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

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Comments on 6 non-rules for tipping your wedding vendors

    • Where do you live?

      Agreed though, tipping makes everything so complicated. I wish we just paid people enough money so tipping wasn’t necessary.

      • New Zealand. People might round up on a restaurant bill, but that’s about it. Everyone (except apprentices and people under 16) is entitled to $13.75/hour. My friends who waitress and work at bars might get about $5 per night but it’s not expected. It makes things much simpler.

  1. Okay then…would it be tacky to have a tip jar at the bar if we are paying for it??? That way the bar/waitstaff can split the tips???

    • I don’t think so. As a guest, whenever I go to an even with an open bar (wedding or other) I always bring cash to tip the bar tenders. Just because the drinks are free to me doesn’t mean the bar tenders don’t deserve a tip.

    • Some guests will always tip a bartender, jar or no. Generally speaking though, the bartenders at a wedding are going to make the bulk of their tips one of three ways. (1) Factored in to the contract in advance (2) directly from the person hosting the bar directly or (3) from a tip jar. For me, I don’t have a problem with a tip jar on the bar as long as it’s not double-dipping. Meaning, if the tip was already included in the contract, then they shouldn’t have a jar out as well.

  2. Tipping should come from the heart. I know, cheesy to say, but I mean if you felt that person did their job and you were happy, then they deserve as much as you can afford to give. You bet I would absolutely tip the photographer if they took breathtaking photos and were kind to my guests.
    I have a question. Would vendors find it odd if they were included in receiving favors and being a part of a free raffle to win a gift basket? It’s kind of my personality to treat vendors like guests but I’m not sure if they would find that creepy. 🙁

    • Extras are one thing – it’s always fun to take home some flowers or treats from a wedding. However, though I can’t speak for all vendors, I wouldn’t want to “compete” with a guest for a fun item like a raffle. I think that should go to them.

  3. As someone who has worked in the service industry, I want to remind those of you in the United States who “don’t believe in tipping” that tips are taxable income and not considered as an extra bonus by the IRS. While waiting tables and working as a catering server, many many times my paycheck was $0.00 because the amount of taxes I was paying was more than my paycheck. In many states, servers are not even entitled to minimum wage because the statewide average tip is figured into their income. In Texas, I made $2.13 an hour plus tips. Yeah, it sucks that servers have to consider tips as part of their income, but this is not their fault. Try to keep in mind when a server or bartender acts entitled to a tip, it’s not because they’re being greedy. It’s because the system has set it up that way.

    • Thank you for bringing up this excellent point. I am in California and the sub-minimum wage for servers is no longer legal (though it used to be). In the realm of event catering, it definitely is going to vary quite a bit. I work with one caterer who told me that his staff was well paid and that there was no need to tip, so I would again recommend checking with your catering manager to determine if tips are included and/or usually part of the process for their staff.

    • So I have always wondered, if your paycheck says $0.00, and you did NOT receive tips, do you get a tax refund at the end of the year? That’s the only way this makes any sense.

      (If you did receive tips, then the tax paid is presumably accurate.)

  4. Wedding Photographer here- The best ‘tip’ ever was a goodie bag from the bride filled with bottled water, asprin, snacks, immodium, etc. She commented that she knew we’d be on our feet all day long and that we deserved to be comfy and hydrated. Best. Bride. Ever.

    • Good reminder! I’m going to include them in the list of day/snack bags. Did she also provide a meal as well?

      • I’m way late, but yes she did. Although it is also written into our contract, as a 12+ hour day without food= unhappy photographer

  5. I’m going to sound terrible but we didn’t tip any of our vendors.
    We had no bar and the reception venue owners did the catering. Our DJ and photog were both amazing, but I don’t feel it necessary to tip.

    • We didn’t tip any of our vendors, either. It honestly never crossed my mind to do so…

    • 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.

      • I’m not tipping my photographer/videographer because we paid $4,000 for 9 hours of service. That comes out to over $400/hr. Don’t compare them to other workers who are not making nearly the same amount. Yes they are on their feet all day and working hard. That is why they cost so much and why we happily paid their fee.

  6. @Laura, a very unique question…

    We did a destination wedding in Mexico at an all-inclusive resort (i.e. no tipping was expected at any point during our stay for drinks, food, services). Everyone seemed to go above and beyond all the time. After the wedding/reception while we were all getting cleaned up, my dad asked me if we’d tipped the servers and if not, whether he should.

    They did go above and beyond, but we were in a non-tipping area… I suddenly felt that feeling mentioned above (“Did I commit a faux-pas??”) and ultimately decided on no tip (I’d also had a fair amount to drink 😛 ). What are your thoughts on this? Is it actually expected because we’re American, or because we had an event that was beyond the normal scope of a day’s work? Or is it not expected?

    Bleh. So much to think about.

  7. Wow, Morgan – you’ve brought up a lot of unique questions/issues. All inclusive, international, cultural expectations. I am admittedly not an expert on these particular topics, but I’m going to try to address them as best I can.

    As you can see from some of the previous comments, tipping culture varies both regionally and internationally. I have no way of knowing if the staff at your resort are customarily tipped for special events. My guess would be that, if it wasn’t included in the service contract, sometimes they receive them and sometimes they don’t. Additionally, because they deal with a variety of travelers from a variety of places, I tend to think that if it was expected the management team would have communicated that information to you. All-inclusive cruise ships routinely give out gratuity envelopes and make their tipping expectations very clear. I think that any resort that routinely works with clientele from different parts of the world similarly find a way to communicate the expected custom in their region.

    As for cross-cultural expectations, I do know that servers who work in a multi-national environment do come to have a generalized expectation that customers from X country tend to be great tippers while customers from Y country do not. (My credential on this particular piece of info is that I am a former international flight attendant.) But, again, it can be very inconsistent, and I doubt your event staff went home that night thinking “But…they were American!!”

    Ultimately, my opinion on your question is: Could you have tipped? Yes. Did you? No. Is that a faux pas? Absolutely not. It’s a choice and it’s OK to make that choice. If this was an environment where it was expected, I think they would have let you know.

  8. I had 2 hairdressers and a makeup artist come out to the house where we were all getting ready for my wedding. I really appreciated their travelling so I tipped them each a $20 Tim Hortons gift card. They all really appreciated and said they couldn’t remember the last time a bride did that. We also tipped the bus driver $40, the pizza delivery guy $20 and the kid who played violin at our ceremony $30 (he didn’t charge us anything else). We also loved our photographer so we may get her a little gift to show our appreciation. We were incredibly happy with all our vendors so we were happy to give them a little something to show that.

  9. As someone who used to wait at weddings, one of the best “gifts” we had was being given a defined break where none of us were expected to be available and food provided/ paid for 🙂
    Normally, for a long shift I’d get 10 minutes and as much sandwich s I could inhale. 30 minutes and a pasta bake was heaven!

    • Great point! Not terribly expensive to do. Ask your caterer to provide the staff with meals…shouldn’t cost much at all. I work for a high end caterer in a high cost area and we would probably charge $20 or less per employee to do this. And if you authorize a little extra time for cleaning up the event everyone should be able to actually have a nice meal break without costing you all that much!

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