Q: I was wondering what to do about tipping your vendors. I’ve heard a variety of things, from not tipping vendors who are self-employed to giving vendors gifts in lieu of a tip. What is considered practical and appropriate, and is there a generally accepted amount/percentage? Does this change depending on the type of vendor? What do I do if we have a package deal with the venue?
-Totally Iffy Providing Wedding Helpers Appreciation Tokens
TIPWHAT (thank you for that),
A: This is a dicey area we are about to venture into, so hold on to your hats. Add to that the fact that there is no way for us to give you universal rules that you can follow every time, and you get complicated. So here are the basics for weddings in The States, and remember to trust your own judgment.
Tipping Means Gratitude
Tipping is called a gratuity because it is exactly that—money that conveys your gratitude for a service rendered. It would be nice if we could adhere to just that rule and only tip people who went above and beyond their jobs, but it’s not quite that simple. In most states, wage laws let business owners take advantage of the social mores and lower their employees’ pay in order to compensate for their earned tips. The amount varies, but if you are being serviced by someone who is considered a “tipped worker” in one of those states, they are most likely making less than minimum wage because their employer knows you will tip them… and tip them, you should.
But how does this apply to weddings? Well, that’s up to you. Tipping in wedding land is optional and something that should be done for a job well done. If you’re going to tip, listen up. If you are not, go wander around for a bit and read the archives. (Seriously, when was the last time you read through the archives? There’s good stuff in there!)
Who To Tip
First, check your contracts. Some contracts will state that a mandatory gratuity is included in your fees. While it’s probably best not to get us started on the idea of mandatory gratuities (cough hidden fees cough), let’s just say that you can cross those people off your further-tipping list, unless they do something amazing that you feel deserves a little extra (like give you a kidney). This is also the time to consider people you might not think of tipping, like your officiant or day-of coordinator for your venue. Find out if a tip is appropriate; they may not be allowed to accept tips or it may need to be in the form of a donation to the organization they represent. Then go down your list of vendors and figure out who you’ll be tipping and how much you need to budget for.
I’m not throwing out exact dollar amounts or tipping percentages because budgets vary wildly. If you’re paying $10K for a caterer, chances are they are not expecting a 25% tip… but they might take a tip in the form of $40 to each of their bartenders. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your vendors directly what they expect. A little bluntness never hurt anyone.
How To Tip
Consider a modest tip to anyone you would consider tipping in an everyday situation: Servers, valets, bartenders, butlers. (What? Y’all don’t have wedding butlers?) You can divvy up the amount and give each person their own envelope, or you can give a set amount to the person in charge and request that they distribute it among their staff. If you are unsure, ask whomever is managing them how best to handle it. Give your tips in cash and consider (but don’t kill yourself over) including a small thank you note with it. Delegate someone to hand them out. (Fun fact! This is a traditional Best Man responsibility!) You also may want to have your this person check with you before they hand them out; if your baker shows up drunk with the wrong cake, chances are there isn’t much to thank her for.
Business Owners vs. Staff
The rule of thumb with business owners is that they don’t have to get tipped because they set their own rates. Meg put it this way, “The idea is that, as a business owner, you set a price that you expect to be paid, and you control the price (i.e., you should build in your own tip). People who don’t own a business are not setting their price, so it’s nice to give them a little extra.” That being said, if you love them, feel free to tip them. A tip doesn’t have to be monetary, either. The self-employed caterer who made your wedding barbecue may not expect a tip, but the thank you note with a few shots of her work by your photographer for her portfolio will be welcomed.
The Best Tip: Referrals & Awesome Reviews
Know what your vendor will welcome even more than a tip? Public praise. More business. A personal thank you. A cash tip that feels like it means something.
Consider sending them a thoughtful email that they can use in their testimonials, a review in a online forum like Yelp, keeping their business cards on hand to pass out to friends—all of these will be much more appreciated than a hundred bucks. But know that if you do decide to tip, you will most likely make someone’s day. We asked the APW vendors and it was agreed that while tips weren’t expected, they were always appreciated as something more than money. One vendor said, “We got a $50 tip at the last wedding we did and it felt like we’d won a million dollars. It’s totally not about the money, it was about our clients acknowledging that we are service vendors and we work our asses off.” Oh. And consider sending a Thank You card with a handwritten note inside. Seriously. You’ll make their day.
Final sum up: there are no clear rules, so use your best judgement and go with your gut. And if you love your vendors tell them that (and tell you friends, too).
Let’s talk, Team Practical! How did you handle tipping? What is your game plan for tips on the day of your wedding? What have you done in lieu of tips for your amazing vendors?