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Budget Extras: All About Tipping

You’ve had endless meetings with your caterer, calculator in hand; you know the exact difference in pennies between a white French tulip and a pink gerber daisy; you’ve computed the wedding limo fee down to the cost per mile. But is there something you’ve overlooked in your budget? That "little something extra?"
Here’s the straight talk on tipping.

In the Americas, tipping is largely considered a voluntary expression of appreciation for good service. While tipping is not demanded, in many circumstances you are expected to give a gratuity. Ultimately, you, as the customer, make the decision about who gets tipped, and how much. However, we’ve developed some guidelines to point out which of the people who help with your wedding day might be tipped, and about how much.

Be sure to clarify with your vendors if the fee for their service already includes tips for support staff. Since some establishments automatically add a tip to the bill for service to large parties, be careful to avoid unnecessary double tipping.

Tips would usually be presented by the wedding coordinator, if there is one, or by the event host -- usually the bride’s family. If the bride and groom are hosting the event themselves, they are encouraged to assign this duty to someone else. Keeping track of cash is not something you’ll want to wrestle with while the celebration is underway. This responsibility might logically fall to the Best Man, since the average tuxedo has far more pockets than a Maid of Honor’s gown.
To make things more manageable, each tip should be estimated in advance and placed in an envelope with the recipient’s name, and/or their title, indicated. An additional envelope can carry cash to make up for discrepancies once the final bill arrives and percentages can be tabulated.

But first, we’d like to tell you who should not be tipped:
Don’t tip the officiant. The person who performs your wedding ceremony is probably a professional who performs weddings as a part of their vocation. If he or she is also religious leader, they are spiritually called to participate in your wedding. To tip them is to trivialize their professionalism and their faith. Most officiants rightfully ask a fee for their services, and that fee must be paid. If you wish to make an additional financial contribution, you can include a separate contribution to the institution itself.

You don’t have to tip a makeup artist or hairdresser, if they come to you. If you go into a salon for service, you should tip as you normally would for services. However, if you hire a makeup artist or hairdresser to come to your home or hotel before the wedding, they are probably charging you a larger fee than normal. In that case, you do not need to tip them, just like you don’t need to tip your florist, cake baker, etc. Rather, show your gratitude to these professionals with a note of thanks, or, if you wish, a small gift after the fact.

You don’t need to tip reception waiters, waitresses, and table captains directly. As we’ll detail below, you’ll be giving a single large tip to the maitre d’, banquet manager or caterer. They will distribute the tip among their staff.

However, here are some folks you should consider tipping, if their efforts are especially prompt, courteous or otherwise outstanding:

Delivery People (usually sent by the florist, cake baker, etc.) $5-$10 each, presented upon completion of the delivery at the site.
Ceremony or Reception Musicians (optional) $10-$20 per person, depending on the size of the band/orchestra and the duration of their performance.
Limousine Drivers 15-20% of the limousine bill, given at the completion of service.
Parking Attendants/Valets $ .50 to $1 per car, pre-arranged with the supervisor; a sign should be posted alerting guests that the hosts have taken care of the gratuity.
Maitre d’, Banquet Manager, or Caterer To the person or persons in charge of your reception food and beverage, you should plan to present a gratuity of anywhere between $1 and $5 per guest, or 15-20% of the food and drink bill, near the end of the reception. If there is more than one person in charge, you should divide the gratuity among them.
Bartenders 10% of the total liquor bill, presented to the head bartender or divided equally among all the regular bartenders who work the full length of the event.
Restroom or Coatroom Attendants $ .50 to $1 per guest, pre-arranged with the management; a sign should be posted alerting guests that the hosts have taken care of the gratuity.

A tip, or some gesture of appreciation, is also in order for anyone who goes the extra mile or handles a special need. For example, if there’s a waitress at the reception that steps in and warms a bottle to help settle a fussy child, a nominal tip is a nice way to show how much you appreciate the special effort.