many small businesses that appreciate tips when the owner is providing the service just an employee would.
Some businesses typically don’t expect tips, among them are wedding planners, photographers and florists, although if they provided an extremely reduced price for your wedding, or went outside the boundaries of the contracted service they agreed to provide, a tip is a nice way to show your appreciation for their extra efforts.
One way to gauge who or when to tip might be to think of tipping as a reward for any wedding business that goes outside his or her normal service accommodations or who provides great service for you. The photographer who helps tactfully wrangle unruly guests, the DJ that helps to hem your veil at the last minute, these services go beyond what they contracted for and should be rewarded appropriately.
Here are some recommendations on which vendors to tip and an estimate of how much:
- Bartenders and Bar Staff - It is common to tip the bartenders at an event with a hosted bar separately and not have them put out a ‘tip jar’ because of it. Based on your personal preferences, you may choose to ask them not to put out a tip jar even for a no-host bar and tip them separately after the event based on the bar bill. Usually 12 – 15% of the total bill is customary.
- Cake Bakers – Most cake bakers do not expect a gratuity, but if they had to carry a large and heavy cake a long way due to the logistics of the venue you chose, you might want to offer an additional $20 - $40 as a reward for the extra effort.
- Caterers or Reception Staff – Most caterers do incorporate a gratuity in their bill but do ask to be certain. You may wish to tip the food servers an additional $20-$40 each if they did a great job too, even if the gratuity is included.
- Delivery Staff – A tip may be in order if there are lots of stairs, difficulties parking near the venue to unload, weather extremes complicating delivery or set up, taking more time and effort from those delivering your items. We recommend $20-$50 per delivery person depending on the complexity of the delivery..
- DJ or Musicians - Offering a 10 to 15 percent tip is a nice gesture to your band or DJ, especially if they have to carry a lot of heavy equipment in or the facility is not easily accessible for their equipment. $25 to $50 tip per musician is appropriate.
- Florists - Generally florists do not expect a tip, but again, in unusual circumstances or if the service is exceptional, an additional 10-15% as a thank you will be appreciated.
- Gown Alterations – Showing appreciation with a 10 – 15% tip for a job well done is customary.
- Hair and/or Make Up Artists – Typically hair and make up artists expect to be tipped 15 – 20% just like they would if you visited their salon.
- Nanny or Pet Services – Most nanny or pet service providers anticipate a tip for providing top level service, and 10 – 15% is appropriate.
- Officiant - Many times officiants request a $100 donation to their church in lieu of a tip. If the officiant is non-denominational, consider giving them a $100 tip if they aren't charging for your service.
- Parking Attendants or Valets – This is one to check the contract on, but typically $20 - $40 is customary to tip each attendant.
- Photographer and Videographer - Most photographers and videographers do not expect a gratuity but giving them an extra $50 to $200 is a nice gesture. If there are two or three shooters, giving a $50 to $100 tip to each person is appreciated, particularly if they don’t own the studio.
- Transportation – Often the gratuity is included in the contract, but a 10-15% tip to the driver is customary.
- Wedding Planner – Most wedding planners do not expect to be tipped, but if they went above and beyond their contracted responsibilities, or provided extra services or reduced fees, a tip is a nice way to say thank you.
Though tipping at weddings has become more common in all service areas, it isn't mandatory or even expected by most wedding professionals. Tips are still considered a pleasant surprise by almost all vendors.
If your budget just won’t allow you to tip your vendors, many wedding pros appreciate a favorable online review for their business. Sending a handwritten thank-you note or leaving a favorable review are great ways to show appreciation. And all wedding pros hope you’ll refer them to other brides needing their services in the future as well.