Tips are never obligatory―they are supposed to be expressions of appreciation for especially good service. That said, unless the service was terrible, would you walk away from a restaurant table without leaving one? The same applies to weddings: It is customary to show your gratitude by tipping many of the people involved in making yours a success. Here are a few guidelines to help you navigate.
Check Your Contracts
“Many gratuities are built into the price quotes for major items like catering―typically 15 to 20 percent―or smaller things like limos,” says Alan Fields, coauthor of Bridal Bargains ($15, amazon.com). Read carefully to avoid unnecessarily double-tipping. “If the gratuity is not included in the contract, you might consider adding it in the contract so you don’t have to deal with it on the day,” suggests Anna Post, author of Do I Have to Wear White? Emily Post Answers America’s Top Wedding Questions ($15, amazon.com).
Don’t Tip the Owners
If your photographer owns the studio, there’s no need to tip him. The same goes for bands not booked through an agency and the beauty-shop owner who does your hair.
Reward Extraordinary Efforts
Beyond the customary tips, when someone goes out of his way for you―the baker makes those last-minute tiny changes you requested for the cake; the deejay digs up that old Caruso recording that will make your nonna misty-eyed―consider thanking them with a gift certificate (“Not more than $50 or $100,” suggests Fields), a bottle of wine, or another tangible token. If you’ve sat with your wedding planner hour after hour and she’s knocked herself out to pull it all off flawlessly, you might want to add a personal thank-you note and small gift to her customary tip. If you’ve used her more sparingly, a nice personal gift alone should suffice.
Check Ceremony Policies
Ask if your congregation has donation guidelines. Typically, if you’re marrying in a house of worship, expect to make a donation of anywhere from $100 to $500 (or more), depending on how active a member you are (the more active, the more you should probably give). You can give this money to the officiant. For a nondenominational officiant, whom you are already paying a fee, tip between $50 and $100. However, court clerks are prohibited from accepting tips. For either, a little gift, like home-baked cookies, or a thank-you card will be appreciated
Put Someone in Charge
Assign someone you can rely on―one of the fathers, the best man, your super-organized maid of honor―to hand out envelopes with the non-contract tips in cash, either at the time of service (hair and makeup people), at the end of the wedding (which allows you to adjust the size of the tips to reflect the service), or at the beginning. “If you hand out your gratuity envelopes before your wedding, the vendors will be more likely to go above and beyond for you on your special day,” says David Tutera, an event planner.
Decide How Much to Tip
For specific suggestions, see this “Tipper’s Table,” excerpted from event planner Mindy Weiss’s The Wedding Book ($23, amazon.com):
Bartenders: 10 percent of the total liquor bill (to be split among them)
Bathroom attendants: $1 to $2 per guest
Catering manager: $200+ or a personal gift
Coat check attendants: $1 to $2 per guest
Hairstylist: 15 to 20 percent
Hotel chambermaids: $2 to $5 per room; $10 to $15 if you used a suite as your dressing room
Limo or bus drivers: 15 percent
Maitre d’hotel or headwaiter: 1 to 3 percent of food and beverage fees
Makeup artist: 15 to 20 percent
Musicians: 15 percent of fee for ceremony musicians; $25 to $50 per musician for reception
Photographer/videographer: If you’re paying a flat fee with no overtime, $100
Valet or parking attendants: $1 to $2 per car; 15 percent for valet parking
Waiters: $20 and up each (distributed by the catering manager or maitre d’)
Wedding planner: 15 percent of fee or a personal gift