There's so much conflicting information on the internet, it's no wonder tipping wedding vendors can be such a perplexing topic to so many couples. To make matters worse, it's a subject that usually doesn't come to light until the end of the wedding planning process, after you've already shelled out a great deal of cash and suddenly realize you might be expected to give EVEN MORE?! And if you don't — clearly you're a bad human, your vendors will despise you and ALL. WILL. BE. RUINED! (Dun dun duuuun!)
Well, not exactly. But, the fact is, clients ask me all the time for guidelines on tipping wedding vendors because… wait for it… there are no rules. That's the big secret! It's not at all like going out to a restaurant, calculating a percentage and moving on with your day; and every internet search on the topic is going to yield contradictory opinions because they are just that — opinions. Therefore, my response to the tipping question is to give my opinion, clearly labeled as such, and then let the client know that it's ultimately up to them.
What I'm gettin' at here is that tipping wedding vendors is a very subjective thing, and my personal/professional opinion is as follows:
1. There are no hard and fast "rules."
2. Waitstaff and bartenders are the most common vendors tipped because tipping food and beverage service staff is a societal norm. However, if you see "service charge" on your contract, don't assume that means gratuity. Many catering companies apply a service charge towards their overhead and it is not given to the servers themselves.
Always check with the venue or catering company to see if a gratuity has been included in your package. If not, and you would like to tip the staff, the easiest way to do so is to give a lump sum to the Event Captain to distribute at the end of your reception. Unsure about the dollar amount? Touch base (before the wedding) with the manager in charge of your service and ask what they typically see. They should be able to give you guidelines for your area.
3. Tipping is a gratuity which means that you are showing you are grateful for something, so think "above and beyond," especially when it comes to the
vendors who are not in the food and beverage service category. It doesn't matter if the vendor is the owner, self-employed, or a staff member. If your DJ, photographer, videographer or any other vendor has not only met but exceeded your expectations and made your life and/or wedding easier and/or better and/or happier, then by all means tip if you feel so inclined.
4. Everyone tips differently, so I can't really tell you exactly how much to give. If you and I and my father all went out for dinner (in some odd universe), it is likely we would each tip a different amount on the bill. And, you know what? That's okay. [See item 1 above.]
5. Tips don't have to be cash. Don't get me wrong — cash is great, and everyone loves it. But in lieu of, or in addition to, it can also be very sweet and thoughtful to give a small gift. A gift card with a heartfelt thank you note, or maybe a little trinket that is in line with your wedding theme. (These types of "tips" also work well for showing appreciation to friendors.)
6. Tips are never expected but are always appreciated.
In summary: If any of your vendors have not only met but exceeded your expectations, then by all means show your appreciation in whatever way, shape or dollar amount feels right for you. Gratitude, however it is expressed, is always a wonderful thing.
This post features Offbeat Vendors! Check out their vendor listing to see how they cater to Offbeat Brides: