One of the questions I’m asked most often is how much to tip various wedding vendors. There are no hard-and-fast rules on this, but there are some guidelines to help you make your tipping decisions. As with all gratuities, they are discretionary. If you feel like your wedding vendors served you well and provided good or excellent service, feel free to tip accordingly. If you feel that they did not live up to expectations, you are within your rights to not offer a gratuity.
Hair & Makeup Professionals
This category is pretty easy because most of us are used to tipping our hairstylist when we go to the salon. The standard 15-20% guidance applies to wedding hair and makeup professionals as well. Keep in mind that if you (as the bride) are paying for your wedding party’s hair and makeup services, you should also budget for those additional gratuities.
It customary to tip non-owner delivery people $5-10 cash. If flowers or the cake are delivered by someone other than the business owner, it’s nice to give them a little something. Typically, you as the couple will not be the ones taking delivery because you’re busy getting ready. But it’s easy enough to provide cash ahead of time to whomever will be taking delivery, whether it’s your wedding planner or coordinator or a family member or friend.
Here’s where things start to get a little more complicated. For vendors such as your planner/coordinator, florist, DJ, photographer, or videographer, it depends on whether they own their own business or work for someone else.
Business owners set their own pricing, and they generally charge what they believe is a fair price for their services. Gratuities are not expected. That said, everyone loves being rewarded for a job well done. If you feel that your wedding vendors went above and beyond your expectations and delivered exceptional service, a little extra gratuity will always be appreciated. You can even send it after the fact—it doesn’t have to be something you have with you at the wedding.
If you decide to tip these creative professionals, a guideline amount is 10-20% of their total fee, or $100-250, depending on your overall budget and how grateful you are for their services.
For vendors who do not own the business—think of a DJ who works for a larger entertainment company or a second shooter working for a photographer—$50-$150 is a good benchmark. This should be given as cash at the end of the wedding, rather than delivered later, because you may not have a way to reach them later.
Bartenders start to get even trickier because some of them put out tip jars on the bar. I frown on this practice, and discourage my clients from allowing a tip jar to be put out. You are hosting an event for your guests; they shouldn’t be expected to contribute financially to the event. Just as it’s inappropriate to ask your guests to pay for drinks, it’s equally inappropriate to ask your guests to tip the bartenders.
That said, if your bartenders do put out a tip jar, you should not add any additional gratuity on top of that. But if they do not put out a tip jar, $50-100 per bartender is customary. (Some bar service companies will spell out in their contract how much each bartender must be tipped in lieu of a tip jar. Again, I find this gauche, and I tend not to do business with those bar services if I find out that’s their practice.)
Catering & Service Staff
This is the most complicated category, and somewhat depends on whether the service staff are employed/provided by the caterers or hired separately.
If the catering company provides all the staff, the easiest way to calculate the tip is to take 10-20% of the total catering bill and give a lump sum amount (either cash or check) to the catering or sales manager to be distributed after the wedding. If you are paying cash, a variety of small bills ($5s, $10, and $20s) is easiest to divvy up.
If you would prefer to tip individually, you can find out from the catering manager ahead of time how many service staff they will be bringing and prepare tip envelopes ahead of time. Customary amounts are $50-100 for the catering manager, chef, or carving chef and $20-30 per server.
When service staff is hired separately from the caterer—for example, if a restaurant is catering but does not provide the staff—these individual guidelines are also applicable.
One thing to keep in mind is that the “service fee” charged by catering companies is almost never a gratuity that goes to the staff. The service fee is usually an amount 18-22% of the total catering bill that the company uses to cover overhead and other costs of doing business. Although it sounds like a fee for the service staff, it is not.
One last tip (no pun intended): any gratuity envelopes that you’ve prepared in advance can be given to your wedding planner/coordinator early in the day so she can distribute them to the appropriate vendors at the appropriate time. Some vendors leave before the end of the reception, and you don’t want to be interrupted on the dance floor to have to track down a tip envelope that you stashed somewhere earlier in the night. And once the party’s over, you will still be busy, saying goodbye to friends or heading to your after-party. These sort of logistical details are best left to your planner.
TL;DR here’s a video link
Here’s the video where I talk about everything written above.
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