Vendor Etiquette 101: What to Tip & Who You Must Feed

Etiquette

Wedding vendors make the big day come alive — from the planner to the florist to the band or DJ, it's all about the details. That's why it's especially crucial that you know how to deal with them, what to tip them, and so on. Here are two questions (and answers) about proper vendor etiquette so you and your wedding-day crew will be happy.

Do we have to feed our wedding vendors?
Definitely yes — the last thing you want on your wedding day is a low-energy DJ or an exhausted photographer. Your vendors are putting on your affair so that you don't have to, so plan on feeding any wedding professionals who will be there with you at the reception. This includes your wedding planner, photographer, videographer, and DJ or band, plus their assistants (but not your florist or the ceremony musicians).

Work their meals into your budget and consider it part of their fee. (And actually, for many vendors, it is actually stipulated in the contract that the couple is to provide a meal.) As for pricing, ask your caterer — everyone has different policies. Also talk to your caterers and the venue manager to designate a quiet spot for them to eat during a break (though you may want to seat your photographer in the main room so they're near the action, in case they need to jump out of their seat to take a shot).

Am I supposed to tip the band and other vendor)?
Many vendors will discuss gratuities up front with you and stipulate a percentage in their contracts, which is then divvied up among those who worked the event. Even so, it's a good idea to ask about tipping norms before you sign up for vendors' services. As a general rule, wedding professionals who own their own businesses — planners, bakers, florists, photographers — usually are not tipped. Meanwhile, food and other service providers, such as caterers, waitstaff, bartenders, musicians, and limousine drivers, are. When not stated in the contract, a tip of 15 to 20 percent of the food and beverage bill would be tipped to the caterer, who then tips the waitstaff. (If the waitstaff is exceptional, you can give them each an extra $20.) Also distribute 10 to 15 percent of the bar bill to among the bartenders. Reception musicians and DJs are generally tipped $20 to $25 each.

A few other people not to forget: Drivers who deliver the flowers and cake should be given $5 to $10 if all goes well. Coat-check, bathroom, and valet-parking attendants should be tipped 50 cents to $2 per guest. (As a courtesy to guests, distribute tips ahead of time, and place discreet signs in each related area stating that gratuities have already been covered.)

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