The number one question I get asked as a wedding and event planner is about tipping – my brides always ask, my friends getting married always ask. Despite all of the resources available to help plan a wedding, tipping – especially the who and how much – makes people anxious. I thought that I would put together my own guidelines.
Before I get into the who and how much, a few rules to remember:
Tipping should be for outstanding service. Yes, there are vendors who expect it, but I think that if you expect to be tipped, you should just build it into your prices or put mandatory gratuity in your contract (as many limo and catering companies do).
There are certain tips that should be paid immediately following the service – especially tips for drivers and deliveries. But there is no rule that says you have to tip everyone the day of your wedding. If tips are really for outstanding service, you may not know that the service is outstanding until during or after the wedding. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a gratuity after the fact, especially if it’s more of a thank you gift rather than cash in an envelope.
Traditionally, business owners do not need to be tipped. You may want to consider a thank you gift instead of a cash tip. The idea is that the business owners reap the overall profit of your business more than say, their assistant who just draws a salary. However, you are welcome to still tip these vendors it’s just not required.
My thoughts on the who and the how much:
Hair & Make Up: Follow the same general guidelines that you would use at the salon regularly (15 – 20% usually). I would recommend a little extra if they opened the salon early for your bridal party, or if they went above and beyond in some way (your bridesmaid swore that she wanted the circa 1985 prom style updo until she saw it and had a meltdown – and the stylist restyles her hair free of charge).
Deliveries: Most weddings have a fair amount of deliveries – the cake, the flowers, if you’re renting furniture, etc. I recommend $10 per person in metropolitan areas, maybe less in other areas. Since you may not know exactly how many delivery people will actually show up, I’d put $10 bills in individual envelopes and give them to your wedding coordinator or the venue contact (catering manager, event director, etc.) – whoever will be accepting deliveries.
Ceremony: This will depend where you are getting married and by whom. Most houses of worship have a fee or a suggested donation. For the officiant, this will depend on the house of worship. I would just ask the wedding coordinator – they are used to being asked. For nondenominational officiants, you usually pay for their services, but a $50 or $100 gratuity is entirely optional. If you have musicians during your ceremony you may want to tip $20-$30 each, especially if you brought them in yourself (rather than working with the church’s organist).
Photographer/Videographer: If the photographer owns the studio then no tip is expected (unless service is above and beyond). If they bring an assistant or they don’t own the studio, a small tip is nice – usually $50 to $100 per person.
Catering/Reception Staff: This is almost always built into the contract – if it’s not, 15-20% of the total bill, split among the staff. If the maitre d’ has gone above and beyond you may consider an additional tip – $200 to $400 for exceptional service. Bartenders (who may end up playing a very important role in your reception!) might get $25 additional if they are already getting a cut of the built-in gratuity. For attendants, such as the valet or coat check, the standard is $1 per guest or car.
Band or DJ: Check your contract, it’s occasionally built in, but most likely not. It’s entirely optional but if you think the service was exceptional, $25-$50 per musician, or $100-$200 for the DJ.
Transportation: This is usually in the contract but if it’s not, 15-20% of the total bill. They should be on-time and not get lost (obviously!). If you have multiple drivers (say, a limo and a shuttle bus) – it should be split between the drivers.
Wedding Coordinator: A tip is not expected – you are paying for her services! But if you feel she has gone absolutely above and beyond, a thank you gift is a nice gesture.
Final tip on tipping – the bride and groom should not be handing out cash the day of the wedding. Prepare the envelopes before the wedding and hand them off to the wedding coordinator, the best man or another trusted friend or family member. Regardless of the tip and how much, a thank you is always appreciated, especially when you include a photo of the bride and groom! Testimonials and referrals (if you are pleased with the service) are the best gratuity, as many wedding vendors rely on word of mouth to grow their businesses.
Well those are MY suggestions. There are plenty of other tipping and gratuity guidelines out there but this is what I recommend to my brides and friends. Is there anything missing? Let me know and I’ll update the list!