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

Meet your new BFF wedding vendor

Trending with our readers

Comments on 6 non-rules for tipping your wedding vendors

  1. Holy helpful, Batman! Thank you for this! Really puts everything into perspective, and I am now less stressed about the whole “tipping” portion of the wedding. 🙂 Cheers!

  2. We (Eclipse Imaging Productions) have been tipped from time to time, but it is never expected and always a surprise. We offer amazing videography and photography services for great price, so I think customers realize that they are getting a great deal and tip us when they see how hard we work.

  3. Listen, I have been playing roller derby for 5 years….someone else dealing with my skates or gear in any way would definitely constitute a nice tip. Now to talk my partner into allowing my stinky skates anywhere near our special day… 🙂

    • Ha! They weren’t that stinky but..er….yeah. And I’ve seen some great ways of incorporating Roller Derby into a wedding (with varying levels of stink). Rolling grand entrance, bronzed skate centerpieces, rolling usher(ettes), skate wine charm favors…if you’ve been at it for 5 years, get something a little skatey in there somewhere!

  4. My dad has been a DJ for 30+ years and he still tells the story of the time when the Father of the Bride was frustrated with the caterer who wouldn’t let him take home a huge roast beef (I don’t eat red meat, not sure of the terminology) because of food safety regs. My dad was nearby and the guy flippantly asked, “Can I send it home with him?” and the caterer (for some reason) said yes. So, my dad got a giant roast beef as a tip and it was delicious.

  5. Bloody hell guys is this serious? You would really pay thousands for a photographer or caterer in the US and then tip on top?! Christ. Personally I would find the idea of that just awfully cringey. They have set you a price and you have paid for their service, handing them cash at the end of the day .. Makes me shudder! But then I am british and we’re basically uncomfortable with the whole idea of tipping, we grudgingly tip 10% on a “proper” meal in a restaurant because we think we have to more than agreeing with it, and that’s about it (I don’t know anyone who would dream of tipping their hairdresser or cab driver). I think it’s much nicer if someone has done a great job to spend some time on a thank you note, a little gift, making sure you leave a great review on their Facebook site etc – anyone can just hand over cash and it takes no effort while at the same time making a mess of your carefully planned budget.. Surely no vendor would expect it even in a tipping culture?

  6. Oh… This didn’t occur to me at all… I did give gifts such as the ones I gave my guests to some vendors, and to the seamstresses from the gown shop who did some changes to my dress I offered a photo (from the wedding photographer) which really showed what they’d done so they could show other brides…
    I feel horrible now… I wonder if people usually tip in Portugal and we had no idea…

  7. after spending $1,000 on the service, they want a tip on top of that? After paying for the venue and all the services, I’m afraid I have no money left to tip anyone outside of what i already overpaid for.

  8. I’m not tippingg 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.

    I can honestly say that it never crossed my mind to tip any of our vendors. Not my DJ. His fee is $600 for 3 hours. The bakers fee, $500 for cakes. For our wedding planners, I asked how much their assistants would be paid, and we chose one that properly paid their assistants. We didn’t have a bartender. After spending $13,000+ on vendors for a 6 event, I would have been offended by the expectation of a tip.

    We are treating all of our vendors well, making sure they have adequate breaks, and delicious meals. Our vendors are business owners. They charge what they needed to make a living, and we pay.

    As far as the comments I keep seeing about vendors going above and beyond, so shouldn’t you tip, if you want to remain competitive, then of course you do a great job. This leads to referrals, great reviews, and puts you in demand, which allows you to charge a premium. Also every vendor, EVERY SINGLE ONE, in the initial inquiry told me that they pride themselves of going above and beyond. They set the expectation to go above and beyond.

    I am a small business owner and I have adamantly turned down tips. I pay my staff significantly above the industry standard, and have a no-tipping policy. I also charge a premium price. Treat staff well and do away with tipping. Future brides, take a few moments out to really vet your vendors on how well they treat and pay their staff. Just my two cents.

  9. As an officiant, I never expect tips. I feel that by the time the wedding day arrives, I’ve done 95% of the work already, and they’ve paid my fee by then. I think a lot of the confusion over tipping an officiant comes from church weddings, where a lot of the time maybe the church doesn’t charge to use the building so you give the pastor a tip (or a donation for the church). We gave our pastor a $50 tip when he did our wedding for that reason.

    Only two couples out of about 35 have tipped me, and they each had unusual circumstances. One couple tipped me because they hired me for their wedding at the last minute, two weeks from the date, when their original officiant disappeared on them. I charged a reduced fee because they had the ceremony already written – I did a little light editing to make it flow better, but all I really had to do was be familiar with it and show up on the day. Another tipped because I drove an hour and a half one way to do their wedding after they had a venue change during the planning process – the original venue was 45 minutes from home.

    All of my couples gave me a lovely thank you note the day of the wedding, and that was more than enough.

    • Thanks for the reminder that tips don’t have to be cash. As a bride living in London but getting married in Chicago, I’ll make sure to bring gifts from England.

  10. Thank you so much for noting that those who go “above and beyond” deserve a tip and moreover that “It doesn’t matter if the vendor is the owner, self-employed, or a staff member.” I’m the owner of an artisan ice cream company in Los Angeles, and often I will serve at an important function – like a wedding, because I know how important it is to all involved that perfect attention to detail and service be achieved. I truly always try to go above and beyond and I very much appreciate a tip. It tells me that it was a job well done!

    • Hi Valerie – what would you consider to be an appropriate tip for an employee working the event where your ice cream is served? We’re working with an ice cream cart at an event and I don’t know what to base the percentage on – 20 percent of the cost of the cart seems like a disproportionately large tip for the server. Thanks!

      • There are no rules. Really. We never expect a tip, but it’s always appreciated. Here are some recent tips so you can see how all over the board they are. $1,300.00 backyard Beverly Hills party – no tip. $1,500 wedding at an upscale ranch – $30.00. Large film industry player – sundae bar on set – $3,500.00 – $300.00.  I think that a nice guideline is 10%, but it can be disproportionate, and that’s why it’s always best to just go with your gut. Since most of the time we do not get an gratuity at all – anything is appreciated. Personally – when a bride and groom greet me warmly, thank me for being there and even give me a little hug — that’s worth as much as a tip. So are excellent reviews!

        • Thanks so much Valerie. This is an odd situation for me because there are two of us coordinating the event and my partner got the bids for the ice cream cart. The bid came back 30% higher than a previous bid from the same vendor for a friend’s party six months ago. Unlike my friend’s bid, our bid wasn’t itemized, and I suspect a gratuity was built in (no gratuity was included in my friend’s bid). If I see that their work is above and beyond and it turns out no gratuity was included in our bid, I’d be good with tipping 8 – 10%.

      • There are no rules. Really. We never expect a tip, but it’s always appreciated. Here are some recent tips so you can see how all over the board they are. $1,300.00 lavish backyard Beverly Hills party – no tip. $1,500 wedding at an upscale ranch – $30.00. Large film industry player – sundae bar on set – $3,500.00 – $300.00.

        I think that a nice guideline is 10%, but it can be disproportionate, and that’s why it’s always best to just go with your gut. Since most of the time we do not get an gratuity at all – anything is appreciated. Personally – when a bride and groom greet me warmly, thank me for being there and even give me a little hug — that’s worth almost as much as a tip. So are excellent reviews!

Read more comments

Comments are closed.