When you're already digging deep into your (or your parents') pockets for wedding expenses, allotting room in your budget for gratuities on top of that can be hard to handle. And even though service charges may be spelled out in your contract, tipping—although not mandatory—is always appreciated for a job well done, not to mention a kind and thoughtful gesture. So don't forget to factor in tips when making your wedding budget.
Since some vendors will expect a gratuity, and other gratuities will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, you have a few things to consider. Traditionally, business owners of larger companies don't get tipped—just their employees—but you can and should tip an owner when the service exceeds expectations. Small business owners should never be overlooked either, since their businesses are often run by just one person.
Tip vendors who offer exceptional service, write thank-you notes (they're always appreciated) and assign the responsibility of handing them out to a trusted person, such as your wedding planner, a parent or wedding party member. Here's a helpful breakdown of what's customary for tipping each vendor.
Wedding planners won't likely expect anything, but if yours did a great job, you can always offer a token of appreciation. (Note: Nonmonetary thank-yous like professional photos of the wedding for the planner's portfolio can go a long way too.) About 50 percent of couples do tip their planners.
The Standard: 10–20 percent, up to $500, or a nice gift
When to Tip: Hand off the envelope at the end of the reception or send a thank-you note with photos or a check right after the honeymoon.
Wedding Hairstylist and Makeup Artist
This is one area where gratuity is definitely expected. Tip between 15 to 25 percent just as you would in a hair salon, and consider giving a little extra if there's a crisis, like one of your bridesmaids has a meltdown over her curls and it requires a redo at the last minute.
The Standard: 15–25 percent, depending upon the quality of service
When to Tip: Tip your beauty stylists at the end of your service.
Wedding Delivery and Setup Staff
Slip a few dollars to anyone delivering important items to the site such as the wedding cake, flowers or sound system. If a lot of gear needs to be brought in and set up (tents, chairs or porta-potties), the workers deserve a tip too.
The Standard: $5–$10 per person
When to Tip: Drop off cash envelopes the day before the wedding to the catering manager so the person accepting deliveries can distribute the tip.
Wedding Ceremony Officiant
If your officiant is affiliated with a church or synagogue, you're often expected to make a donation to that institution. If you're a member, you'll probably want to give a larger amount than if you're not. However, if you're getting married there and they're charging you to use the space, feel free to give a smaller amount. Tipping the officiant, both nondenominational and denominational, is also appreciated.
Protocol: Expected (depending on officiant)
The Standard: Donate $100–$500 to the church or synagogue, and for the officiant, a tip of $50-$100 (maybe more, depending on how much time they've spent with you leading up to the wedding, say, in premarital counseling, for example).
When to Tip: Most ceremony fees are required prior to the wedding. Otherwise, have a responsible attendant pass the cash envelope at the rehearsal dinner if the officiant is in attendance.
Wedding Ceremony Musicians
If you worked with a mini orchestra to come up with the perfect score for your service and they pulled it off flawlessly, consider showing some monetary thanks for their talent. However, you probably don't have to tip the solo church organist who was required to play.
The Standard: $15–$20 per musician
When to Tip: Ceremony musicians should receive a tip at the end of the ceremony.
Wedding Photographer and Videographer
You're not expected to give your shutterbugs any money beyond their normal fees. But if the wedding photographer or videographer doesn't own the studio, consider tipping each person (or give a certain amount with a thank-you note to disperse to staff).
The Standard: $50–$200 per vendor
When to Tip: Tip your photographer and videographer at the end of the reception.
Wedding Reception Staff
This group includes the on-site coordinator, maître d' and banquet manager. A service charge (typically 2 percent) is almost always built in to the food and drink fee, so check your contract. If the gratuity is not included, tip as follows.
The Standard: 15–20 percent of the food and drink fee or $200–$300 for the maître d'
When to Tip: If it's covered in the contract, the final bill is typically due before the reception. Otherwise, have one of your parents or an attendant hand the envelope to the maître d' at the end of the reception, since you'll need to know the final tab to calculate the percentage.
Wedding Reception Attendants
When it comes to bartenders and waitstaff, and parking, bathroom and coatroom attendants, the rules of tipping are dictated by your contract. If the service fee is included, consider doling out extra only if the service was exceptional. If it's not included, ask ahead of time how many attendants will be working your wedding and calculate on a per person basis.
Protocol: Optional, based on contract
The Standard: 10–20 percent of the liquor or food bill to be split among bartenders or waiters respectively, $1 per guest for coatroom and $1 per car for parking attendants
When to Tip: Although tips are traditionally passed out at the end of the event, you could distribute them at the beginning of the evening to encourage all the workers to give you great service.
Wedding Reception Band or DJ
Whether you hire a 12-piece swing band or a single DJ, tipping musicians is completely optional, depending on the quality of the job and how willing they were to follow your ideal playlist. And don't forget about any sound technicians they bring with them.
Protocol: Optional, yet preferred
The Standard: $25–$35 per musician; $50–$150 for DJs
When to Tip: An attendant should tip the musicians or DJ at the end of the reception.
Again, check your contract, as gratuity is usually included. If it isn't, plan to tip provided they show up on time, provide a smooth ride and don't get lost.
The Standard: 15–20 percent of the total bill
When to Tip: Tip transportation pros at the end of the night or after the last ride. If you used a separate company for the guest buses, designate a bus captain to hand the driver a tip, otherwise this duty falls to a designated attendant.