“Should I tip my wedding vendors?”

Recently, on the message boards I visit, I have repeatedly seen the same questions about whether or not to tip wedding vendors. It’s a good question. After all, most people don’t do this, except once. How should they know they’re supposed to or not?

Tipping Etiquette

There is no concrete etiquette that deals with tipping your wedding vendors. It’s optional. Wedding vendors are not expecting a tip. Their prices do not factor in bonuses or extras from you, as they do with servers in a restaurant, or sometimes hotel employees.

A general rule of thumb that may be useful in helping you decide whether to tip your wedding vendors is this: You tip an employee, but not an owner.

For example, if you have hired a photography company to photograph your wedding, and the photographer is not the owner, you can assume that the photographer is not getting everything you paid the company. In this case, if you felt that your photographer went above and beyond, you might want to offer a tip as a personal ‘thank you for the hard work’.

Of course, at the end of the day, a tip is just a tangible ‘thank you’. If gifts are a part of your appreciation language, by all means, tip anyone you feel deserves it.


Tipping Considerations

Of course, as I said, a tip is not expected under any conditions. However, there are a few specific kinds of situations where I would strongly suggest you consider tipping.  This comes from my own intuition as a consumer, but also as a wedding vendor, and someone who knows plenty of them.

Friends and Family – If a friend or family member, professional or otherwise, has taken the place of a vendor (think: best friend’s brother doing your photography; Your cake-maker aunt Susan provides your cake), and they’re doing so at well below their usual price, or the industry average price, tip them!

Beyond the Call of Duty – Say your DJ played chauffeur for your wedding party at the last minute. Say a guest showed up unexpectedly with six messy children and the venue staff responded to them and cleaned up after them quickly and kindly. Say your photographer jumped through hoops at the last minute to get prints and frames for your reception at no cost to you. These are examples of people exceeding the call of even the most exemplary service providers.

Vendors Who Made a Good Thing Out of a Bad Thing – Perhaps your wedding day didn’t quite go according to plan, but some particular wedding vendor really made all the difference in making it great. Acknowledging that with a tip would definitely be welcome.

So if you tip, how much?

It’s up to you. There’s no standard way to calculate this. However, based on the tips myself and my colleagues have received, 3 – 5% of the total may be a useful rule of thumb for high dollar services.

There is one particular recommendation I would make from own experience: If you’re not able to tip very much, say just $10 or $20, consider instead purchasing an actual gift, or simply writing a heartfelt personal card instead. You don’t intend to make a value statement with the amount of money you’re giving, but after working very hard, it would be difficult for your vendor to not to feel that way. Since it’s not about the money, but rather the appreciation, a gift in that price range can be a lot better at unambiguously communicating that message.