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Some of you might be wondering why we’re even writing a post about whether you need to feed your wedding vendors, because the answer seems so obvious, while others of y’all are eager to hear the answer. And that’s part of the fun (and sometimes frustrating!) thing about wedding planning: you’ve never done it before, so almost every to do is uncharted territory. We’re here to help, with one of our main goals being to give you both the practical and the pretty as you plan your joyful, meaningful wedding day.

Photo by Whitney Neal with styling by Jaclyn Journey from Volume 8

But back to the question at hand! The short answer is yes, you need to feed your wedding vendors. A Southern bride is a gracious hostess to her carefully-chosen vendors as well as her invited guests, and in addition to being the right thing to do, it pays dividends! Here’s what you need to know:

Who should you feed? Any vendor who is “on” during your reception should be fed. You don’t need to worry about feeding a back-of-house vendor like your florist, who is setting up before your reception begins, because she’ll have the flexibility to set her own schedule and breaks. Generally, your planner, photographer, videographer, DJ or band members, and any assistants for any of these folks, will need to be fed.

Why should we be responsible for feeding them? Well, since they’ll typically be on the clock for 5-12 hours, they’ll need to eat to keep body and soul together somehow. A hot meal will give them way more energy to keep doing their best work than something they packed that morning, and you definitely don’t want them driving off-site (and missing important moments!) to find hot food. Most vendors will carry protein bars or something similar for emergencies, but you don’t want them to rely on those alone.

What should we feed them? Check each vendor’s contract, because some will specify what they need to be fed. If they don’t, many caterers offer “vendor meals” at a lower price point than what they’re charging for your guests. Ask what this consists of, because it can range from a boxed sandwich and chips to the exact same menu you’re eating. Again, it’s such a nice treat for your vendors to have a warm, yummy meal, so if at all possible, try to work that out with your caterer. If you’re having a buffet, sending your vendors through the line like everyone else is a great option.

Where should they eat? The best place for them to eat is an unobtrusive place that’s close to the action – maybe a table at the edge of the room, or a table just inside the catering tent, if it’s near the main event. You want them to be close enough so that they can spring into action, should it be required! Impromptu toast that needs to be photographed, anyone? :)

When should they eat? Generally, the best time for your vendors to eat is when you and your guests are eating. No one wants to be photographed while chewing, after all! Be sure to ask your vendors if they have a preference, or show them your proposed timeline and see if your suggested meal time works with how they like to do things. They have worked tons of weddings and will know what works best! See our tips for making a wedding day timeline.

Making sure your beloved vendors are well-fed will not only show your appreciation for their hard work, but will give them the fuel they need to finish out the night strong – a win-win for everyone! And if you have extra cake, a slice of that never hurts, either :)

emily Written with love by Emily
2 Comments
  1. avatar Cebu wedding photographer reply

    For me, the vendors should be fed. Its a common sense. It would definitely get the couple an extra mile.

  2. avatar Stephanie reply

    Thank you so much for a well written article As a wedding photographer for several years this time sometimes seems to be a point that brides don’t really understand. Thank you for making it So clear!

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Knowing that so many of you are newly (ish!) sporting an engagement ring, we’ve been working our way through wedding planning must-dos here on the blog for the past few weeks. After several rounds of budget advice, it’s time to move on to vendors: finding them, hiring them, and working with them! For all of our best wedding planning advice in one place, be sure to pick up your copy of the Joyful Wedding Planner!

For many of us, planning a wedding is the first time we’ve had to hire someone – maybe ever, and almost certainly for something creative! It can feel like a lot of pressure to get it right, because your wedding vendors are the folks who will transform your big, precious ideas into a celebration that can be enjoyed by the people you love most. We’ve got a whole roster of vendors we love for browsing, but today we’re taking it one step further and really breaking down the question “how do I find vendors for my wedding?”

Use your network. Naturally, some of the best recommendations come from people you trust. Loved the flowers at your best friend’s wedding? Ask her who she used. And remember, negative reviews can be just as helpful as positive ones!

Ask your vendors. Found a vendor you 100% click with? Ask him for other vendor recommendations. Photographers and planners, especially, work with countless vendors every weekend and can have great insight into the best options in your area.

Look to blogs and magazines. Wedding blogs and magazines can be a wealth of vendor leads, in a number of different ways. Search for real wedding or editorials that took place in your area and follow up with anyone whose work you love. Check to see if they have a vendor directory, usually a hand-picked selection of vendors that have been vetted in some way (ours is called the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory). And don’t forget print and online advertisements – if you love a publication, chances are you’ll love the vendors that care enough to advertise with them.

There’s a common belief that vendors and venues charge more for the same services as soon as the word “wedding” is mentioned. Surprise! That’s probably true – but for good reason. A once-in-a-lifetime event like a wedding comes with an entirely different set of expectations, pressure, time spent planning, service, and creativity than your average cocktail or bridal party, and a higher price often reflects that. Though it can be hard to justify the expense on the front end of a wedding, talented vendors are worth every penny in the end!

I’d love to hear: how did you find your vendors? Who are your favorites?

emily Written with love by Emily
3 Comments
  1. avatar Joseph Requerme Photo reply

    Usually your suppliers will recommend someone that they trust, so, ask your supplier. Those points you have mentioned are really helpful.

  2. avatar Christine reply

    Yes to all of the above. Also, Instagram can be a great resource to find vendors. Follow beautiful wedding accounts and check to see who they tag. You can discover many wonderful vendors using that method! I found most of my wedding vendors via wedding magazines and trusted wedding websites and blogs (like this one!). I also turned to my wedding planners and their relationships for additional vendor intros. Honestly, the vendor finding process was so much fun!

  3. avatar Bri A reply

    These are such helpful tips because there are so many options out there! I especially love asking vendors that you have a rapport with, because working with someone brings a unique perspective!

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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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