A Gifting and Gratuity Guide - When and How to Tip Wedding Planners and Professionals
I want to tip the people that have worked on my wedding, but I'm not sure who to tip and how much to give. I don't want to make a mistake or offend anyone. Can you give me a guideline?
"Gratuity is never expected, but always appreciated..."
Nearly every client I work with asks about tipping procedures. In response, I offer the politically correct answer of "Gratuity is never expected, but always appreciated." It's an answer, but not really an answer. Clients today are highly educated, savvy, and gracious. They understand the time and talent that goes into producing a large format affair, and offering a proper gift of thanks is something nearly all of them wish to do.
Gratuity is one of those things that has become a part of our culture, and with good reason. It is a token of thanks, a beautiful gesture, and a way to further support the small business owners and employees. But whom exactly should you take care of? And with how much? In some cases, such as with a hair dresser or make up artist, there is a generally accepted practice of tipping 15% - 20%. In other cases, such as with banquet captains, catering managers, photographers, and even wedding planners, the lines are less clear. There is a large amount of mis-information floating around the internet, which creates confusion and stress for couples who just want someone to guide them in the right direction.
While there is no ultimate, definitive answer, but I have provided guidelines below which should help you navigate your way through the tipping process.
1. WHO SHOULD HAND OUT THE GRATUITY?
The most gracious and heart-felt gratuities are given directly from you to the person you wish to thank. Whether a flat gift (envelope) or an actual present, it is best to hand these items directly to your wedding planner, catering manager, or photo and video teams.
Additional gratuity and tips to the front line staff such as valet attendants, porters, service staff, set up crews, etc. can be given in an envelope to your wedding planner or catering manger, and they can handed out at the end of the night.
2. BUT HOW MUCH DO I TIP? WHAT SHOULD I GIVE? CASH? CHECK? PRESENT?
WEDDING PLANNER: 15% - 25% of the cost of their services.
Note....Many publications advise that gifting your wedding planner is unnecessary, which has always been a source of confusion. No one becomes more emotionally invested in the success of your wedding and you married life as your wedding planner does, and so to thank them with an envelope or a present is absolutely appropriate.
WEDDING COORDINATORS: If your wedding planner has support staff and coordinators, it is a lovely gesture to tip each one of them $50 - $150 each.
CATERING MANAGER: Your Catering Manger will typically be gifted $250 - $500 for a smaller wedding, $500 - $1,000 for more extensive affairs. If you do not have a wedding planner, then feel free to offer more as your Catering Manager has probably taken on a number of tasks and services outside of their traditional role.
EVENT DESIGNER & DECOR MANAGER: Many high end weddings engage the services of a floral and decor house tasked with working along side the wedding planner and catering manager to create a unique environment. Should you develop a relationship with a designer or sales manager, please feel confident in gifting them anywhere from $250 on up.
PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEOGRAPHY TEAMS: Primary shooters and artists may receive $100 - $250 each, while secondary shooters may be given $50 - $100 each. Some couples prefer to wait until after their final product as been delivered before thanking their documentary teams. In this case, please send a hand written note along with your gift, which may be anything along the lines of the value of noted above.
OFFICIANT: Secular weddings presided over by a judge, a notary, or a civil person can see $50 - $100 gratuities, or a small gift. Religious officiants typically will not accept gifts, asking instead for you to make a donation to the house of worship or to a charity.
BEAUTY TEAM: Traditionally, we see 15% - 20% of the bill being offered as a gratuity.
DJ, LIVE MUSICIANS & PERFORMERS: A high end, quality DJ that keeps you dancing all night long can be tipped $100 or more, while live musicians generally receive upwards of $50 - $100 each.
VALET: Regardless of whether or not parking is paid for, some couples wish to tip the valet on their guests behalf. In this case, $2 - $5 per car is acceptable, and the valet should then be advised not to accept tips from guests.
DELIVERY: $5-$20 per person for deliveries coming up to your room, for boxes being moved from your room to your ceremony or reception site, anything arriving from your florist, baker, rental company, and other vendors.
WAITERS & BARTENDERS: The service staff at your reception should receive roughly 15% - 18% of the automatic gratuity / service charge that has been applied to your final bill. That said, many couples do wish to thank the server who took care of them, their family, and the bridal party. In this case, an additional $50 - $100 per server is a generous token of thanks.
3. AND DON'T FORGET THANK YOU NOTES
While the gratuity itself is always appreciated and valued by the recipient, a short thank you note enclosed along side it is just as valued. Taking the time to write a few short lines - even to those who may not meet - says a lot is instills our team members with a sense of price and deep appreciation. Something such as "Thank you for working so hard to make our day wonderful...xoxo" will go a long way! Write these in advance, or even print them on a pretty ribboned piece of stationery to tuck inside of your envelopes.
Your wedding team loves reviews! Like....LOVES them! Having a couple go on The Knot or Wedding Wire to leave a 5 Star Review with a short love note is HUGE for us! Not only does it make us feel all warm and gooey inside, but it helps instill a level of confidence in future clients. After all; if you liked us, they may, too!
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On a personal note - Over the years, my clients have overwhelmed me with their generosity and creativity. A cash gratuity is and will always be the most common form of tipping. Some have offered beautiful tokens of appreciation, and I so adore them for expanding my collection of handbags, shoes, and jewelry. There is an paperweight in my office that is quite an obsession of mine, as it is engraved with "I'll Handle It" - a quote both I and Olivia Pope have become famous for! It was one in a series of gifts that my bride put together in a box, each item commemorating an experience we shared over our year of planning. Other beloved couples have sent me beautiful, handwritten notes.
In the end, it's what you as the couple feel comfortable with. Whether you go over the top in the form of a monetary gift or simply offer a personal gesture, the point is for you to express your feelings of thanks.
Working in the wedding industry is a humbling honor. We are given the opportunity to create bespoke events, and we are entrusted with our couples hopes and dreams, their most personal desires and their finances. There is a level of intimacy, respect, and friendship that you rarely find in other professional arraignments, and of all the gifts that we as your team are given, getting to witness your lives as they unfold is always the greatest