Vendor Etiquette 101: Tipping, Feeding, and Dealing with Difficult Vendors

Vendor Etiquette Guide

Photo: Getty Images

They're responsible for making your wedding day a success, so it's important to know how to properly handle any of your vendors' needs. From how much to tip, to setting aside meals on the big day and being firm when unhappy, our etiquette experts guide you through vendor protocol.

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. Once that's settled, you are responsible for letting your caterer know how many extra meals they need to prepare for your vendors. 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). Just remember, your vendors are going to be working five to eight hours (or more!) that day and you don't want their energy to flag just as the party gets going.

Am I supposed to tip the band (and other vendors)?
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.)

What if I'm unhappy with the service?
Hey, those invitations aren't cheap and neither is that dress, so make sure you're getting the attention you deserve. Don't be afraid to ask someone who's more skilled to work with you. And, if the person isn't meeting your needs, you should definitely ask to speak to their boss. After all, it's your day (and an expensive one at that), you should get what you want!

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