When it comes to tipping your wedding vendors, which industries require a tip? How much should you tip each vendor? What is expected and what is just an extra way of saying “thank you”? Today on Wedding Secrets Unveiled!, Shannon St. Ours of SES Events is back on the pod with all these answers and more! Shannon and Sara share stories from their experience working with couples and give helpful guidance for those trying to navigate proper tipping etiquette. If you are getting married soon, check out this episode to learn how to better thank those vendors that have done so much to help you accomplish all your wedding day dreams!
I’m the owner and lead planner at SES Events in Warwick, Rhode Island. We serve couples throughout New England!
We’re going to jump right into today’s topic. I want to share that we got to this topic because we’ve been getting messages about wanting to learn more about the industry, what to expect, and how to prepare for gratuity and tipping. It can be a tough topic to navigate, but we want you to know the guidelines that are out there. So let’s start with what to expect. You don’t want to insult anyone, but should all of your vendors get a tip or gratuity? How does it work?
Yeah, I think it’s all about managing expectations. For some vendors, the gratuities are optional and some it’s expected, but it really comes down to the level of service. So you might have a photographer or planner that you’re working with for 18 months, and you guys are becoming BFFs over that time, and you’re really working together a lot. And there might be some vendors that you really talk to over the phone once or twice, and then they deliver your stuff the day off and you never see them. So there’s a lot of different considerations there and really setting those expectations up front. Also, remembering that not necessarily all gratuities have to be in the form of cash either. You know, I think most of the time our mind goes to that. But keep in mind, there may be some people who will truly appreciate a handwritten note and a five star review as much as any sort of cash gratuity.
I love that. Reviews truly do go a long way – word of mouth goes a long way for small businesses.
Absolutely. I think there are other valuable ways to make sure that people that are working really hard for you are appreciated. But, there are definitely certain areas where the cash gratuities are generally expected – like hair and makeup. It’s like if you went to a salon, you’ll tip for the service. Same thing with transportation, service staff, or wait staff. Those are all places that outside of an event, you’d tip with cash and for weddings, it’s expected there will be some sort of gratuity included or given.
So then with that said, where can couples find information on who to tip and how much is appropriate for tipping?
Great question. So the where… you can look for information on Google or the Knot, both great resources. Of course, there’s also some great resources on Instagram, too. Definitely follow all of your vendors online – and check who they follow. You may find some other great vendors! If you have a wedding planner, talk to them. If you don’t, look at your contracts. They may specify if any gratuities have been included (transportation, caterer and service industry especially), that way you aren’t double paying. Some of your other smaller businesses won’t mention it in their contracts, like photographers or hair/makeup. As far as your officiant, confirm the regulations they may have if they’re a religious officiant. Finally, don’t forget about people who are delivering goods on the day of your wedding – like your florist or bakery. You might not see them in person, so make sure you’ve taken care of whatever gratuities you have for them.
I think it’s interesting you said Google. There’s definitely conflicting information out there, but I think couples struggle with the smaller businesses the most.
It’s not the expectation to be tipped as the planner or for you, the photographer. But sometimes our teams are. It’s fine – nothing’s expected. But I think certainly as small businesses, we are working really hard behind the scenes, and especially if we’ve been involved with a client for 12-18 months and we’re keeping track of all your details, and we’ve had multiple conversations, and we’re really working hard, it’s not because we’re expecting anything, but because this is what we love. This is what we do. But, it’s really great when couples reward us and recognize and appreciate the fact that we have worked so hard to help pull all of it together for them.
Yeah, and I think the best rule of thumb for our listeners is to tip with your heart. If you feel somebody deserves a tip, you do it. And again, it doesn’t have to be cash!
So now with that said, let’s talk about the when. When should couples decide on and prepare their gratuities?
Great question! So, we really would recommend that you don’t leave anything till the week of the wedding, because there’s so much going on! You don’t want to wait that long and have the headache of figuring it all out. So, for my couples I send out a gratuity guide about three weeks before their wedding to help them start thinking about what they want to do. From there, they can make decisions based on their experiences so far. It gives them time to write checks, order gifts, or write their notes. We then help couples determine who is responsible for distributing those. As the planner, I’m often the one taking them from the rehearsal to the wedding day. But, if you don’t have a planner, ask a family member or friend to do so. I always keep a list of everyone they gave me gratuities for and it’s on file, so if they need to follow up, we can.
I also want to note that when I start working with my clients who are using budgeting services, we talk about this right away. It could be anywhere from another $100 to $1000 in the budget they need to be prepared for.
Can you help our listeners with budgeting? Is there a percentage they should be tipping?
Percentages are great guides. So for vendors like hair and makeup, transportation, somewhere between 15 and 20% is a good general rule of thumb. Obviously, 20% of your $40,000 catering bill might be a little much though. So typically, you would break that down based on the number of servers or assistants. Talk to your venue or catering company about how many have been assigned. Don’t forget about the bartenders or hostesses too. Then you can figure out how to tip based on them. Percentages can be great, but won’t work for everyone. For photographers or videographers, you might be looking between $50 and $150 for the tip. If they have assistants, consider $50 to $75 for them. Some vendors really will just be dollar amounts you’re comfortable with!
How should couples give their vendors their tips and gratuities and when in the process should it be delivered?
Absolutely. Personally, I think individually labeling sealed envelopes with the vendor’s name and company name or type (i.e. Lauren, baker) is a great option. Those can be distributed by the end of the reception. Now, if you have a planner and they feel a vendor didn’t perform well, they may pull you aside to confirm you still want to deliver the tip. But, if you don’t, that’s the one downfall in handing these off to someone else.
Of course! It can be tricky when that happens. But, I want to encourage listeners to remember these tips and gratuities are coming from the heart. All of it means the world to us – whether it’s someone putting a Diet Coke in the fridge for me for the reception or handing me cash. It shows that you’re paying attention and that you appreciate our hard work.
Totally! These events can be bittersweet and being able to end the night on a positive note, whether it’s a thank you card, a review after your honeymoon, or a cash tip is so meaningful to us as your wedding vendors.
What are some key points that couples should be thinking about when it comes to gratuity?
Expectations about what, where, when, and how you plan to tip and how much for each vendor.
Remember to check your contracts and with your vendors to see what has already been established regarding gratuity.
Tipping is ultimately about rewarding excellent service. It’s not about feeling compelled. The goal is to be a thoughtful couple and show appreciation for the vendor who worked with you.
What We Discussed
Setting expectations up front (4:14)
Not all tips have to be cash (9:36)
When to decide on gratuity (16:17)
Gratuity + how it works (31:21)
Wrap-up questions (37:00)
Links Mentioned in the Episode
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