How Much Should You Tip Wedding Vendors? A Handy Guide

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How Much Should You Be Tipping Wedding Vendors?
Love

Just like any service industry, tipping vendors when it comes to our wedding day is just the same. Quality service shouldn't go unnoticed, and believe it or not, there are many moving parts and tips to distribute when crafting your picture perfect, dream wedding.

While it can seem like an overwhelming and daunting task, as you want to make sure you don't leave anyone out, we're here to help answer all your questions and fill in the missing dots. With the help of a wedding planner and event specialist extraordinaire, Meg Hotchkiss, we've broken down everything there is to know about how much to tip wedding vendors.

(Additionally, for a deep dive worksheet to explain everything you need to know about wedding gratuities, provided by Meg Hotchkiss, click here.)

RELATED: Here Are The First 5 Steps All Brides Who Are Planning Their Own Wedding Should Take

1. Who should you tip when preparing or having a wedding?

According to Hotchkiss:

"You should tip any vendors that you feel have gone above and beyond in providing you with services to make your wedding day a success. For many vendors (with the exception of beauty teams and catering staff), a gratuity is not expected, but always appreciated! It bears mentioning here that there's a common misconception that you cannot/should not tip a business owner. This is not necessarily true.

A gratuity is a show of gratefulness, and in the wedding industry, a lot of your vendors are self-employed people who are providing you with a personal service. So if a vendor went above and beyond or made your life/wedding easier, you can feel free to tip. It doesn't matter if they're a business owner, self-employed, or an employee. There's no such thing as Tip Police who will arrest you for tipping the photographer who owns her own studio." 

2. Do you still tip a vendor/service that gave you hassle throughout the wedding process? If so, what is respectable?

Says Hotchkiss, a gratuity, by its nature, is a show of gratitude towards a service provider.

"If someone was a pain in the neck through the planning process, you're probably more grateful to be finished working with them than grateful to them for excellent service. Most wedding gratuities are optional, and if your slacker of a vendor falls into the 'not required' category, you can just skip the gratuity and move on.

If, however, that bad vendor happens to be one that is traditionally always given a gratuity, tip on the lower end of the scale. Think of it this way: if you went to a restaurant and didn't get great service, would you walk out without leaving a tip? Most likely, you'd leave something in the 15 percent range rather than the 20 percent that you'd leave for excellent service." 

3. Is there a tip breakdown for different vendors in your wedding?

"Tipping is very personal/contextual, so the amount is at your discretion and also dependent upon what your budget allows. However, there are some industry standards that you can use as a guideline. Don’t stress or go bankrupt over gratuities. If the numbers based on the guidelines have you fainting, don’t worry. They’re just suggestions, and you should do what feels right to you and what suits your budget!" Hotchkins suggests.

And thanks to Hotchkiss, we have a complete guide of everyone of your wedding vendors who deserves a tip — and at what percentage.

Getting Ready

  • Barber/Hair Stylist/Makeup Artists: A 15-20 percent gratuity of the total is expected, just as it would be in real life

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If you’re getting ready in a hotel, be sure to leave a nice tip for the housekeeper. Your room will probably be a much bigger mess than the standard hotel guest.

Ceremony

  • Musicians: For live music, $35-50 per musician
  • Officient: Religious Institution Officiants typically get a donation of $100 to $500
  • Secular/Civil Officiants: consider $50 to $100
  • Friend/Family Member: you’ll want to reimburse them any fees incurred to become ordained as well as give them a meaningful gift

Catering and Venue Staff

  • Catering Manager/Maître d'/Banquet Captain: $200-$500. If the caterer has done an exceptional job, an additional $1-$2 per guest is suggested
  • Wait Staff, Kitchen Staff, and Bartenders: $30-65 per staff member or 15 percent of the food total (not including service charges, tax, rentals) 
  • Chefs: $100-$200 per chef
  • Restroom and Coat Check Attendants: $1-2 per guest is typical (split among the attendants)

RELATED: 15 Wedding Program Design Ideas For Your Special Day

Other Vendors

  • Planner/Coordinator: 15-20 percent of their fee, up to $500 (or more, if they brought a team of assistants or went way above and beyond)
  • Band: $50-100 per band member (don’t forget the sound engineer!)
  • DJ: $50-100+
  • Photographer and Cinematographer: If you feel s/he has provided extra or special services, a tip is a wonderful gesture, and $100-200 per person is suggested
  • Florist: A gratuity is not usually required. If you feel s/he has provided extra or special services, a tip or a gift is a wonderful gesture
  • Limo/Shuttle Drivers: 15 percent to 20 percent is typical. Before allocating gratuity dollars for your driver(s), check your invoice. Most transportation companies include the gratuity within the overall fee
  • Valet Parking Attendants: $1-$2 per car is typical, to be split among the attendants
  • Delivery and Setup Staff: While not required, it's a token of appreciation given to the staff delivering important wedding day items to the site, such as the wedding cake or flowers. And if a lot of gear needs to be brought in and set up (tents, chairs, or lighting), you may want to tip the workers involved too. Anywhere from $15-$25 per person

If tipping everyone isn't within your budget, keep in mind that any vendor will be thrilled with positive reviews/testimonials, referrals, photos for their portfolio (for non-photographers), and a nice thank you note. And a thoughtful gift goes a long way too, especially for those vendors you've gotten to know along the planning journey.

4. Is it best to tip the servers at a wedding personally, or should the catering company evenly distribute?

"I typically recommend that all server gratuities are placed into one envelope for the caterer to distribute. In part, because the division of labor may be not exactly even, and the captain will know which members of the staff performed which tasks," advises Hotchkiss. 

"The most common example of this is sometimes a smaller group of the staff will be called in early for setup. Those servers may get a slightly higher proportion of the gratuity. I do, however, suggest separating out gratuities for the Captain/Head Server/Maître d',the Catering Manager, and the bridal attendant (if you have one)." 

5. When should you tip your vendors? Is there a benefit to tipping before so service is better, or after?

According to Hotchkiss, traditionally, gratuities are given at the end of the event. The exception to this rule is for vendors that your guests might feel inclined to tip (such as valet parking attendants, coat check, and restroom attendants).

If they are given a gratuity from the host prior to the start of service, they will let your guests know that their host has taken care of all gratuities. Additionally, if you plan on tipping delivery/setup staff, you'll want to arrange for those gratuities to be handed out at the time of the delivery.

You can give these gratuities to whomever will be onsite accepting deliveries on the wedding day, such as your coordinator or the catering manager.

There are a few important caveats to remember. Here's some last minute feedback from Hotchkiss to tie up any loose ends as it comes to tipping your wedding vendors:

  • Check your contracts to see if gratuity is already included in your fee. Some vendors will automatically add a gratuity onto their final bill. However, be aware that when it comes to catering, “Service Charge” is not always synonymous with Gratuity. Sometimes the Service Charge includes gratuity for the staff, and sometimes it’s for incidentals, equipment/property maintenance. Double check with your caterer to confirm (or ask your coordinator to do so).
  • When calculating a gratuity that is a percentage of the total bill, calculate on the pretax total.  
  • Tips should be in cash whenever possible (for ease of distribution to staff).
  • Plan your gratuities out early, as you may hit ATM cash withdrawal limits.
  • Organize your tips in advance and put them in clearly marked envelopes. You do not want to miss your last dance because you ran off to check your wallet for $50 to give the DJ. Have your coordinator, a parent, or other trusted person distribute the gratuities on your behalf. 

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Elizabeth Blasi is a New Yorker. A lifestyle & travel writer, who is often seen with a suitcase in hand, jetsetting to her next location. But as a true Digital Nomad, her love of writing and romance novels means her laptop is always beside her.