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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Burns

What vendors do I need to tip and how much?

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

Estimating how much to tip vendors is one of the most surprising tasks engaged couples face. Many professionals recommend finalizing your entire budget before you spend a dime. And of course that is great advice. There are plenty of costs in which you have complete control of the purse strings. But tipping is at the mercy of each individual invoice or your final head count, which makes it difficult to budget. We can’t even begin to count the amount of couples who assumed gratuity would be a small expense only to learn that sticker shock is very real.

Let’s start with a few pieces of advice before we get too far into the weeds.

1. Always check your contracts to see if “service fee” is included. This is usually referring to tip, but not always! No one will be upset if you directly ask if service fee is synonymous with gratuity.

2. It will be easier to crunch your numbers if you have your guest list finalized. Sure, removing grandma’s twin sister from the count won’t make much of a difference, but removing all 23 of your mom’s cousins could add up to hundreds of dollars when all is said and done.

3. It may be a good idea to decide which vendors you want to tip before you calculate any numbers. This way you will tip who you feel deserves it and you won’t be influenced by the bottom line.

4. It is never appropriate to tip a vendor who owns his or her own company. For example, if a photographer owns the brand, do not tip him. But if his assistant does not own a portion of the company, you certainly can tip her.

Now let’s get into those weeds.

The vendors that receive a tip based on a percentage of the final bill are hair stylists, makeup artists, caterers, and bartenders. These all follow non-wedding etiquette. A standard 18% should cover you. For caterers, there may be several servers. You do not need to tip each server individually. Just tip the head server and indicate it’s for everyone. He/She will distribute among the staff. Same is true of bartenders, unless they are not working for the same company. In that situation, tip them individually. If you feel any of these vendors have gone above and beyond, you of course can offer more.

There are other vendors that receive gratuity based on the head count. These are valet drivers, security guards, coat-check personnel, and restroom attendants. It is customary for these vendors to receive $1-$3 per guest. Each of these attendants should be tipped. In other words, the two security guards should each receive $1-$3 per guest. This is why it’s important to decide if your mom’s cousins get an invite or not. Those 23 cousins who are married will come out to $100 extra tip cash for just the coat checker alone.

All other vendors rarely expect couples to tip them, but of course are pleasantly surprised should a little white envelope be presented to them the day of the wedding. Because there’s no etiquette outlining what to tip other vendors, whatever you feel is appropriate is appropriate! We usually see the biggest variance when it comes to tipping an officiant. If it's someone you grew up with who knows both of you, you might want to be generous. If he/she is Random Joe, you're in the clear to omit it. Also keep in mind that some officiants won’t accept a tip. Instead they suggest you make a donation to their place of worship.

The last thing you’ll want to consider is the physical act of distributing your Franklins, Grants, and Jacksons. In today’s day and age, it’s easy to just add a few extra bucks when the barista runs your card. But at your wedding, you can’t just walk into the kitchen in your gown and expect the busboy to run your card. Instead, a week before the wedding make a trip to the bank. Have in mind exactly how many of each bill you want before you arrive. If you withdraw only hundred dollar bills, you will have to tip in multiples of 100, which we’re guessing you don’t want to do. Once you have what you need, divide the appropriate amounts into envelopes and label them. Keep in mind that the caterers will be splitting up whatever is provided to them. Give all the labeled envelopes to your wedding planner. She can distribute them the day of the wedding.

Still not sure how much to set aside? You can always ask a professional. If you don’t have a wedding planner, consider hiring one. This is the first of many issues that get into the weeds. If it’s not in the cards for you, then consider calling local planners to see if any of them offer consulting. We’ll even use our Hamiltons to buy your cup of coffee!

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