Tipping Etiquette For Your Big Day!

By Azurae Shults

Happy Spring! With the start of a new wedding season upon us, we are starting a new chapter of this column as well! Here on the Central Coast most of us industry professionals consider the bulk of March through November as prime wedding season. With April already here, there will be more and more guests in town, hotel rooms filling up and tables reserved at our local restaurants.

Most brides at this point in the process have checked the major planning items off their list:

• Venue • Catering • Photographer
• Florist • Rentals • Cake & Dessert
• Hair & Makeup • Shuttles

The invites are in the mail, the responses are trickling in, and now it’s time to start confirming the final details of your wedding day. But here’s the catch: if you haven’t already contracted with a coordinator you might be in bad shape.

There are so many details that coordinators handle as the day takes shape. It’s difficult to take that all on by yourself — you need information and direction. One detail in particular seems to get overlooked when brides don’t work closely with a coordinator — gratuities!

I always try to educate my clients about the importance of tipping properly for all of their wedding services. Let me clear up the air on this subject.

Gratuities are a tricky and often uncomfortable subject. I hope that this information will make you feel confident in your decisions and shed some light on an often overlooked part of wedding planning.

Who do you tip?

As a general rule of thumb, I encourage clients to tip as many of their dedicated vendors as possible. It’s important to wait until the end of the wedding or even the week after to hand off your tips, just to make sure they did a great job, much like a restaurant. You don’t tip the waitress before the meal right? Weddings are a service- and hospitality-based industry so your experience should be complete before you hand out your gratuities. If you can tip all of your vendors, that’s amazing. But if your funds are limited after planning a big wedding then I recommend tipping your onsite vendors first. These are the people who worked the long hours, did the heavy lifting and interacted with your guests. Although we love our behind-the-scenes vendors too, I feel the onsite vendors take priority. These vendors would include; catering staff, bartenders, photographer, videographer, florist, DJ or musicians, photo booth attendant, venue manager, hair and makeup artists and coordinator.

The next layer of vendors to tip would be your baker, delivery crews and lighting teams.

How much should you tip?

There’s a ton of confusion surrounding how much to tip and whether some vendors include gratuity automatically. There are some great resources available online that you can use for reference. However, I have found that a lot of online opinions come from larger markets with much larger wedding budgets. Similar to how you tip in a restaurant, considering a 15-20 percent gratuity for all of your vendors is a very nice gesture. That’s not always feasible so I would recommend working your way through the list of onsite vendors to see how much love you can spread around.

Here are some recommended gratuity ranges if 15-20 percent doesn’t work for you.

Delivery & lighting crews: $20-$40 per person on the delivery team
Baker: $100-$150
Bartenders: If no tip jar was allowed during the wedding then plan on tipping them $3-4/guest. If a tip jar was allowed, then a flat rate of $100-$200 per bartender is appropriate.
Photographer & Videographer: $200-$400 each
Florist: If your florist is providing a full-service installation of your floral décor, staying to organize and distribute personal flowers and then returning at the end of the event to help break everything down, then they definitely warrant a great tip. I recommend $300-$500 for your florist to share with their team.
DJ or musicians: $200-$400 is a great gesture for a DJ. Live musicians/bands sometimes have several members performing so you should consider tipping each of them $100-$150.
Photo booth attendant: $50-$100
Venue manager: $100-$150
Hair & Make up team: $150- $200/stylist
Coordinator: Day-of coordinators should receive $200-$400, partial planning $400-$600, full service $600-plus.

I always recommend placing cash or checks in labeled envelopes for each of your vendors. Give your coordinator instructions to distribute the envelopes at the end of the event or to send them out to everyone the Monday after the wedding.

No matter how you peel the apple back, tipping is very subjective. If you follow these basic recommendations you will have a much easier time deciding who and how much to tip!