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

From tipping to setting aside meals and being firm when necessary, here's the proper vendor protocol

Updated 11/28/17

Lorentz Gullachsen

Without vendors, your wedding day simply won’t happen. They’re crucial to making the day a success, from delivering rented furniture to decorating your cake. When it comes to working with wedding professionals, there are a few important things every bride or groom should know.

Do we have to feed our wedding vendors?

Yes! The last thing you need on your wedding day is a low-energy DJ or a photographer who misses your first dance because she’s in the back grabbing a snack from her bag. Making sure your vendors are properly fed is incredibly important—and might even be specified in their contract. You will definitely need to feed your planner, photographer, videographer, and band or DJ, plus their assistants (but won’t need to feed your baker, florist, or anyone working only at the ceremony). Talk to your caterer about what they offer for vendor meals—most have a set list of options, whether it’s a “chef’s choice” or the same main course your guests will be eating.

Sometimes it is included in your catering fee, while other times it is at a lower price, depending on what is offered. When you’re confirming your final guest count, be sure to give your caterer the final count for vendor meals, too—and remember to include any allergies or special diets your vendors might have.

When should our vendors eat and take breaks?

Timing is everything. When it comes to your wedding planner, photographer, and videographer, plan to have them eat while you’re eating—that way nothing interesting is happening while they’re in the other room having dinner. While you won’t schedule specific breaks for these vendors, expect them to be “on” until the dancing is underway, at which point they may sneak into the back to sit down or grab some water. Your band or DJ is another story. Ideally, they should be fed during cocktail hour—before your guests are seated for dinner.

This will ensure that they’re ready to go as soon as it’s time to announce toasts and start playing. Time their breaks to coincide with any traditions you’re including, like the maid of honor and best man’s toasts or the garter and bouquet toss.

Who should we tip, and how much?

If you loved your vendor’s services, definitely tip them! Just make sure you check the contract first. Some do include gratuity in their total fee, in which case a separate tip isn’t necessary. So who do you tip? If your photographer, videographer, baker, florist, or wedding planner own their business, providing a tip is not necessary (though you should tip their assistant anywhere from $50-$150, and could tip the owner of the company as well, if you feel inclined). Gratuity (or a service fee) is often included in the bill for catering and waitstaff.

If not, aim for $10-$20 per person. If bartending is not included in the catering bill, tip 10-15% of the pre-tax bill, to be split between the bartenders. And don’t forget the banquet manager! If they aren’t also serving as your coordinator, a tip of $250 or more is a kind gesture for their services. Just as in a salon, you should tip your hair and makeup stylists 15-20% of the services. For both ceremony and reception musicians, check the contract for gratuity. If it isn’t included, tip between $25-$50 per person.

Your transportation company most likely includes gratuity on their invoice, but if not, tip 15-20% of the pre-tax bill.

What should we do if we are unhappy with their services?

After spending all that money on your wedding day, the thought of not loving your services is a tough pill to swallow. If you don’t love what you’re seeing as samples or during a trial, speak up! Ask for different flowers, changes to your hair or makeup, or a different cake and frosting combination. Not sure your vendor can handle it? Don’t be afraid to ask to consult with the owner of the company, instead—especially because the boss should know if one of their employees isn’t cutting it. If your wedding day rolls around and things don’t go the way you wanted, check your contract, and then say something to the vendor.

If they billed you for huge, flowing centerpieces, and you got bud vases, you should be reimbursed. And if someone was unprofessional or didn’t show up at all, you definitely have recourse. Schedule a meeting, and bring along photos of the event if they’re relevant. Know your rights and where you stand, and be prepared to negotiate.

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