Though you may think you've accounted for every imaginable wedding expense, there is one fee that might elude you: the tip. Rewarding vendors with a tip is expected, and it will serve as a thank-you for a job well done. But figuring out whom to tip, how much to pay, and when to offer it can be tricky.
While some vendors include gratuities in their fees, many will leave the amount up to you -- and the level of service they provide can influence what you give them. Tips can add up quickly, costing you a few thousand dollars. Gratuities for caterers alone can be $200 to $600 or more, for example, depending on the number of guests, your catering costs, and where you live. Most tips should be handed out the day of the wedding, so it's wise to assign the job to a friend or family member. A follow-up thank-you note is often a valued tip in itself, as your word can be a recommendation for the vendor.
While it isn't necessary to tip priests, ministers, rabbis, or other religious officiants (many of them, in fact, won't accept cash tips), if you want to thank them for their services, consider making a donation to their organization or house of worship. A typical amount is $75 to $100, separate from any fee you may be charged for the officiant's time.
If you belong to a church, your own minister or priest may perform the wedding at no charge. In this case, you could make a donation to the church, and as an extra thank-you, consider sending something personal, such as a gift certificate to a nice restaurant.
If your wedding is performed by a civil employee such as a judge, clerk, or other nonreligious official, then forgo a gratuity. Such officiants are paid a flat rate and are usually not permitted to accept tips or donations -- local law may actually prohibit it. A thoughtful card, however, is always appreciated.
Many caterers include a gratuity in their contract to be divided up among the workers, but be sure to ask. If the gratuity isn't included, plan on tipping all staff members, including the catering or banquet manager, waiters, bartenders, chefs, and other essential workers who help serve guests.
"Most catering staff members receive a decent hourly wage, however, so you needn't go overboard on their tips," says Joe Piane, sales manager and executive chef at Piane Caterers in Wilmington, Delaware.
You can calculate the tip as a percentage of the cost of your total catering bill. Figure on paying about 15 to 20 percent of the amount for the banquet manager to share with the kitchen and serving staff. Another way to compute the gratuity is to offer a flat amount for each worker, which is often a more economical method, especially if your catering company is expensive. You'll want to give roughly $100 to $200 for the catering or banquet manager, $50 each for chefs (and bakers), and $20 to $30 each for waiters and kitchen staff, divided into separate envelopes.
Tips can be paid in advance to the director of the catering company, or you can hand them to the banquet manager toward the end of the evening.
Musicians and Deejays
Tipping customs vary, depending on whether you hire an independent band or deejay or book through an agency. For independent bands that book their own gigs, tipping is not customary.
"No matter what your deejay or band is charging, the money is going right into their pockets, so don't feel like you have to give extra, unless of course they really went above and beyond," says Kelly Scriven, owner of the Bride's Maid, a wedding consulting business in Whitman, Massachusetts. Valerie Romanoff, owner of New York City--based Starlight Orchestras, adds, "We're always pleasantly surprised when clients tip us and recognize the entertainment value of what we provide, but it's not expected."
If you employ your band or deejay through an entertainment agency, the company will usually either include a gratuity in the contract or suggest that you give each band member or deejay a little extra in cash. If your contract includes a "service charge," don't assume that it is the gratuity. "The service charge often goes right back to the company," says Scriven.
Musicians should be tipped about $20 to $25 apiece; deejays get at least $25. Many bands offer a vocalist for the ceremony at an additional cost. Tip him or her the same amount as you would one of the other musicians. Hand out the tips in cash at the end of the night.
Stylists and Makeup Artists
Even though it's a particularly special day, you can still tip stylists and makeup artists as you would for a regular appointment -- 15 to 20 percent. For each assistant who helps with secondary tasks, such as shampooing, plan on giving a gratuity of $3 to $5.
You can hand out tips in envelopes directly to stylists, or leave them at the salon's front desk. If you're short on cash, it's fine to tip by check or include it on a charge. If a stylist comes to your home or the wedding site, tip as you would at a salon, but in general, makeup artists and hair stylists who own their own businesses are not tipped.
Photographers, Videographers, Florists, and Wedding Coordinators
For people who own their own businesses, as many of these vendors do, tipping isn't necessary. "They've already negotiated their fees and expect only that amount of money," says Jeremy Faryar of LIFEstories Film, a New York City videography company that specializes in weddings. For photographers, videographers, and florists who do not own their own businesses, tip $30 to $50; wedding coordinators should be given about $50 to $100.
If you feel that the service you received from one of these vendors was extraordinary (say, if the videographer stayed and took footage of an after-wedding party even though it wasn't in his contract), an additional 10 percent tip would be a nice gesture, says Ruth L. Kern, an etiquette consultant in Barrington, Illinois. Or you might send a thank-you gift such as flowers or a print from your photographer showing the vendor in action at your wedding.
Wherever you have your wedding, there will likely be many behind-the-scenes workers, such as coat checkers, powder-room attendants, or parking valets. Make sure you do not overlook these people -- while you may not have much contact with them throughout the celebration, they help keep guests happy. Sometime before the wedding, ask the site manager to instruct workers not to accept any tips from guests. Instead, plan on tipping them yourself. At the end of the evening, pay coat checkers a total of $1 to $2 per guest, which they can share. Powder-room attendants should receive 50 cents to $1 per guest, to be divided among them. Set aside $1 to $1.50 per car to give to the parking manager, who can then divide up the cash among the valets.
Seamstresses, Delivery People, and Drivers
Though they won't actually be at the wedding, these workers' preparatory roles are just as important, so be sure to thank them in some way.
The people delivering the flowers and cake should receive at least $5 each at the time they make their deliveries. A gratuity for your limousine driver may already be included in your bill, but if it's not, consider giving a tip of 15 to 20 percent of the cost (pay it in cash when the driver picks you up). For seamstresses, a cash tip is not expected, but sending a small gift such as a photo of you in your dress is a wonderful way to show your gratitude.