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To Tip Or Not To Tip - Gratuities For Your Wedding Suppliers

Recently I received the following question on tipping wedding suppliers:

"I would like to know if I need to tip the hired photographer and the piano player at the wedding ceremony? In fact, who do I have to tip according to etiquette?"

Here is my response:

Please note: Although I have referred to the tipping amounts within this article in US dollars for UK-based readers the figures remain the same.

Etiquette

Tipping etiquette at a wedding is a common area of confusion. Although we tip service providers in everyday life when it comes to your wedding day the etiquette of to whom and how much to tip can be bewildering. Tipping is supposed to be voluntary. However service providers do expect tips nowadays. Traditional wedding custom is to tip a wedding supplier if you think that they did a great job or provided you with outstanding service. Tipping should be based on the quality of service provided to you on your wedding day and in the run up to your wedding. By tipping them you are letting them know that you are happy with the service they provided you with prior to and/or on your wedding day. If you appreciate the work that they have done for you then you can show your appreciation by tipping them.

The Oxford dictionary defines a tip as a small sum of money given to someone for performing a service. Whilst most wedding suppliers are not contractually obligated to receive a tip they might expect one.

Budget

Tipping is an additional cost which you should include in to your wedding budget so that you ensure that you have money allocated for this purpose. Wherever possible calculate the tips you intend to give before your actual wedding day, using the guide set out below. Wedding tips are commonly overlooked when couples set up their wedding budget. It is important to calculate as much as possible prior to your wedding how much you can afford to tip your wedding suppliers. This cost and a contingency amount for extra tips which arise prior to and on your wedding day must be added to your overall wedding budget. Use the following information as a guideline but also use your personal judgment. Whilst tipping costs should be factored into your budget you must remember that they are discretionary and if you are on a tight wedding budget you should not feel obligated to tip.

It is not always necessary to provide a monetary tip to suppliers to whom you wish to show your appreciation. If you think your wedding supplier did a great job then an alternative idea is to send them a gift with a thank you note after the wedding. Remember that the most valuable gratuity you can give to any wedding supplier is your recommendation of them to others! You could show your appreciation to the service provider by sending them a personal letter of recommendation.

You should calculate your budget on the basis that, if you can afford to, you will tip most of your wedding service providers and then you can make the final decision on the wedding day as to whether the services provided exceed your expectations. Do bear in mind that your decision on whether or not to tip is entirely at your discretion. If a wedding supplier has gone above and beyond the call of duty for your wedding then tip them to show your appreciation of their extra effort they put into making your wedding day truly perfect. Sometimes in the run up to your wedding day some wedding suppliers work wonders to accommodate you and your hectic schedule. If this is the case for you then it would be nice gesture to give them a tip to show that you appreciate their extra efforts for you.

Contracts - read the small print

I recommend that you thoroughly read your contract with each supplier to see if a tip is included in their price. Some wedding package rates include tips (particularly if you are getting married abroad). You should note that some wedding suppliers, most notably caterers, add a gratuity to the foot of their bill and they usually call it a service fee or service charge. Most wedding suppliers will inform you of their tipping policy when you enter into an agreement with them for their services. If you are at all confused then ask the supplier directly for an explanation of their service charges and tipping policies. You must be clear about what each wedding supplier is being paid so that you can make judgment calls on whether or not additional tipping might or might not be necessary. Another good reason for being clear about the tipping policy for each supplier is to that you do not end up double tipping them!

Tipping Guidelines

There are some wedding suppliers who you will be expected to tip and there are suppliers who whilst not expecting a tip would greatly appreciate it. Below are some tipping guidelines which suggest amounts each service provider should be tipped according to wedding etiquette:

Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Beautician - You should expect to tip these service providers just as you would on a normal visit to a salon. Tips should be 15% - 20% of your total bill.

Officiant (Clergy, Priest, Minister etc) - Although officiants do not usually ask for financial recompense for their services they do expect you to make a donation to the church or their organization. As to the amount of the donation, traditionally they will suggest an amount when you finalize arrangements with them. The amount varies from a flat fee to an honorarium and can range from $50 up to $500. If you are expecting the officiant to travel outside of their local area then you should also compensate them for their travel costs. Do not directly offer a tip to an officiant. The nominated tip giver should pass the agreed amount to the officiant after the ceremony. If you are using the services of a civil servant, such as a judge, Justice of the Peace or a City Clerk, then you are allowed to tip them (although it should be called a “donation” rather than “tip”) provided you do not exceed $75 and you must ensure that it is paid to them outside of court/office hours.

Transportation (chauffeurs, limousine drivers, horse-drawn carriages, etc) - Do check to see if a gratuity has been included in their bill as this is often the case with transportation fees for weddings. If not or if you want to reward them for their service on your wedding day then the norm is to tip them 15%-20% of the total cost of the bill.

Valets and Parking Attendants - Tips should range from $1 - $2 per car.

Coat Check and Restroom Attendants - Tips should range from $1 - $2 per guest.

Waiters and waitresses - It is not necessary to tip the servers if you have already paid a gratuity in your contracted price. Check to ensure whether a service charge is included in the caterer’s contract. If there is no such provision then you should expect to tip 15% - 20% of the total food bill. Although it is not expected for you to tip individual serving staff if you decide that a particular individual has provided you with first-class service then feel free to give that server an additional tip.

Catering/Venue Manager – Traditionally the caterers and venue management will calculate a tip into their cost estimate, in the form of a service charge. Check your paperwork and if in fact a service charge has not been included then you should allow 15% - 20% of the total bill or $1 - $2 per guest.

Bartenders - Usually you will find that the bar manager will add a service charge to the bar bill. If this is not the case then you might want to tip the bartenders 10% of the total amount of the liquor bill. This amount can be shared out between them equally if there is more than one bartender.

Seamstress/dress fitter - Although it is not customary to tip your seamstress or dress fitter if you feel that they have made an extra special effort on your behalf then tip them between $15 - $30.

Wedding Planner - Wedding planners work for a set fee and will not expect a tip. If you want to show them how grateful you are for their hard work in planning your wedding then 10% of their total fee is more than adequate.

Delivery Staff (including Florist, Bakers etc.) - Staff responsible for your flowers and wedding cake do not expect to receive a tip. You will have agreed to pay their set fee and that is sufficient. However if you feel that they have provided you with exceptional service and/or outstanding quality of products then a tip of $15 - $20 per person is adequate.

Church Organist or Church Musician - This fee is usually included in the rental fee for the church. You should check your paperwork and if this is not the case you should tip them between $25 - $40 per person.

Musicians - Live musicians do not expect to receive a tip but if you consider their performance at your reception to be exceptional and worthy of a tip then you should allow $20 - $25 per band member.

DJ - As with the musicians, if you consider the DJ’s performance to have made your wedding reception swing then a tip in the range of 15% - 20% of their fee is appropriate.

Photographers - Whilst most photographers do not expect a tip if you want to reward them for their good work on your wedding day then this should be between $20 - $30. Alternatively you can indicate your satisfaction with the photographer’s work by placing a large order for additional prints – they will always greatly appreciate that.

Additional Tipping Tips!

* Traditionally it is the Best Man's duty to take care of tips on your behalf on your actual wedding day. If they are unwilling or unable to accept this responsibility then nominate one person who you feel comfortable with and who is happy to handle this task. This person should be responsible for distributing the tips amongst your wedding suppliers. To make it easier for the nominated tip distributor you should label envelopes prior to the wedding day and pass them to the nominated person to keep safe and hand out at the relevant times throughout your wedding day. By labeling them you will ensure that the correct amount of tip goes to the correct supplier. Always provide the nominated tipper with a contingency fund envelope containing a bit of extra cash just in case you have forgotten someone important who you feel deserves a tip on your wedding day or you might decide to tip someone a bit extra on the actual day.

* A common question is who should the tip be presented to with regard to groups of wedding suppliers. The answer is to hand it to the head of the group. For example with a band the tip should be given to the band leader and with waiting staff it should be presented to the head waiter or maitre d' who will ensure that it is distributed evenly amongst the team.

* If any of the wedding service providers you are utilizing are friends or family then you should definitely ensure that you tip them generously!

* An important point to note is that if you are tipping the valets, coat check and restroom attendants and particularly the bartenders (who are notorious for putting out their own “tip jars”) agree with them and the venue manager that it is unacceptable for these members of staff to accept tips directly from your guests. A sign placed near each of these services that says “No Tipping Please” should be sufficient to deter your guests from offering tips and deter the staff from accepting them!

* You might want to consider tipping your wedding service providers prior to the wedding day in the hope that they will go the extra mile and ensure that everything is faultless on your wedding day.

* Inevitably during your wedding day your wedding suppliers will need to be fed and watered. You should expect to feed your photographers, videographers, DJ and musicians. They cannot provide you with a good service if they are running on empty! Caterers will usually ask you what provision you want to be made for these service providers during your wedding reception and will make some suggestions as to menus and seating arrangements. It is important prior to the wedding day to agree with the caterers and confirm to the individual service providers where they will eating on your wedding day. This will ensure that on the day there are no slip ups or confusion. You will also be expected to bear the costs of drinks for the abovementioned wedding suppliers on your wedding day.

* If after reading this information you are at still unsure about how much you should budget for tipping those wedding suppliers who will be expecting a tip for good service then it might be better to arrange a flat fee prior to the event.

I hope that this tipping guide helps you. Remember that the most important person on your wedding day is you so relax and enjoy your wedding planning. Whether you tip or not you are sure to have truly memorable day!

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As you plan your wedding you will receive advice from just about everyone. Friends and family have a million and one tips to pass on, in fact here at Wedaholic I have been offering tips galore.
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