Freebie Friday :: Tipping Vendors

Ask and you shall receive! Lindsay commented on a previous Freebie Friday post with a question and bingo! She's getting an answer. Pretty cool right?? 

So here's what Lindsay asked:

I have a HUGE question for your mind! TIPPING TIPPING TIPPING

I'm planning a wedding for May and have been organizing vendors on my own. It's a backyard wedding so we're hiring people for lighting, bathrooms, furniture rentals, everything. Some of them have included tip, some have not. So my question is: WHO DO I TIP? Do I only tip vendors who are working at the wedding (i.e. caterers, bartenders), do I tip every single vendor whose provided a service for the wedding, or do I tip only the ones who have included a tip?

On top of that, I have been very blessed and lucky to have family and friends who are MAKING items for my wedding. Items as large as furniture to the actual wedding gifts I'll be giving people. Do I tip them? Or do I gift them? Or do I graciously say thank you and hug them extra long on that day?

And with all this tipping and gifting, what is appropriate if it should be done? Gift baskets, thoughtful sentimental gifts, or cold hard cash? 

Thank you so much for all the information you provide!!! Can't wait to hear what you have to say!

Image by Serfoss Productions

Image by Serfoss Productions

This is a fantastic question and one that a lot of my clients ask me. There is no short or clear cut answer to this because it all comes back to--every wedding is different. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is to tip those who are working for someone else, but I think there is nuance to each situation and don't always entirely agree with that... *cough cough* your wedding planner who you called in the middle of the night because you had a great idea and needed to discuss it in the moment... we'll get to that. 

Let's start with the most likely tipping candidate--catering staff. Most caterers/food trucks/hotel or club catering departments will asses a service charge anywhere between 18-25% (also, keep in mind this is a taxable charge... eeeeesh, I know.) It's important to understand what that service charge pays for, because it doesn't always make it into the pockets of the guy taking care of table 12. Some caterers use the service charge for things like "administrative fees" or other line items. Be sure to ask your catering manager what exactly the service charge pays for. If that money doesn't make it into servers' pockets, then plan to add an additional 15-20% for the worker bees. 

Bartenders are often viewed a bit differently and sometimes don't assess a service charge. If that's the case, have a discussion with the catering manager or bartender (if a separate service) to discuss whether your guests will cover the tips or if you'd prefer a service charge be assessed to your bill. This is an important piece of information to mention to your coordinator because many bartenders will put out a tip jar as a habit. However, if you've arranged to handle the tip yourself, a jar should not be present. 

If you're getting married at a hotel or country club, you may be paying for additional services like valet and coat check. Keep these items in mind as you review your invoice from the property. If a valet charge is on your bill and that charge is assessed a service charge, then your tipping is covered. If these items are not assessed a service charge, then you'll need to chat with your catering sales manager to add a tip for those individuals or make the decision to leave that to your guests. 

The hair and makeup artists who get you all dolled up for your big day are often working for a salon or a business owner who is likely paying them for their time with. For this reason, they should be tipped a standard 15-20%. The same goes for a limo or shuttle driver who you've contracted for the day or a portion thereof (but check your contract as this might already be included). 

A large part of your wedding budget (especially for someone like Lindsay who's celebrating in a backyard) will be allotted to rentals. Rental companies don't expect tips and it certainly isn't necessary for you to tip everyone at a large rental powerhouse. That said, it's nice to hand a $5 or $10 to the guys delivering and setting up 24 tables and 200 chairs in the midday sun. No, it's not a lot, but these guys fall into the category of working for a wage under a larger business umbrella. They're still a huge part of making sure your wedding is a success and hey, they deserve to grab some Starbucks when they head back to the warehouse. 

Now, we'll get into the grey area, starting with officiants. This has so much to do with where and how you're getting married. If inside a church or other house of worship, or if your officiant is your personal clergyman, then a tip on top of the donation to the church should be made as a gesture. The same goes for a judge who might be officiating; there should be a small tip above that of the fee. If you've chosen a courthouse or civil ceremony, refrain from waving your cash around; a tip isn't necessary in that scenario. If your officiant is a friend... well, we'll get into that. 

The greyest of areas falls on those vendors who are working for you on the day of the wedding, but that you haven't really seen in action until that point: your photographer, videographer, florist, band/DJ. Many of these vendors will fall into the category of owning and operating their own businesses and thus, would be considered in the category not requiring a tip, (except for bands, DJ's, musicians; many of them will be associated with an agency that pays them for your event. Those guys should be tipped... and yes, sometimes that means there's 12 of them). As many other wedding experts will say, those vendors who own their own businesses have negotiated a rate and don't expect anything beyond that. While I understand that and agree that we business owners don't "expect" anything beyond our negotiated rate, we're often the ones who work hardest for the client. I can't speak for every vendor business owner out there, but in my network of wedding industry folks, we're die hard, pick up our phones at any time, under charge and over deliver, do anything to make our clients happy fanatics. 

Now, as I said, you might not know this until after the wedding day when you realize that your florist SOMEHOW got you peonies in August, or that your photographer stayed an hour longer than contracted, or later you notice some extra special details in your wedding video. These are the cases of "above and beyond" and they deserve to be tipped. I can't stress this enough--tips don't have to come on wedding day; A TIP AFTER THE WEDDING IS AWESOME! Write your florist a note and a check (or a gift card to a restaurant she loves, or personalized stationary, etc) to say your bouquet exceeded your expectations, or how you noticed all the styling your photographer did when she shot your invitations (*cough cough* any bride who's received images from Anna Delores Photography). The same goes for planners and coordinators. We're the ones who work with you the most to ensure everything runs smoothly. If you feel like your planner/coordinator went above and beyond leading up to or on the day of the wedding, then that deserves a tip. It's true we business owners don't expect to be given a tip, but you might not have expected such incredible service.

This part is simple, when one party exceeds expectation, so should the other. 

Speaking of exceeding expectations, let's talk about "friendors." This is specific to Lindsay's question, but applies to so many brides in this day and age of endless DIYs. This part is simple... if a friend is doing something for you that you would have otherwise had to pay for, THEY SHOULD BE PAID. No, it doesn't have to be the same amount you would have paid a stranger; no, it doesn't even have to be cold hard cash. But you should give something of value to that friend who helped you out. Personally, I think that gifts are most appropriate in this case. If the whole point of having a friend help you out was to save money, then show that what you're lacking in a bank account, you make up for in thoughtfulness. After all, these are your FRIENDS. What's his favorite restaurant? Does she absolutely love flowers? Maybe she won't stop pinning items from a certain online shop. Anything is better than nothing and communicates, "I know you took time out of your day/week/month/year to help me make this day incredibly special and for that, I thank you." 

I know the months leading up to a wedding can be incredibly stressful and little things (like finding the perfect gift for a "friendor") can slip through the cracks, but again, a tip and thank you note after the wedding or honeymoon is perfectly fine, especially because you can speak to the impact that person's involvement had on the overall success of your day. 

Lindsay, I hope this help! If you have a question you'd like me to address during a Freebie Friday, comment below and I'll tackle it next time!