Often couples are not sure who or how to tip when it comes to their wedding vendors. The short answer to this controversial, stressful question is basically everyone who goes above and beyond for you at 15% – 20%. Also, no tip jars please. If you are hosting a party your guests should not be expected to take out their wallets.
Tipping is supposed to act as a reward, so you don't need to consider it a mandatory expense. Tips are meant to be given for excellent service or for vendors who go above and beyond their contracted duties. When you're already stretching your wedding budget to accommodate so many expenses, we understand that it can be a little frustrating and overwhelming to think about tipping vendors on top of their already negotiated fees. But remember that tips are never obligatory. They are supposed to be expressions of thanks for exceptionally good service. That said, unless the service was absolutely terrible, you wouldn't leave a restaurant without tipping, right? The same applies to weddings: It is customary to show your appreciation by tipping many of the people involved in making yours a success.
Here are a few guidelines to help you navigate the process:
Check your contract: Some businesses like caterers and transportation companies may automatically include the gratuity, usually 15% to 20% of the total bill, which you pay in advance as a condition of your contract. Be sure to read the contract carefully to avoid accidentally double-tipping.
Often you will also hear, “Don’t tip the owner.” People will tell you that vendor who's self-employed or is the owner of a business is generally not tipped. This doesn't quite hold true with small business owners. If your photographer owns the studio there ar far more expenses that they have to cover just to own a small business, so tipping is very much appreciated. However, the same doesn't hold true with bands booked through an entertainment agency. They are working for the agency which covers expenses that a small business owner would have to absorb on their own. So, if your (self-employed) wedding planner has designed and produced your celebration from start to finish, and pulled it off flawlessly, you might want to show your thanks with a tip (up to $500, 15% - 20% percent of their fee).
Plan ahead and calculate gratuities ahead of time so they are included in your wedding budget. The first thing to do before calculating a gratuity is to review your contract with each vendor to see if a gratuity is already included in their price. Caterers, for example, generally add a gratuity of 15% – 20% to the end of their bill, which is called a service fee or service charge; however, caterers vary on who is included in a service charge. To ensure that you tip appropriately, ask your caterer which staff members are already included and which aren’t (wait staff, kitchen staff, catering managers, etc.). Those not included in the service charge should be tipped 15% – 20% of the total food bill with special consideration given to the aforementioned persons who went above and beyond. Bartenders are given a gratuity of 10% – 20% of the total bar bill, with the understanding that a tip jar is NEVER appropriate in a situation where you are hosting guests.
Here is a complete guide to which vendors you should tip
(and how much!) on your wedding day.
If your contract doesn't include gratuity, you should tip 15% to 20% percent of the total bill. Another way to tip is offering $50 to $100 for each chef and $20 to $50 per server.
Protocol: Optional, if it isn’t already included in your contract.
The Standard: 15%-20% of the total or tipping a predetermined amount per server.
When to Tip: Drop off cash envelopes the day before the wedding to the catering manager so they can distribute the tips to those working your event.
Photographer and videographer:
You're not expected to give your shutterbugs any money beyond their normal fees, however, tips are always greatly appreciated since they work as hard as your wedding planner on your big day. Giving your lead photographer an extra $50 to $200 is a nice gesture. If there are additional shooters along with your lead, giving a $50 to $100 tip to each person is optional, but always gratefully accepted.
The Standard: $50–$200 per vendor
When to Tip: Tip your photographer and videographer at the end of the reception.
If you worked with a mini orchestra to come up with the perfect score for your service and they pulled it off flawlessly, consider showing some monetary thanks for their talent. However, you probably don't have to tip the solo church organist who was required to play.
The Standard: $15–$20 per musician
When to Tip: Ceremony musicians should receive a tip at the end of the ceremony.
If your officiant is affiliated with a church or synagogue, you're often expected to make a donation to that institution. Because of this, often officiants won't accept tips, but a $100 donation to their church or synagogue is a great way to thank them. If you're a member, you'll probably want to give a larger amount than if you're not. However, if you're getting married there and they're charging you to use the space, feel free to give a smaller amount. If the officiant is non-denominational, consider giving them a $100 tip, especially if they aren't charging much for your service.
Protocol: Expected (depending on officiant)
The Standard: Donate $100–$500 to the church or synagogue, and for the officiant, an optional tip of $50-$100
When to Tip: Most ceremony fees are required prior to the wedding. Otherwise, have a responsible attendant pass the cash envelope at the rehearsal dinner if the officiant is in attendance.
Hair and makeup artist:
This is one area where gratuity is definitely expected. A 15% to 20% tip is expected, just like it would be for any other regular salon visit, but it isn't required. Consider giving a little extra if there's a crisis, like one of your bridesmaids has a meltdown over her curls and it requires a redo at the last minute.
The Standard:15%–25%, depending upon the quality of service
When to Tip: Tip your beauty stylists at the end of your service.
Band or DJ:
Whether you hire a 12-piece swing band or a single DJ, tipping musicians is completely optional especially if they are working for an agency, depending on the quality of the job and how willing they were to follow your ideal playlist. And don't forget about any sound technicians they bring with them.
Offering a 10% to 15% tip is a nice gesture to your band or DJ, especially if they have to carry a lot of heavy equipment from one location to the next. For musicians, a $25 to $50 tip per band member is appropriate.
Protocol: Optional, yet preferred
The Standard: $20–$25 per musician; $50–$150 for DJs
When to Tip: An attendant should tip the musicians or DJ at the end of the reception.
Wedding Reception staff:
It's not mandatory to tip the reception staff and delivery staff, but if you'd like to, then you can offer them $20-$50 each. This group includes the on-site coordinator, maître d' and banquet manager. A service charge (typically 2%) is almost always built in to the food and drink fee, so check your contract. If the gratuity is not included, tip as follows.
The Standard: 10%-15% of the food and drink fee or $100-$200 for the maître d'
When to Tip: If it's covered in the contract, the final bill is typically due before the reception. Otherwise, have one of your parents or an attendant hand the envelope to the maître d' at the end of the reception, since you'll need to know the final tab to calculate the percentage.
Wedding Delivery and Setup Staff:
Slip a few dollars to anyone delivering important items to the site such as the wedding cake, flowers or sound system. If a lot of gear needs to be brought in and set up (tents, chairs or portable restrooms), the workers deserve a tip too.
The Standard: $5–$10 per person
When to Tip: Drop off cash envelopes the day before the wedding to the catering manager so the person accepting deliveries can distribute the tip.
Wedding Reception Attendants:
When it comes to bartenders and waitstaff, and parking, bathroom and coatroom attendants, the rules of tipping are dictated by your contract. If the service fee is included, consider tipping only if the service was exceptional. If it's not included, ask ahead of time how many attendants will be working your wedding and calculate on a per person basis.
Protocol: Optional, based on contract
The Standard:10%-20% percent of the liquor or food bill to be split among bartenders or waiters respectively, $1 per guest for coatroom and $1 per car for parking attendants
When to Tip: Although tips are traditionally passed out at the end of the event, you could distribute them at the beginning of the evening to encourage all the workers to give you great service.
A 15% tip is optional if it isn't included in the contract. Again, always check your contract, as gratuities are usually included. If it isn't, plan to tip provided they show up on time and don't get lost.
The Standard: 15%-20% of the total bill
When to Tip: Tip transportation pros at the end of the night or after the last ride. If you used a separate company for the guest buses, designate a bus captain to hand the driver a tip, otherwise this duty falls to a designated attendant.
The florist doesn't expect a tip. However, if they do an outstanding job, you can consider giving them a 10% to 15% tip after services are rendered.
Protocol: Optional, yet preferred
The Standard: 10%-15%
When to Tip: Tip the florist end of the reception when they arrive to pick up any rental items or just prior to them leaving before the ceremony begins if they are not renting any items to you.
Wedding planners won't expect a tip, so this is optional based on service. If you were given a discount or the planner went far above and beyond their contracted services, offering a tip of 15% to 20% percent is a nice way of saying "thank you" for the efforts and is always very much appreciated. On average, about 50% of couples who hire planners end up tipping them at the end of the evening.
Protocol: Optional, but very much appreciated.
15%-20% up to $500
When to Tip: Hand off the envelope at the end of the reception or send a thank-you note with photos or a check right after the honeymoon.
Keep this in mind:
Though tipping at weddings has become more of a custom in all service areas, it isn't mandatory or even expected by most wedding pros. With the exception of the catering staff and possibly the venue, tips are considered a nice surprise by almost all vendors.
Hand out most tips the day of the wedding. Ask your wedding planner, best man, or trusted friend or family member to pass out tips at the end of the event. A plain business envelope filled with cash is fine, but adding a handwritten note with "Thank you so much for everything!" will go along way. You'd be surprised how much it will mean to a vendor after a long day of work.
Don't forget to send a thank-you note. A follow-up thank-you note is often a valued tip in itself; consider also writing a positive online review and/or referring the vendor to your engaged friends.
If you don't have the money to shell out thousands more on tips, there are a few gestures that will go a long way with your team of wedding pros. Post a glowing review on Google, Yelp, Facebook and/or WeddingWire…write them a handwritten note as well. These are great ways to show appreciation and offer something the vendor can use when booking future clients. Even better, refer your vendors frequently to your friends — this gesture will go much further than a cash tip!