Your Complete Guide to Tipping Every Wedding Vendor, From Your Photographer to Your Catering Staff
In the whirlwind of wedding planning, it's important not to overlook a key part of your budget: the tips you allocate to your vendors. It's a task that often crops up in the days ahead of the wedding, when it's time to break out the white envelopes. Doing so late-minute, however, can be daunting, since deciphering who gets what, how much, and when can feel like a frenzy. The good news is navigating this process is easier than you think—and, under seasoned wedding planners' tutelage, we're here to help you navigate the etiquette of tipping everyone from your photographer (and second shooter!) to your catering staff.
As Summer Newman of Summer Newman Events, a Southern Calf.-based wedding planning and design firm that also specializes in destination events, puts it, tipping is the act that thanks your big-day team for their hard work, dedication, and service. "Even though it is not required—unless it is stated on your contract or invoice—I highly recommend tipping, at a minimum, the individuals who will be paid the least, but do more of the 'heavy lifting' on the day of," she says. If you don't have the means to tip vendors, "writing a personal note saying thank you, giving that vendor a glowing review, or both" are great supplementary ideas, Newman shares; ditto for circulating word-of-mouth referrals inside your network.
To avoid tipping sticker shock, Wendy Kay, the owner and creative director of Birds of a Feather Events based in Dallas, Texas, stresses the importance of building tips into your budget from the outset. This way, you're making decisions with vendors' services inclusive of gratuity—and you won't experience any major surprises or financial stressors as the event nears. "Decide who you will be tipping, set an amount based on your budget for that vendor, and know that if you decide to tip more, you'll be going over budget," says Kay.
Wedding Tipping 101
Kay recommends treating big-day tipping like restaurant gratuities. "You go into that experience knowing that you'll be leaving a certain tip—generally a percentage of your bill—and if their service is above and beyond, you leave more," she says, noting that if someone really impresses you leading up to or on the wedding day, you can set aside extra funds to show your appreciation. "This could even be for a vendor you did not originally plan to tip, but they were so good, you felt compelled to at the end of the night," Kay says.
Check Your Contracts
Michelle Norwood, the owner of Michelle Norwood Events based in New Orleans, La., says a good ways to start when determining vendor gratuities is by checking contracts. "Some contracts include a service fee or gratuity as part of your bill. Be sure to check your contracts to ensure you're not double-tipping," she says. "If contracts don't include gratuity, you can always ask to add it in when you sign and pay the deposit to avoid awkward or missed exchanges on the day of."
Don't Allocate Tips Too Early
While planning to budget for tips in advance is a good idea, Newman cautions against starting too early—ultimately, you might wind up with more work. "You can allocate a dollar amount in the beginning, but you will definitely have to revisit what to tip that vendor about a month to two weeks out from your wedding, especially if you decide to tip based on the percentage of your contract," she says.
Tip After the Wedding
If you prefer, you can also tip your vendors post-wedding. For the most part, this isn't advisable, "because you are more likely to forget," says Newman. But the choice is up to you: "We have had clients send tips to vendors after an event based on how it went," says Kay. If you feel like you should have tipped someone at your wedding and didn't, says Kay, know that you have the flexibility to give them a gratuity afterwards, too.
When and How to Tip Your Vendors
Cash? Venmo? Check? We know—there are so many options. Newman suggests checking with your wedding planner to confirm preferred methods for—and the timing of—tipping your vendors. This will ensure ease of transactions and satisfaction for both parties.
Enlist Your Wedding Planner
If you do have a wedding planner, Newman suggests asking them in advance if they are willing to hand out tips on your behalf on your wedding day ("Most will," she says). "I usually tip vendors upon arrival or when services are rendered. If I have never worked with the vendor, I'll tip them at the end," she says. Before your wedding, Norwood suggests giving your planner your pre-assigned tipping envelopes filled with cash or checks; they will take care of disbursing those envelopes, "as you'll be way too busy to keep an eye on this yourself."
For those who delegate this task to loved ones, ask them hand out tips early in the day versus at the end of the night. "By the end of the night, they may not be able to complete the task," says Newman.
Cash and Apps
According to Newman, vendors still like cash, but an equal amount prefer gratuities via Zelle, Cash App, or Venmo. While not as popular as some other methods, checks are still accepted, she says: "I imagine that in the future, you will see more clients vendors being tipped in digital currency."
There's an argument to be made for going digital: Apps make for a more frictionless exchange of funds. "Some clients use apps because it removes the possibility of losing an envelope full of cash," says Newman of her favorite tipping method. "And you have a receipt of sorts for all your tips." (With checks, you'll also have a precise log of how much you allotted in tips and to whom through your banking records.)
Kay takes a different approach, asking her company's clients to tip with checks since cash can get messy. "If someone miscounted and a discrepancy comes up, fingers get pointed and drama ensues," she says. Still, she concedes, now that Venmo offers business accounts, she can envision going that route.
When to Tip a Vendor More Than Expected
Just like you would tip a waiter who goes the extra mile, you can tip your vendors more than is expected. "When someone goes above and beyond for you and your spouse on the day of your wedding, even if gratuity isn't expected, a nice tip is the perfect way to show your gratitude," says Norwood. "This could mean slipping $20 to the busboy who keeps opening the door for your grandma or allocating an additional few hundred dollars to vendors who may have already included gratuity in their contract, but deserve more than the standard amount."
When Not to Tip a Vendor
Along with the obvious—a vendor doing a poor job (which is highly unlikely if you select the correct big-day team!)—"etiquette dictates that you are not supposed to tip the owner of a business," says Kay. "That being said, most of our partners are small business owners, so we do see them getting tips." Newman affirms this, noting to forego tipping the owner of the company and "tip their employees, instead, if you want to tip, but do not have the means to tip everyone."
If a vendor who disappointed you received a tip envelope with a check, cancel it, advises Kay. "Another good reason to use checks instead of cash," she says. "But in general, vendors want to do an amazing job—and you should not expect them to fail."
How Much to Tip Every Wedding Vendor
Below, we cover how much money you should dole out to everyone from photographers to caterers. Before we continue, however, it's worth noting that there are no set-in-stone rules in the realm of gratuities. "It is hard to say what to tip exactly, as it may vary based on budget, the financial means of each client, or their desire to tip," says Newman.
When in doubt, heed Newman's general rule of thumb: At a minimum, tip between $20 to $100 per person for service staff and between $50 to $500 per person for higher-tier vendors—or take a lump-sum approach and base your tips on 20% of the overall contract, delivering a single amount to the manager of each respective team. "You may end up tipping more to a vendor when the wedding installation is more than one day," she adds, stressing that these are recommendations and not rules. "You don't need to feel the pressure to tip, especially if the suggestions below are more than what you can afford."
Wedding Planners and Event Designers
According to Kay and Newman, tipping your lead planner—often the owner of the planning firm—is optional, though many of these creatives ask for their team to be tipped; Kay has seen team staff receive between $100 to $500 each. Newman echoes this sentiment, noting that at a minimum, you should tip the staff (tipping the owner is optional). The same applies to event designers and their teams.
If you only have one wedding planner involved with your big day or are working with the business owner, Norwood suggests springing for a thoughtful present and thank-you card, which can be sent the weekend prior or in the weeks after the event, in lieu of cash. "For nearly every wedding they plan, planners go above and beyond for their clients, oftentimes in ways you might not even be aware of. While gratuity isn't ever expected, we recommend a nice gift," she says. "Your planner, after all, is the one person who keeps things running smoothly and absorbs the stress of the day so you don't have to."
- You don't have to tip lead wedding planners and event designs who own their business; get them a gift, instead
- You should tip these creatives' teams between $100 to $500 per person
- Give photography and videography support staff small cash tips
Photographers and Videographers
Kay shares that the industry guidelines for tipping photographers runs between $100 to $500, though "we do not see this very often," she says. Typically, if your photographer or videographer is the studio owner, you don't need to tip, reiterates Norwood. "It's nice to offer assistants, studio employees, and photo booth workers, however, a small tip—though it's not typically expected," she says, specifying that between $150 to $200 per shooter or assistant is a good range. And if your lead photographer or videographer knocks it out of the park? Send a gift, Newman suggests.
- Tips for lead photographers and videographers who own their business aren't common; consider sending a gift, instead
- Tip second shooters and video assistants between $150 to $200 per person
Most experts say that tips for floral designers aren't the norm. "That being said, if you were beyond thrilled with the job she or he did, feel free to add an additional 10% to 15% to your final tab," says Norwood; Kay notes that a gift is also a viable option. One caveat: If a team of staffers that aren't the floral business' owners are setting up your arrangements, erecting a floral arch, or delivering your bouquet, you might want to dole out a cash tip to these assistants.
- Tip between 10% and 15% of your final tab for stellar service
- Give small cash tips to floral production assistants
Unless you had a lavish affair that required your stationer to be present on the day of—where he or she refined seating charts or touched up welcome signs—you can skip the tip, says Kay.
Just as you'd tip a limo, Lyft, or taxi driver, gratuities are common and typically expected for wedding transportation professionals, says Norwood. "Be sure to check your contract first—but if gratuity isn't included, tip your drivers in cash at the end of the night," she says, adding that you can designate a trusted guest to do this, since you probably won't be riding on the bus back with your attendees. You can also have your wedding planner handle this task. Either way, a 20% to 25% gratuity is a good range.
- Tip drivers individually between 20% and 25% at the end of the night
Hairstylists and Makeup Artists
Norwood says that tips are definitely expected for your hair and makeup crew—just as they would be on a regular visit to the salon. "Tip between 15% and 25% of the total service cost (or even more if your stylist went above and beyond," she says. If your bridesmaids are paying for their own hair and makeup, you'll want to figure out if they're tipping individually or if you'll need to tip for their service, as well—"which you definitely should if your 'maids aren't tipping," says Norwood. Tip directly following service, or have your wedding planner do it for you. Norwood also recommends tipping 20% at your hair and makeup trial.
- Tip hairstylists and makeup artists individually, between 15% and 25% of the total service
- Coordinate with your bridesmaids if they are paying for their own hair and makeup to make sure tips aren't overlooked
Caterers, Service Staff, and Bartenders
Tipping caterers, bartenders, and service staff can run the gamut depending on how big and involved your affair is. "With catering, we recommend either tipping 20% on the food and beverage cost, or allocating a certain amount for each staff member working the wedding," says Norwood. If you go the former route, put the lump sum in an envelope and pass it along to your catering manager. If you choose the latter, keep in mind that big-day waiters and bartenders typically make a solid base rate (paid by the catering company), so your per-person tip can fall between $30 and $40. Catering managers, on-site chefs, and kitchen assistants should be paid between $100 and $200.
- Option 1: Tip your catering and beverage team 20% of the entire food and drink bill; the catering manager will split it accordingly
- Option 2: Give waiters and bartenders between $30 and $40 and catering managers, on-site chefs, and kitchen assistants between $100 and $200
Tipping your wedding cake baker is optional, says Newman. If your confection was a work of art, use your discretion and give them a little something extra or a small gift.
Band, DJ, and Other Musical Entertainment
Tips are optional for ceremony or cocktail hour musicians, as well as bands and DJs, but they are suggested, says Norwood. "Anywhere from 15% to 20% on the final contract is a good amount for a single DJ," she says. "If you have a band playing, tip each member anywhere between $50 and $75 depending on how happy you were with the job they did or the amount of equipment they had to lug to the venue." If you have other forms of entertainment, such as an on-site poet or dancers, follow the above tipping guidelines.
As is the case with other vendors, "you can add this amount onto the check when you pay your contact ahead of time—or tip band members individually in cash during the reception," says Norwood.
- Option 1: Tip between 15% and 20% on the final bill; entertainment company will split it between musicians or entertainers accordingly
- Option 2: Give each entertainer between $50 and $75
"If your officiant is part of a church or synagogue, it's typically expected that you donate to that church or synagogue as a gesture of gratitude," says Norwood. "You can also give your officiant, rabbi, or priest anywhere between $50 $100 as a personal tip, in addition to your donation." Norwood advises making the donation ahead of time, "as it will be one less thing to worry about on the day of." If your officiant is attending your rehearsal dinner, give them an envelope with their tip then, she suggests. Otherwise, this can be handled on your wedding day by a loved one or your wedding planner.
For non-religious hired officiants, tip 20%, says Norwood. For friends and family, a heartfelt thank-you letter and gift suffices.
- For religious officiants, make a donation to their place of worship; give religious officials between $50 and $100 personally
- Tip non-religious officiants, tip 20%
- For friends and families, write a thank-you note and send a gift
Rental Companies and Production Staff
This category includes people who deliver tents, tables and chairs, lounge furniture, lighting, and other rentals. "Anyone who is delivering or setting up anything at your wedding should receive a small tip as a thank-you for carrying in all of those chairs or lugging around those boxes," says Norwood, who says to slip them $20 to $50 per person, depending on the task performed and time spent performing it.
To streamline this process, Norwood advises giving your wedding planner or trusted loved one "a handful of twenties in envelopes and ask that they take care of delivery and set-up staff throughout the day," since you won't have the bandwidth for this while you're getting ready. Don't forget to check to see if the delivery team is the same as the one picking up items after the event is over, says Newman. If it's a different crew, be sure to have funds for the pick-up team, too—but you don't need to tip again if you're working with the same people.
- Tip rental and production staff between $20 and $50 per person
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