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Did you feel a little shiver run down your spine just reading this post’s title? If so, you’re not alone! For many brides, talking to their parents about paying for their wedding is one of the most squirm-inducing parts of wedding planning, period. Not many of us love talking about money, anyway, and when you add in all of the emotions, hopes, and expectations around an event as significant as a wedding, well, things can get complicated fast!

The good news? As with most things in life, a grateful heart, a kind demeanor, and an insistence on believing the best about everyone involved will go a long way. Unless you’re set on paying for your wedding yourself or your parents have already told you they’re not able to contribute, this conversation is a must-do, so let’s get to our tips!

Photo by Sawyer Baird with styling and flowers by Blue Ribbon Vendor Jacin Fitzgerald from our ninth issue

First, unless they’ve told you otherwise, it’s helpful to start with the mindset that your families may or may not be willing or able to contribute, but that you are asking because it’s better to ask than to miss out! Here’s how you might start the conversation:

“Hi Mama! Now that we’ve been engaged for a few weeks, we’re excited to begin planning our wedding! We are really hoping to have a memorable celebration for all the people we love most. I’m not sure if you’ve given it any thought, so no need to answer today, but I was wondering if you and Dad are planning to contribute in some monetary way to our plans? We would be so grateful for whatever you’re able to offer!”

It could also be helpful to lead with what y’all are planning to pay for, so they understand you two are also invested in this experience.

Repeat this conversation with both your parents and your fiance’s parents – more than once if anyone is divorced – as well as grandparents, if applicable.

If your parents are looking for further direction or aren’t comfortable giving a lump sum, suggest they pay for a specific item or portion of the wedding (bonus points if you know it’s one that will be meaningful to them!). Try this: “Would it be possible for you to pay for the florist? We haven’t chosen a vendor yet, but the quotes we’ve gotten range from $1,500-$2,000.”

One final tip: It’s best to leave comparison out of this conversation – either with your siblings’ weddings, or your friends’. Trust that your parents will do their best to make things as fair as possible!

As you speak with each supporting party, make a note of their commitments (we have a handy worksheet for this in our wedding planner!). Once you’ve spoken with everyone and noted how much you and your groom will be contributing, you’ve got the beginnings of a budget!

I’d love to hear: if your parents helped pay for your wedding, did you initiate this conversation, or did they?

P.S. Looking for more wedding budget advice? I wrote our wedding budgeting e-book just for you!

emily Written with love by Emily
2 Comments
  1. avatar liam smith reply

    This is an interesting article is it is seldom discussed.

    My now wife and I had the same discussion with our parents, however we decided to approach it differently. We put together what we could afford and culled our guest list to just close family and friends. We then told our parents that any guests that they wanted to add they would have to pay for. It removed the awkward discussion of ‘how much can you give us’ and also placed the politics of who to invite in their hands.

  2. avatar Kirsti Cook reply

    My sweet mama initiated the conversation with my fiancé and I about two weeks after we got engaged and started looking at venues. The funny part during this process is that we are trying to stick as close as we can to our budget and my mama, bless her heart, always says “If it will make your day perfect, then just do it!” While we want to be gracious hosts to our guests, we also know that spending an arm and a leg on our wedding won’t effect our marriage so we are trying to keep it from spreading like kudzu!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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One of my favorite things Emily says is “You can have a wedding on any budget, you just can’t have any wedding on any budget.” Preach, girl! A price tag has nothing to do with how beautiful and meaningful your celebration is, but the fact of the matter is, weddings are expensive. If you, like the vast, VAST majority of brides, aren’t able or willing to splurge on every single detail of your wedding, the key to using your budget well, in the places that matter to you and your beau, is choosing your priorities early on.

From Alex and Connor’s wedding, by Mustard Seed Photography

We can’t stand “advice” that tells you exactly what to cut from your wedding–everyone’s priorities are different, after all! That said, there will always be some things that you can cut or save on, as well as things you’ll want to splurge on. To figure out your own priorities, we’ve found that the most helpful thing to do is to sit down with your fiancé in front of a list of possible wedding expenses (we’ve started a list for you below!). After crossing off anything that you know isn’t applicable to your unique situation, take turns circling the THREE things that matter most to each of you about your wedding.

Possible wedding expenses:
– Paper goods
– Bride’s gown
– Hair stylist
– Makeup artist
– Bride’s accessories
– Groom’s outfit
– Groom’s accessories
– Ceremony venue
– Reception venue
– Photographer
– Videographer
– Wedding planner
– Wedding coordinator
– Florist
– Ceremony decor
– Reception decor
– Catering
– Alcohol
– Band
– DJ
– Getaway vehicle
– Bridesmaid gifts
– Groomsmen gifts
– Welcome bags
– Favors
– Cake/dessert

This is just a starter list, so feel free to add anything you can think of! (P.S. If you have our Joyful Wedding Planner, there’s a worksheet for this on page 47).

From Maggie and Travis’ wedding, by Gracie Blue

Once you each have your top three circled, narrow it down to your three overall priorities. If there’s anything you both circled, those are obvious choices! Answers all over the place? That’s okay too. Think back to your wedding vision and choose the priorities that best match that. For example, maybe he circled catering and you didn’t…but you both LOVE the idea of a family-style meal made with all local, seasonal ingredients, just like the way you cook at home. If that’s central to your values and your vision for your day, it may need to take priority over the wooden cross-back chairs you’ve had your eye on for the reception.

Again, there are no wrong answers here. Just like your love story is totally unique to you and your beau, your wedding priorities will be too. For a little encouragement, here are some examples from a few of the weddings on our team:

Lisa: photography, flowers, my dress
Emily: photography, videography, paper goods
Marissa: photography, reception venue, catering

From Anne Sydney and Jesse’s wedding, by Melanie Mauer

We hope this exercise is helpful! Once you complete it, we’d love to know, what are your top three priority categories? Let us know in the comments below!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Shaun – Wedding Videos reply

    love <3. Such gorgeous photographs. The cake at the end is amazing.

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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One of the more popular posts we’ve ever written is on tipping wedding vendors. (I wish it were something more exciting, but there you have it!) And I don’t blame y’all–there are so many different sources offering advice, and so many different dollar amounts recommended for so many different vendors at so many different times, that your head can start to spin long before you start separating cash out into envelopes.

Plus, when you’re already shelling out thousands of dollars per vendor, you might find yourself feeling, ahem, a little less than grateful at the thought of tipping on top of your final bill. Believe me, I completely understand! BUT, if you remember that tipping is never required, and should only be used to reward exemplary service, you might begin to feel a little differently.

With the help of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Chelsey Morrison from Gather Together Events (who has been sending our guide to her brides for years!), we updated our advice and even made a handy list with everything in one neat place.

Finally, remember that while cash or a gift is always appreciated (and can be given whenever you’d like, regardless of our guidelines below!), a grateful spirit on your wedding day; a genuine, thoughtful thank you note after your wedding; and personal referrals to family and friends are without a doubt the MOST valuable gifts you can give your treasured vendors.

Photo by Kristen Kilpatrick from our eighth issue

Wedding Planner
Should I tip? If your planner owns her own business, then no tip is expected, since it’s not customary to tip the owner of a business. However, if you would like to recognize exemplary performance, a personal gift or check is an option. If your planner has assistants on your wedding day (which most do), she will likely split the tip among them if she is the business owner.
How much? Up to $500, or 15% of her fee, or a nice gift
When? We recommend sending a thank you note and your check or gift after you return from your honeymoon.

Delivery and Set-up Staff
Should I tip? It’s a lovely gesture, especially if they were careful to set everything up to your specifications and without causing damage to the surroundings.
How much? $5 – $10 per person
When? Drop off envelopes with your catering manager or wedding planner if they’ll be accepting deliveries on your behalf. Sending after the event is okay, too.

Photo by KT Merry from our eighth issue

Wedding Photographer or Videographer (and other vendors like florists or cake bakers)
Should I tip? As most photographers and videographers own their own businesses, tipping is not expected or required in this case. If you are working with an associate photographer, a tip is customary. Either way, a personal gift is always a lovely touch.
How much? 15% of his fee, or a gift
When? After the honeymoon

Wedding Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist
Should I tip? Yes, this is one area where a gratuity is definitely expected. However, the owning-their-own-business exception is still in effect, so keep that in mind.
How much? 15-25%, just as you would for a normal appointment
When? On the day of your wedding, after she’s finished getting you prettified

Photos by Whitney Neal from our eighth issue

Wedding Transportation
Should I tip? Check your contract, because a gratuity is usually included. If it’s not, then one is pretty much expected.
How much? 15-20% of the total bill if a service/gratuity charge is not included in your contract. If a gratuity is included and you’d still like to go above and beyond, a flat tip per driver of $5-10 per hour of service is commonplace.
When? When the driver picks you up or after the last ride

Wedding Ceremony Officiant
Should I tip? It isn’t necessary to tip religious officiants like a priest or minister (many of them, in fact, won’t accept cash tips). In lieu of a tip, a donation to their house of worship is a nice gesture. It’s not expected that you’ll tip a civil employee or non-religious officiant, either (and sometimes, in the case of civil employees, tipping can be illegal). For all officiants, a personal gift, such as a gift certificate to a nice restaurant, would certainly be appreciated.
How much? For an officiant associated with a house of worship, a donation of $100-500 is appropriate if there is no fee for the officiant, or $50-150 if you have already paid them a fee. If you’re working with an independent officiant, $50-150 is appropriate.
When? At the rehearsal or rehearsal dinner or after the ceremony

Photos by Katie Stoops from our eighth issue

Wedding Ceremony Musicians
Should I tip? This one’s definitely optional. If the string trio you hired has arranged or learned a particular song for you at no additional charge, then a tip might be a nice gesture.
How much? $20 – $50 per musician, or 15% of total fee
When? Before the musicians leave your ceremony site

Wedding Reception Band or DJ
Should I tip? It’s completely optional, but somewhat common. For bands that book their own gigs (i.e. separate from an entertainment agency), tipping is not customary.
How much? If you choose to tip, set aside $40-$100 per musician or $50-$200 for DJs
When? Before they leave the reception

Photo by Nancy Ray from our eighth issue

Wedding Reception Staff
Should I tip? Oh boy, this one’s the big guy. Yes, you should tip, but look to see whether a gratuity is not already included in your contract — it often is. (If gratuity is included, you’ll likely still want to make an additional flat fee tip on top of that – see below.)
How much? If a gratuity/service charge is not included, tip 15-20% of the cost of your total catering bill. If it is included, and you’d like to add an additional thank you, go with flat fee amounts: catering manager, banquet manager, headwaiter, or maitre d’: $50-$150; head chef: $50-$150; kitchen staff: $20-$50 each; bartenders: $20-$50 each; and servers: $20-50 each.
When? Before you leave the reception

Here’s an easy-to-pin version of our tipping cheat sheet:

A final tip from Chelsey, who says about 75% of her clients choose to tip beyond the expected vendors: “On your wedding day, the last thing you want to worry about it money changing hands. It is a GREAT idea to put any final payments and tips in individually labeled envelopes to be handed out by your planner the day of the event.

“If you want to wait until the end of the event to see which vendors went above and beyond, trust your planner to make the call – we’ve worked hand in hand with them all day and see what goes on behind the scenes. In that case, I have my clients provide an envelope of cash in different bills (and keep it on my person at all times during the day). If I see great service, I will hand out the tip amounts and write them on the envelope how much was handed out and to whom. I hand the envelope back to the father of the bride (or wedding host/financier) at the end of the night that shows the summary of what was handed out and any remaining cash.” Such a good idea, Chelsey!

Wishing you all exemplary service at your weddings that deserves copious tips! :)

Gather Together Events, Kristen Kilpatrick, Whitney Neal, and KT Merry are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
6 Comments
  1. avatar Brianne Munz reply

    Bless you! This is exactly what I came on here looking for! :)

  2. avatar Edieth Smith reply

    Why is the florist never included when it is a full wedding and reception set up? We often go above and beyond what is expected.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Edieth! I should have made a note above originally (but have now!): florists would fall under the same category as photographers and videographers. I’m sure most clients would be happy to reward any vendor who goes above and beyond, whether through a personal thank you, a referral, a gift, a review, or a tip!

    • avatar Chelsey Morrison reply

      Hi Edieth! We do see florists tipped when they go above and beyond with a large installation. I would put this in a similar category to “delivery and setup staff.” Our florists are often doing large architectural pieces (like floral chandeliers) and deserve tips for the extra detail they put into these pieces!

  3. avatar Eleni Dona photography reply

    Totally agree with these tips!! As a professional wedding photographer, couples most of times are tipping my second shooter and my videographer

  4. avatar Bella Vita Montreal Wedding Photography reply

    I agree it should be common courtesy.

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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