Google+ Southern Etiquette: Tipping Wedding Vendors - Southern Weddings

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Hi, friends! Since this post is several years old now, we’ve gone ahead and updated it. Click here to find our updated guide to tipping wedding vendors!

As y’all know, I’m planning a wedding of my own (whoo!), and something that has befuddled me from day one is wedding tipping etiquette. 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.

In case you find yourself wanting to tip certain vendors, I’ve distilled advice from several different sources, including Emily Post, Martha Stewart, and my Momma, and then added in my own two cents. I also put together a handy tipping cheat sheet for us all, which you can download at the bottom of the post and tuck into your pocket come wedding day!

Finally, remember that while cash or a gift is always appreciated, a grateful spirit on your wedding day and a genuine, thoughtful thank you note after your wedding are quite possibly the best thank yous you can give your vendors.

Michelle Warren via Southern Weddings

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.
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.

Jodi Miller via Southern Weddings

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

Josh McCullock

Wedding Photographer or Videographer
Should I tip? As most photographers and videographers own their own businesses, tipping is not expected or required in this case. Again, a personal gift is always a lovely touch.

Melissa Schollaert

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? 15-20%, just as you would for a normal appointment
When? On the day of your wedding, after she’s finished getting you prettified

Photos by Tim Will and Caroline Joy (via SW here + here)

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
When? When the driver picks you up or after the last ride

Virgil Bunao via Southern Weddings

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? Approximately $100
When? At the rehearsal or rehearsal dinner

Scobey Photography

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? $15 – $20 per musician, or 15% of total fee
When? Before the musicians leave your ceremony site

A Bryan Photo via Southern Weddings

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 $20-$50 per musician or $25-$150 for DJs
When? Before they leave the reception

Ulmer Studios via Southern Weddings

Wedding Reception Staff
Should I tip? Oh boy, this one’s the big guy. Yes, you should tip, but make sure a gratuity is not already included in your contract.
How much? There are two ways to tip. The first is to tip as a percentage of the cost of your total catering bill – 15-20%. The second way (which is often more economical), is to tip each staff member individually. If you’re going that route, here is the rule of thumb: catering manager, banquet manager, headwaiter, or maitre d’: $100-$300 or 1-3% of food and beverage fees; chef: $50-$100; waiters and kitchen staff: $20-$30 each; bartenders: 10% of the total liquor bill (to be split among them) or $20-$25 per bartender
When? Before you leave the reception

Now, as promised, my handy cheat sheet for tipping at your wedding – enjoy!

Jodi Miller, Josh McCullock, Melissa Schollaert, and Scobey Photography are fabulous members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Jennifer Underhill reply

    Emily, thank you for this post!!!! I have been meaning to look into tipping (along with a list of 20 other things) and have seen lots of different opinions that are all over the place! thank you for organizing all this into such a concise guide! I’m sure my vendors will appreciate it!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Miss Jennifer! I’m SO glad this is helpful for you! And I completely know what you mean about being overwhelmed by all the different opinions – that’s why I sat down to write this post in the first place!

  2. avatar Kelsey reply

    I’m so glad this was your newest etiquette topic! It gets so confusing and overwhelming, so it’s really nice to have this all in one place!

    I do have any additional/situational question. We don’t have a specific wedding planner, but we do have a coordinator at our reception venue. A fee is automatically added on to our final bill for her services (in addition to the 20% gratuity added for all wait staff and bartenders). Do I need to tip her additionally?
    Thanks! :)

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Kelsey! From my research, it seems like an on-site coordinator falls under the same category as maitre d’, catering manager, etc, so if she’s provided exemplary service or gone above and beyond for you, then I’d recommend a $100-$300 tip. However, I don’t think one is always necessary in this case.

  3. avatar Justin reply

    From the list it looks like you included every
    Wedding vendor but the Florist.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Justin! From my understanding, florists and cake bakers are also usually the owners of their own businesses, and since owners aren’t customarily tipped, y’all wouldn’t need advice on that :) But of course, if you felt your florist went above and beyond, by all means, include a little extra or a personal gift!

  4. avatar A Gatty reply

    Great post, but I will have to disagree on the photography piece. Whether they own their own business or not, I think it should be determined by each situation. As a professional photographer who owns his own business, I worked many weddings without a break so I didn’t miss anything, skipped dinner because ” the wedding planner” thought it was a good idea to feed us last after the guests, which also happens to be the time that the bride and groom are done eating. Did I expect a tip? no but man it would have been a nice gesture given that I went above and beyond. Also nowadays, most wedding vendors own their own business including the wedding planners who are usually the highest paid to start with. If you are going to so generously tip them, it’s only fair to show us “the rest of the vendors” similar treatment.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi A! I completely respect your opinion, but I just have to say that I think a vendor should never be disappointed by not getting a tip, only happily surprised by getting one. Also, I don’t think whether or not a couple tips should be based on the size of the vendor’s fee, but on whether or not he or she provided truly exemplary service. Thanks for chiming in!

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  10. avatar Christopher Smith reply

    I was an event photographer for 14 years, having retired in December of 2011. What meant the most to me was not a tip but a decent meal and a break to enjoy it. Though I did greatly appreciate the handful of tips I received, a meal meant a lot more.

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  13. avatar Peter reply

    As a wedding photographer, I’d have to say the best “tip” you can give is a referral. I cannot quantify how much that means to us both personally and professionally. Although a bite to eat during the reception is much appreciated as well ;)

  14. avatar Maggie reply

    I have worked in several jobs within the wedding industry and I have to say that the wedding coordinator is probably the most underpaid job of all of them. The reason I say this is that they work for weeks, months and sometimes even a year with the bride and groom putting the wedding together. Many times, the DJ, bands and photographers make them same, if not more money for one night of work (photographers work more than one night however as they have to edit the photos). Not to say that the other vendors don’t work hard, but per hour, the wedding coordinator is the lowest on the totem pole for payment. If your planner goes above and beyond, especially if they own their own business, a tip is very appreciated. I can tell you that most planners put in atleast a 12-16 hour work day, not to mention the hectic week leading up to the wedding. It doesn’t feel so great to be handing out tips galore on behalf of the bride and groom to vendors who show up and work for 4-6 hours when you have slaved away and receive nothing. So it is not expected but really really appreciated.

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  16. avatar Chelsey Morrison reply

    I have sent this post to clients multiple times. Just wanted to say thanks for an easy to understand reference guide that I can keep coming back to!

  17. avatar Akisha reply

    A very thoughtful article that is personally appreciated. Being that I make most of my living from “contract” photography work these days (although I continue to have my own business presence), I feel obliged to add that many engaged couples are using national or regional companies to provide photography and videography services in the current market. In this case (and there are many since the prices of these companies are competitive and most business owners can’t compete in the “budget market”), I think you are inferring that a tip is appropriate. This is due to the fact that the photographer/videographer/DJ’s that work for these companies are making a day rate that is only a portion of what you are paying out. This is generally a fourth or fifth of what they would be making if you were their own client (without overhead included, of course) and they are still treating you with the same respect and hard working attitude they would have if you had hired them directly. I personally do this kind of work because my living depends on it and these companies who can afford big advertising can keep me steadily employed. It’s the closest thing I can get to a regular paycheck and I can tell you at the end of the day, any tip makes a big difference and means the world to the person actually providing you with excellent (hopefully) customer service.

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  26. avatar Anonymous reply

    Hello Emily,

    I was curious what owning your own business really has to do with tipping or not? I personally believe that tips are earned based on hard work and effort… I agree that it is important to tip the delivery staff and people like that… but the people like photographers and planners who literally spend ALL day long with the bride and groom, making every effort to make sure everything is perfect surely deserve a tip more than the guy who drove the tables to the reception that the bride and groom never met. Small business owners put every single bit of effort that they can into their jobs. They have a true passion and usually end up doing way more work than they are paid for. So why is it etiquette to tip someone for just showing up and doing what they are being paid hourly to do vs tipping someone who will go above and beyond for you? It is pretty hard to be that vendor that goes above and beyond to make the bride and groom’s day perfect and spends 10+ hours with them over the course of the day and then watch the DJ who had a bad attitude and was only there for 4 hours get tipped just because blogs/magazines say that it is etiquette.

    I am a wedding vendor. I work very hard every single wedding to make sure everything is perfect. I don’t ever expect to be tipped or given a gift… but please think and help your readers realize who the people are who really do go above and beyond.

    And brides…. please say thank you to your vendors. You wouldn’t believe how often this little phrase is skipped over. It really makes the small business owners feel so happy and really makes us want to do even more to make your day better! :)

    Thank you,

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