When you’re already digging into your savings for so many wedding expenses, reserving space in your budget for gratuities on top of all the other costs can be a real challenge.
Here are a few guidelines to help you navigate the process:
- Double check your contract: Some vendors like caterers and limo companies will automatically charge 15 to 20 percent gratuity, which you may be expected to pay prior to the wedding as a condition of your contract. Carefully read the contract to avoid double tipping on accident.
- Don’t tip the owner: Customarily, only employees of larger companies receive tips—not the business owners. So, if your photographer is also the owner of the studio, there’s no need to tip him/her. However, if your self-employed wedding planner has designed and executed your event from scratch and pulled it off seamlessly, you might want to express gratitude with a tip by offering up to $500, 15 percent of her fee, or a really nice personal gift.
- Reward amazing effort: Beyond the customary tips, when someone exceeds your expectations (like the caterer who was able to accommodate a last-minute change to your head count) consider thanking them with a gift certificate (no more than $50 or $100), a bottle of wine, or another tangible token.
- Deliver most tips on the wedding day. Designate your wedding planner, best man, or trusted friend or relative to hand out tips at the end of the event. A sealed envelope labeled with the vendor’s name is perfect. Consider adding a handwritten note with “Thank you so much for everything!” as a nice gesture.
- Remember to send thank-you notes. A follow-up thank-you note is sometimes a treasured tip on its own. Think about also posting a positive online review and/or referring the vendor to a friend.
Refer to our handy guide below to determine how much to tip your vendors:
- Wedding Planner
Wedding planners won’t typically expect a tip. However, if yours did amazing work, you can always offer a gift to show your appreciation. Some couples with more lavish weddings do tip their planners.
The Standard: 15 percent of fee, up to $500, or a nice personal gift
- Wedding Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist
In this area, gratuity is absolutely expected. Tip 15 to 20 percent just as you would in a hair salon or spa.
The Standard: 15 to 20 percent, depending upon the quality of service
- Wedding Delivery and Set-up Staff
Offer a few dollars to anyone delivering important items to the venue (e.g., wedding cake, flowers, rentals). If you have workers delivering and setting up a lot of gear (tent, chairs, tables), they deserve to be tipped as well.
The Standard: $5 to $10 per person
- Wedding Ceremony Officiant
If your officiant is affiliated with a place of worship, you’re typically expected to offer a donation to that institution. If you’re hiring a non-denominational officiant, a tip won’t be expected since they will charge you for their time. Keep in mind that civil officiants (e.g., judges, clerks, etc.) collect a flat fee and are generally not permitted to accept tips.
Protocol: Optional (depending on officiant)
The Standard: Donate $500+ to a church or synagogue, or, for a nondenominational officiant, extend an optional tip of $50 tip $100
- Wedding Ceremony Musicians
If you hired a small orchestra to compose a beautiful score for your ceremony and they nailed it, you may want to thank them for their good work with a monetary tip. On the other hand, it’s probably unnecessary to tip the church pianist who was required to play.
The Standard: $20 to $25 per musician
- Wedding Photographer and Videographer
You’re not expected to offer your photographer and videographer anything extra above their normal fees. However, if the vendor is not the studio owner, consider tipping each person involved (or extend a set amount with a thank-you note to disperse to staff).
The Standard: $50 to $200 per vendor
- Reception Catering/Banquet Manager
A service charge is almost always added to the food and drink fee, so be sure to review your contract. If the gratuity is not built in, tip as follows.
The Standard: $200 to $300
- Bartenders and Other Wedding Reception Staff
When it comes to bartenders, waitstaff, parking, bathroom, and coatroom attendants your contract determines the rules of tipping. If the service charge is already included, consider tipping extra only if the service was outstanding. If it’s not added beforehand, find out prior to the wedding how many attendants will be working your event and estimate the cost per person.
Protocol: Optional, based on contract
The Standard: Bartenders and waiters: $20 to $25 per person; coat check/bathroom attendants: $1 to $2 per guest; valet or parking attendants: $1 to $2 per car
- Wedding Reception Band or DJ
Whether you hire a full band or a DJ, tipping musicians is not obligatory. Your decision to tip can depend on the quality of their work or how willing they were to follow your song list!
Protocol: Optional, yet preferred
The Standard: $20 to $25 per musician; $50 to $150 for DJs
- Wedding Transportation
Again, double-check your contract, since gratuity is typically included.
The Standard: 15 to 20 percent of the total bill