When you're planning a wedding, figuring out how much to tip wedding vendors is one of those details that's often left to the very end of the planning process and creeps up on couples when they are juggling dozens of other last-minute details. Many people forget about tipping wedding vendors until the final days and, well, even hours before the wedding. How do I know this? To be totally honest, that's just what happened to me when I was my planning my wedding, and I now see it all the time with our DIY Wedding Mentor clients (clearly there's no judgement coming from me on this one!). So in order to avoid the last-minute stressor of figuring out who to tip and how much, you want to start thinking about tipping vendors now before you have too much going on and are too frazzled to straighten it all out.
One of the things that makes tipping super confusing when it comes to working with wedding vendors is that much of the advice from most wedding sites say things like "tip your coat room attendant a dollar per coat," or "tip your wedding planner up to $500." I'm not sure what type of wedding these sites are assuming are the average for most couples, but I'll tell you that at least for my clients, these are not the types of budgets they are working with. Wondering what to tip for your perfectly, wonderful average wedding? Here are some basic guidelines that will make tipping a breeze.
Business owners: No tip necessary unless for exceptional work
Who these people are: Caterers, wedding planners and coordinators, photographers, florists shop owners, bakery owners, DJs, etc.
If you hire someone for your wedding who owns their business, you do not need to tip them on the day of the wedding. For instance, if Bob from Bob's BBQ comes to work at your wedding, he does not expect to be tipped. However, if Bob goes above and beyond what you would typically expect from a caterer and has multiple meetings with you (when only one is in your contract), has spent hours answering emails from you, and always responded super promptly and thoroughly, it would definitely be nice to give him a tip for his above-and-beyond service — but only choose an amount you're comfortable with.
Support staff and employees: Tip based on the hours and cost of service
Who these people are: assistants, event set up and clean up staff, second shooters, etc.
If Bob brings three people to help him serve your BBQ buffet, it's a good idea to tip his support staff. Choose an amount based on what seems reasonable given what you're paying for catering and how long his staff will be on site. Maybe it's $15 or $25 a person, or the equivalent of one hour of their pay. Bar-backs, event set up and clean up staff, second shooters, and other event support staff all fall into this category.
If your DJ, wedding coordinator, band, or photographer is an employee of the company you've hired, it's a good idea to give them a tip as well. Again, think about how much you're paying for the service, how many hours the person will be on site, and then go from there. If the person is playing a pretty important role in your wedding and putting in a lot of hours, then you might want to think about tipping $50 or a bit more.
Service employees: Tip what you normally would
Who these people are: salon employees, transportation drivers, waitstaff, etc.
People providing services are normally tipped in your day-to-day life, and so they should also be tipped on your wedding day. Salon employees should be tipped (such as hairstylists and make-up artists), as should transportation drivers and waitstaff. And how much do you tip? Just what you normally would. In most cases, this is somewhere between 15 percent and 20 percent of the bill.
Two exceptions to the 15 to 20 percent service tip rule are delivery people and bartenders. You don't need to tip a delivery person 20 percent of the bill, just like you wouldn't in your normal day-to-day life. Take a look at the work involved in the delivery, and then make a judgement call from there, but in most cases up to $10 per person should be adequate.
If you're paying bartenders a high hourly rate (above what they would make at a bar), and/or your guests are allowed to tip when getting a drink, then you can go a little lighter than 15 to 20 percent of the drink bill when you grease their palm. If you're paying the bartenders a low hourly rate and/or your guests are not allowed to tip, then 15 to 20 percent of the drink bill is the appropriate tip. Or, if you're at a venue where you're supplying the booze and there isn't a drink bill at the end of the night, then an alternative way to think of the bar tip is around $1 per drink served.
What to do if all else fails:
If the whole tipping thing does sneak up on you, just do your best to treat people fairly. Worst case scenario, you may tip too much, and in that case, just consider yourself spreading the love! The other worst case scenario is you miss someone. If you're like me and your wedding has passed and you did overlook tipping a couple people at your wedding, it's OK to put the guilt aside. I didn't learn until I became a wedding coordinator what the appropriate tipping amounts were, and it took me a couple years to get over the fact that my husband and I missed giving out a few envelopes with cash at the end of the night. I now know working at a wedding and being compensated is like working most other service jobs — you always love getting a tip, but you know it's never a guarantee. If all else fails, just remember the one and only golden rule to treat others like you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.