Tipping The Vendors

by admin on February 15, 2013

I’m having a wedding in a couple of weeks and wanted to know what the proper etiquette is for tipping vendors. For instance we have our wedding photographer, our hair/makeup person, our flower vendor, and our DJ. Do we tip 20%? I always tip at least 20% but have never had a $1000 bill to work that off of, so now I’m worried that we’ll be out so much more money from all the 20% tipping! (But we will of course do so if that’s the right thing to do!). Any advice/direction will be much appreciated. 0213-13

I am of the opinion that wedding vendors do not need to be tipped above and beyond their contracted fees for service.   I have never been tipped for wedding event coordinating services I have provided because I am already well compensated from the fees I have charged.   The caterer has already factored in a gratuity to the proposed bill and on top of that has added a “service charge” which is often further profit.   I do, however, carry a wad of $20 bills to give to exemplary waitstaff since the gratuity that has been added to the catering bill sometimes does not trickle down to them.  I discreetly slip a twenty to each waitstaff.

Nearly all wedding vendors are self-employed owners of their business and trust me, they would prefer a sincere, detailed thank you note or letter of recommendation or a good review on Angie’s List or Google than any immediate cash tip.  Cash is for the moment but a good review/recommendation is the gift that keeps on giving.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth February 15, 2013 at 5:52 am

I agree with admin on everything except for hair and make up. Tip them exactly as you would if you were going on a regular day to get our hair or make up done.


admin February 15, 2013 at 9:21 am

My daughter is a hairdresser and a good friend also does hair for weddings. When the cost of services is anywhere from $50/hour to $250.00/hour, these independent contractors are already well paid for their time and talent. Referrals for future work is much more appreciated than a one time monetary tip.


postalslave February 15, 2013 at 10:53 am

I can see that being true for someone who is working independently and not affiliated with a salon. If you’re booking at a salon or spa for bridal hair I agree with Elizabeth 100%


admin February 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Yes, you are right. I was assuming that the hairdresser was independent and traveling to the bride’s house to do hair as is often done here. But if you do go to a salon, a standard tip is appreciated.


Lizza February 19, 2013 at 12:56 am

I agree except in certain cases – for instance, the agreement is to do the hair & makeup of 4 girls in three hours, but when you get there, suddenly so-and-so wants her hair done too and oh these two decided they need their makeup done as well but you don’t have any extra time, just “squeeze them in!” (It’s happened to me more than once.) If your stylist/artist/whatever goes above and beyond the initial agreement, a tip is very much appreciated.


Ally February 15, 2013 at 7:41 am

I did tip my wedding photographer, but because she went above and beyond her duties as a wedding photographer and we were already getting a great deal. I think the tip ended up helping us out because we got our photographs the next week, way before we were supposed to get them.


Rachdm February 15, 2013 at 7:48 am

Thank you so much for this entry! I am also in the midst of planning my wedding and was wondering how I should budget for gratuity. My fiance and I met with a DJ last weekend (who we won’t be hiring for various reasons) and in his contract next to his pricing was “Gratuity is appreciated”, underlined and bolded. I was a little taken aback by seeing that in the contract, so thank you so much for clearing up my confusion.


admin February 15, 2013 at 9:25 am

The only time I would tip a DJ is when he is subcontracted or employed by a larger entertainment agency and is not an independent owner of his/her own business. But putting a mandatory gratuity into the contract means he has underpriced his services and expects further remuneration by means of a tip. On other words, he priced himself low to undercut his competitors and get your business but he cannot actually make business ends meet without the added profit of a gratuity.


KarenK February 15, 2013 at 9:46 am

I think the usual guidelines apply: If the person is an independent contractor, no tip. It is assumed that they set their fees accordingly.

If he or she works for someone else, I think a tip would be fine, but not mandatory. Even the waitstaff who are employed by the caterers don’t work for less than minimum wage like restaurant servers in the US do. I like the Admin’s idea of slipping each $20, though.


Phitius February 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

Given how tipping culture in the US has changed and grown over the last decade or so, this letter and the Admin’s response is most appreciated. Hearing from someone in the business (who also reminds people how important tipping is in the US) is remarkably helpful.

Thank you OP and Admin!


Powers February 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

Never tip the owner of a business. Tipping is for employees only.


Mary February 15, 2013 at 11:50 am

I would say that we did not tip our DJ (he was part of a larger company) for two reasons. First this was sixteen years ago and we had no idea we were supposed to tip him above and beyond his fee. We kbew to tip the hairdressers, bartender etc. Second, he did a horrible job to the point where I wrote a letter of complaint to the company after the wedding. I was bitter for years about that one. Even if I had k own I was supposed to tip him, I wouldn’t have.


JediKaiti February 15, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I am wondering about the caterer… since we’re doing a pretty simple buffet, we had the option of just having them do the set up & clean up, or having someone remain on site to handle keeping the serving dishes topped off – we’ve opted to have someone stay on site. My question is this… they only want $100 extra for that. My Mom (my parents are footing the majority of the bill) feels that’s really not enough to adequately compensate the person who’s staying on site (especially considering that, by working our wedding, they’re missing out on their regular tips at the restaurant), and plans to tip. My question is, how much would be advisable?


Haley February 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I had the pleasure of working a few catering contracts for weddings during my time at two restaurants, and as a gratuity was not included for the buffet-style, I was always paid a higher hourly rate for them. However, most of the wedding hosts handed me a cash tip at the end of the event – at one restaurant we only catered a dessert service, which was $800.00-1,000, and I usually received a 10-15% tip that was never expected but much appreciated.
At the other restaurant when we executed a buffet-service dinner, those were much more, based on a per-person price; however, depending on the menu the total cost can become very hefty, even for 50 guests. Once again, they are probably making a higher hourly rate (at least minimum wage), but I’m sure a cash tip would still be appreciated. Perhaps an additional $80-100 would be nice – in my area of the Southwest, $100 is typically the base amount most servers hope to make in tips each night, and even though they are making more hourly it won’t come until their next pay check.


JediKaiti February 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

Awesome – thanks for the info!!


Rhiannon February 15, 2013 at 5:23 pm

When we got married, we hired a friend who had a new photography business for our pictures. She gave us a very generous discount. Instead of a tip, we permitted her to use a certain number of our pictures for promotional purposes. She told us excitedly only three weeks after our wedding that our pictures on her website had booked her three more weddings at triple the rate we paid.


JediKaiti February 16, 2013 at 11:33 am

My photographer’s contract gives me full reprint rights on all the pics (I believe that was not the norm pre-digital, but seems to be the norm – or at least common – now, at least in the Denver metro area), but she gets permission to use them in promotional materials (website, maybe a flyer, pics on office walls). I also know that she typically buys herself a copy of any albums the HCs order through her, to keep in her office for prospective clients to look through.


emwithme February 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm

My (UK based) wedding photographer had a similar clause in his contract. It seems to be the “way” nowadays – and I’m fine with that (although it was a big shock to go to his website and see myself there!)


Ellen February 17, 2013 at 10:36 pm

The etiquette of tipping is that you do not tip a business owner, but the staff. In a restaurant, that would be the waiters, in a salon, it would be the stylist, in a hotel, it would be the busboys and housekeepers. You are paying for the owner’s service when you pay the bill. In that case, the owner’s “tip” is called a “profit margin” or “markup” and was built into your bill on the front end.

By the same token, the 20 percent rule is not applicable in all situations – do you tip the porter at the airport 20 percent of your airfare? Of course not, you tip him an amount per bag. The housekeeper in the hotel gets a certain amount per night, not 20 percent of your hotel bill.

Pay the business owners you are dealing with their fee, and tip any staff members a reasonable amount according to the type of service they do.


Gracie C. March 28, 2013 at 2:39 pm

And yet, before I knew this rule, I’ve not once had the owner of an establishment refuse my tip. I wonder if that’s ignorance or greed.


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