Tipping: Who, When & How Much

Don't add pressure to your wedding day -- designate someone to be in charge of tipping.

So, you feel pretty confident that you've completed calculating costs for the big day. But wait -- before you close that budget binder, did you remember to include tips? Technically, no one should expect tips, but many vendors will since tipping has become standard practice. Depending on where you're getting married, the protocol will vary. Here is a simple rule of the thumb: you tip employees, not owners.

Don't add pressure to your wedding day -- designate someone to be in charge of tipping. The host of the event (often a dad) or the wedding consultant is the perfect person for the job. Or you can offer this responsibility to the maid of honor or best man (since a tux often has several pockets and a bridal gown has none).

Advance Prep
The last thing you want at the end of your reception is someone having to count out cash when offering the tips. Set aside pre-determined amounts beforehand and place them in labeled envelopes. This way, your gratuity guy or gal simply has to hand over the designated envelopes, leaving little room for error. Having an additional envelope with a bit more cash is not a bad idea either -- that way, if the bill is higher than expected, or someone really went the extra mile for you or a guest, you can be sure to take care of it right then and there.

Get the 411
Before you just start dolling out money, however, find out about the tipping policies. Talk to the hotel or club manager at your reception site to see how tips are normally handled. Also find out if a service charge is included in the total on your bill. If so, you don't need to offer an additional tip. Remember, it's completely acceptable to have these kinds of conversations with your vendors, preferably at the time you sign a contract, rather than the day of the wedding. You can only know what people are expecting if you ask them.

So who are these lucky recipients of your generosity? We'll begin with the first person you may encounter and then walk through the rest of the day.

Hair, Makeup & Nails: Whether you go to the salon or the pros come to you, you tip the hair stylist, makeup artist, and manicurist just as you would normally, about 15% to 20%. If the bridal party is paying for their own services, it's nice if you take care of the gratuities, but of course it's not necessary.
Wedding Coordinator: Maybe you have a full-fledged "Franc" planning every little detail. Or perhaps someone from the bridal shop helps you with some loose ends during the day. No matter how intricate or basic their jobs are, they usually won't be expecting a tip. If you'd like to show your appreciation, you can include a monetary thank-you in a note, or perhaps send them a little gift after the wedding.
Delivery People (from the florist, bakery, party rental): They load up the truck, find their way to your reception site, and then oftentimes have to dance around the other delivery people, or even the band setting up, lugging in cumbersome flower arrangements, delicate cakes, and stacks of chairs. Show how grateful you are for all of their labor by offering about $10 to each delivery person.
Officiant: It may seem a bit odd to slip an envelope to the person officiating your ceremony, but it is the proper thing to do. It's tradition for the best man to hand over the tip, which should be between $100 and $200. If you're getting married in a church, they'll often expect you to donate a percentage of your total wedding cost -- so if your wedding is $20,000, a $2,000 donation is gratefully appreciated. However, if you don't belong to this church and you didn't have a lot of involvement with the officiant, you can choose to contribute a lower amount.
Transportation: We're sure you've heard a story about a limo driver who gets lost on the way to the reception and the bride and groom arrive an hour late. Well, those drivers don't deserve a tip. But if all goes smoothly with your transport to the party (and we're sure it will), add about 15% to 20% of the total to the bill. Unless gratuity is already included! Make sure you check before you hand the chauffer a wad of cash.
Parking Attendants/Valets: If you're providing parking services for guests, give the supervisor a tip for the attendants ahead of time. Calculate about $1 per car. And don't forget to spread the word that you've taken care of the gratuity so your guests don't feel compelled to slip the guy a buck.
Coatroom and Restroom Attendants: If this gratuity is not factored into the bill already, $.50 to $1 per guest should suffice.
Musicians (ceremony and reception): Whether an organist or string quartet is accompanying you down the aisle, if you're cutting a rug to a 12-piece swing band or a single DJ, tipping the musicians is completely optional. If you do decide to "show them the money," calculate $20 to $25 for each member.
Photographer/Videographer: This is completely optional. If you're paying top dollar for their fees, they shouldn't be expecting a gratuity. However, a thank-you in the form of cash is always appreciated, especially if the photographer or videographer doesn't own his or her own studio. Estimate $20 to $25.
Banquet Manager, Maitre d': This is where it's very important to check if you're already paying a service charge. If gratuity is not included in your bill total, figure from $200 to $300 as a tip, depending on the size of your wedding. This amount should go to the person in charge of your reception; if there's more than one person in charge, divide the gratuity among them.
Caterer & Waitstaff: If your reception isn't in a hotel or club, there's a good chance your caterer has to work out of a tent or minimally equipped kitchen, and the waitstaff may have to run up and down steps carrying heavy trays. In these circumstances it's nice to show you appreciate all of their efforts. Figure the tip according to the number of waiters -- decide on a dollar amount (let's say $20) and multiply by the number of servers working at your reception, plus some for the catering manager. This total can range from $250 to $500.
Bartenders: Once again, it's time to scrutinize the bill -- sometimes at hotels and clubs a service charge is included in the liquor bill. If there isn't one, leaving 10% of the total liquor bill for the bartenders is a nice gesture. Try to find the head bartender when handing over the cash.

Tapped Out Yet?
Well here's some good news: There are some people you don't have to tip. It is easy to remember that you don't tip the owner of a business, but instead tip the people working for that owner. In addition, the florist, bakery, and bridal shop will not be expecting a gratuity, nor will the invitation or party rental companies. Thank-you notes are, as always, universally and eternally appreciated.


More Good Stuff


Weddings are our specialty

Corporate Events

We can help to make your corporate event the moral booster and "thank you" that you want.

Kid Parties

Your kids grow up so fast. Let them have fun while they are young.