The Ultimate Guide to Tipping Wedding Vendors

Etiquette
tipping wedding vendor guide

Photo: Getty Images

When you're already stretching your wedding budget to accommodate so many expenses, 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 especially 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 percent of the total bill, which you pay in advance as a condition of your contract. Read the contract carefully to avoid accidentally double-tipping.

Don't tip the owner: A vendor who's self-employed or is the owner of a business is generally not tipped. So, if your photographer owns the studio, there's no need to tip him. The same goes for bands not booked through an entertainment agency and the hair-salon owner who does your updo. However, 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 percent of her fee or a nice gift).

Reward extraordinary effort: Beyond the customary tips, when someone goes above and beyond the call of duty — the cake designer manages to accommodate the last-minute change to your guest count, the florist somehow finds a replacement basket for the flower girl to carry down the aisle after she misplaces the original one — consider thanking them with a gift certificate (no more than $50 or $100), a bottle of wine, or another tangible token.

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.

Decide how much to tip. Refer to our handy guide below to figure out how much to tip your vendors!

CEREMONY
Hair/makeup pros: 15-20 percent of the total bill
Musicians: $25-$50 each
Officiant: $50 if you're married by a judge or clerk; clergy members, in general, don't accept tips, so instead, make a donation ($100 on average) to the appropriate house of worship.

RECEPTION
Wedding planners: $0; however, their more junior staffers should be tipped $50-$100 each.
Photographers/videographers: $100-$200 if the pro is part of a larger outfit or agency (but not the owner). Second shooters should receive $50-$75.
Catering manager: $250-$500
Waitstaff: 15 percent of the total pre-tax food bill, which should be given to the catering manager or "captain" to distribute.
Bartenders: 10-15 percent of the total pre-tax bar bill, which should be split among the bartenders. Inform the bartenders of your intent to tip after the reception, and request that they refuse tips from guests.
Reception band/DJ:$25-$50 per person
Chauffeur/driver: 15-20 percent of the total bill, which is typically presented at the end of the day.
Valets: $1-$2 per car, given to the supervisor in advance, to be split among staff. Display a sign at the valet station stating that gratuities have been taken care of. The valets should also be instructed to refuse any tips offered by guests.
Restroom/coat-check attendants: $.50-$2 per guest; calculate this total in advance and give to your reception site manager to distribute.

SETUP/BREAKDOWN
Delivery people: $5-$20 per person for deliveries arriving from your florist, baker, rental company, and other vendors. These staffers may also be doing the heavy lifting, on-site setup, and hauling away that come with producing your wedding — so tip accordingly.

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