6 non-rules for tipping your wedding vendors

Guest post by Laura from Rebel Belle

how much to tip my wedding vendor

To tip, or not to tip your wedding vendor — that is the question. Followed immediately by “Who?” “How much?” and “Do I really have to?”

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”

Sorry.

2. Waitstaff and bartenders are the most common vendors tipped

This is 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 about who went “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

It's true! As much as I wish I had an exact dollar amount to the answer “how much should I tip my wedding photographer?”… it depends on so many things. 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.


planner: Rebel Belle Weddings

Comments on 6 non-rules for tipping your wedding vendors

    • I’ve been tipped $100 at each of the last two weddings I shot. It’s not at all expected but very, very appreciated.

  1. I agree with this article- I would also add (in my professional/personal opinion) anyone who you would tip outside of the wedding world (wait staff, hair and makeup, drivers) you tip in the wedding world. Most wedding-specific vendors won’t expect a tip but they are appreciated, of course.

  2. my caterer added in almost $800 in for gratuity themselves… i was horified at that.. i thought tipping should have come from us, not automatically added in. My fiance and I now don’t see a reason to tip them at all, but feel like we kindof have to. 🙁

    • As a business policy, some catering or bar service companies do factor gratuity into their total. Typically, this is done as a percentage (often 18%) of the bill, and is similar to what some restaurants do for large groups. If that is the case, then by no means should you feel you need to tip them additional as they have already factored it in your tab. If, however, that $800 number feels arbitrary and out of perspective with your total bill, then I would definitely have a conversation about it with the owner or general manager of the company to find out a bit more where that’s coming from.

      • I agree with talking to them about it. As a teenager and into my early twenties, I worked for a high-end catering company. Partway through the company instituted a standard tip of $20 for servers (more for bartenders) to be built into the bill. I think it was partly to make it simple for the client, and also partly to make sure that the servers actually got tipped. It made everything aboveboard rather than relying on the integrity of the captains. I made $15 and then later $18 an hour (this was almost 10 years ago) so that was a little more than an extra hour’s pay that I could count on. I know they charged the client more… maybe $40 per server-hour. So maybe check to see if that $800 is roughly an hour’s worth of work per server?

    • I work front desk at a hotel and conference center that regularly hosts weddings. We do add a %15 gratuity, to banquet bills, however it never totals out to such an utterly obscene number, and it is Always always mentioned to whomever is booking/paying, beforehand. I would not tip them any further.

  3. Tipping confuses me sometimes when it comes to services I rarely or never use. I know I should tip waitstaff because I’ve gone to (American) restaurants all my life. Same with pizza delivery. But I’m the person who stays at a hotel once a decade, then realizes, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t tip the bell boy! Richard Gere did that in Pretty Woman; did I just commit a faux pas?”

    Officiants? Florists? Musicians? Photographers? Site coordinator? Fire dancers? These are industries unfamiliar to me so I don’t know when tipping or gratuity may be unofficially considered a business norm.

    • “Richard Gere did that in Pretty Woman; did I just commit a faux pas?”

      OK, you totally cracked me up with that because I know exactly the feeling. This is such a tricky topic, because of Item 1 above and the excellent point Mary B said below. There are no rules, and regional customs do vary. Looking at the list you detailed, in my experience, any of those vendors can be tipped and none of them should expect it. A tip for those types of vendors should (again, in my opinion) be bestowed because you feel they provided you with a service that exceeded your expectations to such an extent that you feel grateful and and would like to show that appreciation above and beyond what you’ve already contracted to pay them. So maybe there was a delay in your reception timing that caused your Fire Dancers to go into overtime (and their agreement says that’s gonna cost extra) but they told you not to worry about it – they’d be willing to stay on spin flames another hour, no charge. That would make me feel grateful and want to throw them a few bucks.

    • Anybody working in the service business does not expect to be tipped. But if your photographer is working for you for 8-10 hours don’t you feel you should tip them? Why everybody doesn’t tip their photographer/videographer is beyond me. Why do brides tip the hairdresser & make-up artist? Aren’t they charging ungodly rates just to show up at your home or hotel and you tip them. Why do people feel that they do not need to tip their photographer? W Photographers are some of the hardest working people at your wedding.

      • Do you tip your plumber? Probably not because she/he is a skilled tradesperson. As a photographer I am a skilled tradesperson. I don’t expect a tip but, of course, it’s appreciated very much. I have already charged the person what I deem my time and skill are worth. I do tip any MUAH because they usually are paying a commission fee for the salon they are at so I like to make sure that they get something that they keep wholly.

        • I think people forget to tip their photographer because, basically, they’re a paid and quoted service and photographers GENERALLY don;t get tipped outside of weddings whereas makeup artists and hairdressers are tipped when you just use them for non-wedding stuff. I agree that if you see your photographer running around, working super hard, being friendly, coming up with great shot ideas, you should tip them because they are really going above and beyond for you. Tipping is KIND OF expected for a photographer but its not unheard of not to get a tip either. I just don’t think its THAT crazy that people forget

          • Also, photographers are often sole-proprietors or some other type of business owner of their own business. Usually you’re not hiring a photographer out of a firm where they’re getting a salary. I’ve negotiated my price with our photographer and after his business expenses are covered he keeps all the profit.

      • Hrmm, this comment just showed that SOME PEOPLE do expect to be tipped, haha…

  4. Tipping can be largely regional. What works in Sackville, NB might not in Ottawa, ON, or Vancouver, BC. Ask around-find out what the local customs are and work from there.

  5. I’m so glad you mentioned the “tips don’t have to be cash” thing. My photographer is going above and beyond for us (he’s flying down straight from another wedding because I didn’t want anyone but him) so I’m already trying to figure out how to have a key lime pie waiting for him at his hotel when he checks in.
    I’m glad to know this is socially approved, especially since I thought I was just being silly.

    • I loved the reminder that “tips” don’t have to be cash money. We are drawing upon the aid of many talented family and friends for some of the services. Their work is valuable to us and a gift and heartfelt note will be more meaningful and appropriate.

    • You can discuss with the hotel getting a key lime pie delivered and waiting upon check-in. They will probably insist that it has to come from a licensed food service facility (rather than homemade) because by them delivering it before he gets there, they are participating in food sales. I know, it’s weird because it doesn’t feel like a sale by the time it gets to the hotel, but there it is.

      • We’re getting married in Key West and there’s a specific shop I want to order the pie from. I’ll see if I can sneakily get the information about where he’s staying from him and talk to the hotel about doing that.
        As long as I can attach a card with lots of hearts, I’m happy 🙂

      • Really? I wonder if this varies by state. I’ve left homemade cookies at hotel check-in desks when friends/family visit from out of town and never had them refuse. I’d be most concerned about keeping the pie cold, since every key lime pie I’ve had needed to be refrigerated.

    • thats so awesome!! As a photographer. I’ve been tipped $20 and I’ve been tipped $200 but I think my favorite ‘tip’ ever was a cool vintage looking necklace with a 4 leaf clover in it. So incredibly thoughtful and means the world to me!

  6. Does anyone have advice about how to tip your caterers if they’re a food truck? Ours has 18% suggested gratuity spelled out in the contract, but since they’re not serving or cleaning up I’m wondering if this is really necessary. Not to be stingy but you know how things add up!

    • I would say wait and see what your experience is with them the day/evening of. Whoever is working the food truck is going to be working a long, hard shift with no break in a cramped, hot environment. If you think the service is *truly* poor, don’t give them any gratuity. If you think it’s acceptable, give them a percentage that seems fair to you (but try to err on the generous side, imo.). If you think it’s exceptional, give the 18% or more.

      I’ve done a fair amount of catering and while it can be fun and rewarding work, it’s certainly not *easy* work, regardless of how it may look to someone on the outside. I can definitely imagine that doing it from a food truck may well increase the challenges by a large factor.

  7. As a photographer, I don’t expect any tips from my clients. I’ve never heard of a photographer being tipped either. Interesting post, though!

  8. Thanks for a modern day approach to tipping. As a wedding coordinator and business owner, traditionally I’m not supposed to receive a tip, but I’ve gotten things gathered that brides have forgotten, sewn brides into ripped wedding gowns, cleaned up broken glass and vomit from dance floors, gracefully guided arguing family members apart, managed to find missing vendors, gone on beer runs when the caterer didn’t bring enough kegs…and NONE of that is in the contract…I do it because I want my clients to have an amazing day and when it’s reciprocated with a thank you gift or a little extra cash, it means a lot.

  9. Thanks so much for this article. I’m getting married in less than two weeks, so I’m at the stage where I’m shelling out so much money. I won’t have anything leftover to tip with. My only hope is that a hearty thanks and my lifelong recommendation of their services to friends and family will have to do.

    • If you have extra thank you notes after the wedding, maybe you could send some to your vendors laying out EXACTLY what they did that was so AMAZING!

      I know at work I get the occasional “thank you” email from a customer and those make my day. 🙂

      • I work for a catering company in Texas, we are all occasion. We do weddings often and all have come to the understanding that we won’t get tipped, because you spend, and spend, and spend!

        Our managers post thank you cards/e-mails/good reviews on the wall for us, and it’s always nice to read them, especially when it’s a wedding/event that I was Captain for. We appreciate any acknowledgement that we did an outstanding job. So yes, please! If you can’t tip, a well written thank you card is the least you could do.

      • I wholeheartedly agree. In the instance of photography, you will likely (maybe?) be dealing with the photographer/studio after the wedding day to purchase albums or enlargements and such. Knowing that my 12+ hours of blood, sweat, and tears is appreciated just makes me (album designer/second shooter) want to continue providing you with excellent service. Thank you goes a long way.

    • If you have no money for a tip, I suggest plastering internet review sites like Yelp with good reviews for your vendors (of course, this is assuming that they actually did a good job). Most people will take the time to review a business if they had a bad experience, less so if they had a good one. I bet writing up a few great reviews for those who deserve them will mean more than cash, as it may garner them future business from many more people than those in your personal circle.

    • As an officiant, REFERRALS are a HUGE, compliment.
      It means my bride was not only happy, day of, it tells me she thought enough to bring me up in conversation later…I love it!

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