The Tipping Point
The who, how, and how-much guide to tipping your wedding vendors—appropriately and gracefully.
Wait, there's more:
Tipping is just one of those obligations that comes with being a functioning member of society. If you need some convincing (in which case, we hope we never have to wait on your table), consider this: Although customs and amounts differ across the country, tipping is appropriate because it supplements workers' generally low base salaries. (Of course, we also like to hope that the promise of a tip will ensure prompt, courteous service.) So, although you wrote your bandleader a check for $6,000, the pro playing the trumpet will see far less cash. That's where tipping comes in.
Some ground rules: Vendors who provide a product, like a cake baker or florist, don't usually receive tips, but vendors who provide a service, like your DJ, do. (You are, of course, welcome to tip "product vendors" and their staffs for performing above and beyond the call of duty.) Additionally, since tips are meant to supplement the salaries of folks on the lower rungs of the business ladder, a vendor who's self-employed or is the owner of a business is generally not tipped.
That said, we think that anyone who does a job with passion and commitment deserves a little gratitude from the person who pays his or her salary—don't you? You're certainly not required to tip a business owner like your wedding planner or photographer, but certain circumstances may compel you to do so (especially in the case of the photographer, who's the only vendor who still has work to do for you after the wedding day).
Certain businesses, like caterers and transportation companies, may automatically include the gratuity—usually about 20 percent of the total bill, which you pay in advance as a condition of your contract.
The day of the wedding, appoint a very responsible person, like a wedding planner or parent, to pass out tips at the end of the event. A plain business envelope filled with cash is fine, but adding a "Thanks for everything!" will earn you extra points—you'd be surprised how much it means to a vendor to receive a heartfelt thank-you note or email after the wedding.
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.
Altar boys or girls: $5–$10; if they decline, add this amount to your donation to the church.
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 pretax food bill (given to the catering manager or "captain" to distribute)
Bartenders: 10–15 percent of the total pretax bar bill. Inform the bartenders of your intent to tip after the reception, and request that they refuse tips from guests. No rogue tip jars!
Reception band/DJ: $25–$50 per person, but take their performance into account: Did your bashful uncle boogie for the first time in 40 years? Then give a little more cash.
Chauffeur/driver: 15–20 percent of the total bill, 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.
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.
HoneymoonBellhop: $1–$2 per piece of luggage brought to and from the room
Doorperson: $1–$2 per task for any kind of assistance, like hailing a cab
Housekeeper: $2–$4 per day
Concierge: $5–$20, depending on the request(s)