Gracious Gratuities

So as your wedding day is coming up, you’re having a moment: out of nowhere, one of your vendors dropped the “grat” bomb. What the deuce is this, you ask yourself. “Grat” is short for gratuities, a fancier way of saying “tips.”

There are certain services for which a tip is expected, while for other vendors it is a (welcome, but unexpected) surprise. Some professionals own their own company and expect nothing beyond the contracted price; oftentimes photographers, videographers, and wedding planners are their own bosses, which is also to say if they rocked it, a surprise tip is a tangible way to convey your appreciation for their efforts.

But this is the time to look at your contracts: for some vendors, that gratuity may have already been included in the contract you’ve already paid. That being said, here are some general tipping guidelines, as well as how much to tip them and when:

Be Prepared

  • Hair and makeup artists: Just like going to the salon, a 15-25% tip is expected, depending of course on the quality of service. If a bridesmaid needed her curls redone at the last minute or you had an emotional moment and need your makeup fixed before you walk down the aisle, consider a little extra. At the end of your service.

Read Your Contract

  • Coatroom, restroom, and parking attendants: While this is often included in the contract, the standard for the coatroom attendant is $1-2 per guest, and $1-2 per car for the parking attendant. Either at the beginning (to encourage exceptional service) or at the end (as a reward for exceptional service).
  • Bar staff: If this gratuity isn’t included in your contract or if you hire an independent bartender, tip 10-15% of the pre-tax bill. Also decide ahead of time if you’re okay with the bartender(s) setting out a tip jar or tucking a dollar bill under a bar mat (which is the less obvious way to suggest tips from your guests).
  • On-site coordinator/banquet manager: Typically built in to the food and drink fee, a gratuity of 15-20% of the food and drink fee or $200-300 for the maître d’, venue manager, or banquet manager. At the end of the reception since you’ll need to know the final tab to calculate the percentage.
  • Caterer/Serving staff: If your contract doesn’t include gratuity, the customary tip is 15-20% of the total bill, or $50-100 to the chef(s) and $10-50 per server.
  • Rental delivery: Not mandatory, but if they did extra set up, $5-50 each. Find out how many people they’ll have on-site for delivery and set up and leave an envelope with cash with the person accepting deliveries so you don’t have to get up in the middle of getting your hair done.
  • Transportation: Check your contract and if it’s not already included, a 15-20% tip is appreciated. At the end of the night, and provided they are on-time, don’t get lost, and give you and your guests a smooth ride.

Surprise!

  • Florist: A gratuity is not expected, but a 10-15% tip is appreciated if they did an outstanding job.
  • Photographer(s)/Videographer(s): Not required if they own the studio, but if not, an extra $50-200 says thank you. For assistants/second shooters, $50-75 should do it. At the end of the reception or at the end of their contracted time.
  • DJ/Musicians: Offering a 10-15% tip to your DJ is nice but not expected, typically $50-150. Consider if they had to carry a bunch of heavy equipment from the ceremony location to the cocktail hour location to the reception location. For bands, $15-50 per band member is enough to say thank you. At the end of the ceremony if they aren’t staying for the reception, or at the end of the reception if they are providing music for dinner and dancing.
  • Wedding planner/coordinator: 50% of couples tip their wedding planner. Usually don’t expect a tip, but if they went above and beyond, offering a tip of 10-20%, up to $500, is a nice way of thanking them for going the extra mile. Either at the end of the reception or send a thank-you note with photos or a check after the honeymoon.
  • Officiant: If they are non-denominational, offer a $50-100 tip. Or if they have a church, a nice way to say thank you is donating $100 to their congregation. Give an envelope with the tip to your wedding coordinator or another trusty person to hand off to the officiant after the ceremony.

Alternatives to Tipping:

For the above-mentioned vendors who don’t expect tips, another way to show your appreciation for their hard work is to review them: find them on Wedding Wire, The Knot, Google business, etc. to leave a nice note so other couples can read about the great experience your vendors gave you. Even better, refer your friends to your favorite vendors!