One of the questions I’m asked most by clients is which of their wedding vendors they should tip and how much they should tip them. Tipping when it comes to weddings is most definitely optional (though hopefully vendors are being paid a fair wage), but when asked, I generally suggest tipping the people working at your wedding who are employed by other people (proven they do a good job, obviously) and my guidelines are:
- Musicians ($20–$60 each, depending on the size of the band)
- Waitstaff and bartenders ($20–$60 each)
- Custodians ($20–$40 each)
- Limo/shuttle/other drivers ($20–$40 each)
Also, as a general note I suggest tipping in cash, as opposed to checks.
Now that said, if you feel that any of your vendors went above and beyond what you paid them to do (examples: your photographer stayed an extra hour to catch amazing dance floor pictures, your caterer scrambled and made it work when ten extra guests showed up unannounced, your DJ brought and lit an unexpected disco ball that made the party, your florist threw in an unexpected toss bouquet, etc.) tips are always appreciated. Most wedding vendors work super, super hard to make a very middle-class income (it’s a total myth that we’re raking it in.) But, when you’re paying someone several thousand dollars, tipping a restaurant-bill equivalent percentage can be obviously way over the top (20% of a dinner bill is one thing, 20% of a photography or planning bill is a totally different ballpark). If pressed for a number, I’d say a typical tip for a higher-priced vendor should be in the $100–$400 range. If cash doesn’t feel right, but you want to give one of your vendors a thank you gift, I think it’s totally fine to give some type of non-cash tip—a gift certificate to a restaurant in their area (make sure it’s for enough to cover dinner for two), a spa day, a manicure, or something else luxurious that they might not normally spring for themselves. Some of my favorite “tips” have been physical gifts that clients bought me thinking I would like them (jewelry, books, household accessories). I haven’t received a tip I didn’t love.
All of that said, I deal intimately with clients’ wedding budgets, and realize that sometimes there is just not any cash left over to monetarily tip everyone you’d like to. Because of this, and because I believe that a tip is a way of saying thank you to a service provider, I’m firmly of the school that the very best tip you can give any wedding vendor is a glowing review (on Yelp, Wedding Wire, or any other site they’re listed on,) a written testimonial for their website, or the offer to be a referral for future clients (or better yet, all three). Weddings by nature consist of non-repeat clients, and so we’re always working hard to keep bringing new ones in. Help with this is appreciated way more than you know. I also have yet to meet a wedding vendor who doesn’t love getting handwritten thank you notes from their clients—add them to your list of wedding-thank-you-cards-to-write and you will definitely make someone’s day.
Getting more personal for a second: Do I expect my clients to tip me? Of course not—I own my own business and set my own prices. Do I appreciate it when it happens? Of course—tips are a concrete way for clients to tell me that they really appreciated the work that I did for them (I also definitely appreciate it when clients tip my staff, because they work super hard, and often get less credit than I personally do.) I also have a personal policy of spending tip money on unnecessary expenditures, i.e., things I want but don’t need. So that money doesn’t go to advertising, or printer paper, or phone bills; it goes towards fun things—dinner at a nice restaurant, a plane ticket, cute but unnecessary shoes. And, I adore the thank you cards I get from clients so much that I display them in my office and home. When things get particularly stressful in the middle of high-season, rereading them is the best way I know to remind me why it is that I do what I do.
Photo by APW Sponsor Gabriel Harber