Wedding Tips – The Truth About Vendor Tipping: The Wedding Planning Who and Why of Gratuity Etiquette

Society has become habitual about tipping, and that translates to giving gratuities even when the service is poor. Less than stellar service is never acceptable, but when it affects the wedding experience, it is especially painful.

Why Give a Tip or Gratuity?

Although the exact origin of tipping is historically fuzzy, it is widely accepted that it has been a function of societies for centuries.

Tips were once presented before the service, as if to say, “please take good care of me,” while a gratuity was given after the service to say, “thank you for taking good care of me.” In modern society, the two have melded and are routinely given after receiving a service. So who deserves a tip? Weddings are costly, and many wonder if tipping is necessary at all.

Tipping is rarely required, but it is expected. It takes the efforts of many people to create the perfect wedding day. And while most service people welcome tipping, each person fully understands that the gratuity he or she receives should be based upon performance. There is nothing wrong with tipping less for questionable service or tipping more for exceptional service.

Some vendors, such as limousine services and caterers, may add a fixed percentage to the bill as a “tip.” This is often more of a service charge than a true tip and should have little impact on cash tipping. Most coat checkers, restroom attendants, chauffeurs, valets, waiters, bartenders, and other service workers, receive minimal wages, and tips factor into their livelihood. Tipping service workers for going above and beyond to make the day special is the right thing to do.

Wedding Tipping Guidelines – How Much to Tip

Gratuity guidelines should not be written in stone. The list below identifies typical wedding vendor tipping, but wedding couples should not feel ashamed to tip less if the service is sub-par, and they should not feel obligated to stick to a predetermined amount or percentage if the service is outstanding.

  • Coat check attendants – $1 to $2 per guest to be divided among all checkers
  • Valets – $1 to $2 per car to be divided among all valets
  • Restroom attendants – $1 per guest to be divided among all attendants
  • Hairstylist – 15 to 20% of the fee plus an additional $2 to $5 tip for each assistant who shampoos or does other work for the stylist
  • Makeup artists – 15 to 20% of the bill
  • Musicians – $20 to $30 per band or orchestra member, and $35 to $75 for ceremony performers such as soloists or pianists
  • DJs – $25 to $50
  • Catering staff – 15 to 20% of the catering bill to be divided among all catering staff
  • Bartenders (if hired separately from catering staff) – 15 to 20% of alcohol bill if cash bar, 25 to 35% if guests are prohibited from tipping
  • Chauffeurs – 15 to 25% of the bill
  • Officiates and Officiants– Tipping civil servants who officiate for weddings (officiates) is not permissible if the ceremony is conducted in city, county or state buildings or during office hours, but a tip of $50 to $75 is customary if an after-hours service is held at an off-site location. Tips for officiants (those who conduct religious services) may be handled by making a donation to the house of worship or to a charity the officiant designates.

Tipping the florist, photographer, videographer or wedding cake baker is generally expected only if the service is provided by an employee of the company and not by the owner. Gratuities for these employees should be at least $20. An extra $75 to $100 for the wedding coordinator is warranted if the wedding was all it was intended to be.

Seamstresses, delivery drivers, and others who do their work before the wedding day, can be remembered with a gratuity at the time of service or delivery.

How to Distribute the Gratuities

Responsibility for distributing the cash tips on the wedding day should be relegated to one person such as the best man, a parent or a trusted friend. Preparing thank-you envelopes in advance for each person who will receive a tip insures that no one will be forgotten. Predetermining the tip is a starting point. But adding or subtracting before the tip changes hands will guarantee that those who deserve a bit extra receive it and those who somehow failed will appropriately get less.

It is never acceptable for anyone to give poor service, and poor service should not be rewarded. On the other hand, it is also never acceptable to nitpick a service with the intent of saving money on the tip. Reducing a tip should be reserved for service sins like inattentiveness, failure to provide what has been contracted for, poor quality, or rudeness. Mistakes happen to everyone. It is how a mistake is rectified that counts, and the big picture and overall satisfaction with the service should be what matters most.

Wedding Tipping Should be Heartfelt

Wedding tipping is about happiness. It is about rewarding people who work hard to make the wedding day the event of a lifetime. Tipping is a legitimate part of the wedding planning budget, but the amount should be customized to each service provider with a generous eye toward those who are exceptional.

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