Friday, March 26, 2010

Who needs to be tipped?

Hello East Side Bride!

I'm getting married in July this year, and my mom asked me to figure out who needs to be tipped so we can be ready, cash in hand, the day of. Everywhere you look it says "Tip your vendors," but what is appropriate? Obviously, catering/waitstaff gets tipped, but what about the photographer, DJ, doorman? I want to make sure everyone is thanked for their hard work, but don't want to look like an a*@hole with a lousy tip. Is asking your vendor, straight up, what's typical a bad idea? Does that scream IDIOT Bride?



I asked three vendors to help me with this one. Because what the f*ck do I know about tipping? Srsly.

Here's what they had to say.

Heather Gilson of One Love Photo (pictured above with husband/partner Jon Almeda):
Out of the 30 weddings we do a year we probably get a tip from 5-10 couples. Our packages range from $4,000-6,000 and most tip around $200-$300. They usually write a sweet card too. We don't expect it at all but really, really, really appreciate it when someone does tip us. If tipping is for services then really the photographer should be getting tipped because our business is 100% service based but I just don't think it's the norm (so we don't expect it). We have had couples that wait to see the photos and then send us a thank you tip in the mail a month or two after the wedding (which is really cool). She should just do what feels right, keeping in mind that keeping your artistic wedding elves fed and happy is always a good thing for everyone :)

Michael Antonia (aka The Flashdance):
i don't think it is standard practice to tip your dj... some coordinators tell their brides that they should and i can count on tips when working with those coordinators, but i never expect it, or feel slighted when it doesn't happen. if i were you i would set aside tips for each vendor but only give them out if you feel they have earned it. if your dj is amazing and keeps people dancing, makes your announcements, plays well to the audience, and doesn't text message during your wedding, etc a $100 tip would be very generous, less than $50 would be (in your words) "a lousy tip" but anything is better than nothing right? i don't think there is a standard, i have been tipped $500, i have been tipped $20, i have not been tipped at all (this is most common) and i don't think my performance played a part in those decisions.

Emily of Emily Thompson Flowers:
I have been on the receiving end of various approaches to tipping your vendors. Brides can sometimes forget when adding up all their bills that they are receiving really specialized custom services from often under-appreciated artisans and schleppers who are extremely skilled and work their fingers to the bone. We've all known about the wedding-industrial-complex for longer that we can remember and been taught to mistrust anyone in the industry as price-inflating snake-oil salesmen. As a member of that very business, I can't say that this isn't sometimes true, but I and many vendors I know are scrupulous and fair, and try to pass on cost cutting measures to all of our clients, no matter how big their budgets.

I always say that the best policy with the staff of your wedding, from planners to sweeper-uppers is that you should be kind and respectful, and tip if you like. I like to be able to give my staff a tip from the client, they are always glad that their work was appreciated. But the most important thing is that every bride and groom will get better work out of their vendors--more attention to detail, more desire to make the client's every wish come true--if they are decent to work with. Nobody throws freebies at bridezillas. I think everyone I work with will agree that this kind of etiquette is more crucial than tipping. 

That said, ask your vendors. Nothing says "brilliant bride" better than direct, polite questions.

(Images by One Love Photo, Instant Dong, Lisa Vollmer)


  1. wow i didn't even think about this. no one tips in england anyway. but i think maybe the card and tip through the post sounds a little more reasonable. i don't think the bride and groom should be worrying about tips on the wedding day. thank you for this post!

  2. This is very good information. I just recently found out that we need to tip our vendors. Since most wedding prices are ridiculously inflated I thought the tip was already included. I was getting a headache about shelling out $500-1000 in tips alone.

    What Heather wrote about sending the tip in to some vendors after the wedding sounds great. That way we can remember a job well done (or not well done) and tip accordingly instead of feeling pissed off about it on the day of.

  3. Thank you so much! Three separate answers is more than helpful!!!

    You rock!

  4. ASHLEY, IS THAT YOU? you didn't tell me you had a blog, sillypants. can I add a link?

  5. Wedding elves!

    This was basically our policy - we didn't tip people who worked for themselves. Not because they didn't deserve it, but because we trusted them to set the price they needed and expected to be paid. We had a lot of problems with the 'hidden fees' of the wedding world, so we were pretty clear with people we wanted up front pricing. IE, "We want our jpgs so we don't have to pay per print, but we're totally willing to pay more for that, what would you charge for that?" So, as far as money was concerned, we figured it was fair and upfront, and we were not going to tip.

    That said, for people that were awesome, we gave them referrals and word of mouth like crazy. And I figure that's a lot cooler than $100.

  6. I had always heard "tip your vendors" and was wondering this exact same thing.... I guess I never realized $200-$300!! I don't know what I thought it was but man does that really jack up the budget!

    I don't want to sound cheap, but when I hear Heather say "if tip is for service and photography is 100% service based"....well...that's what I'm paying the rate for...the service. We're already stretching ourselves WELL over our photography budget because we LOVE our photographer so as with everything wedding associated I'm just in awe at the cost.

    I know all these vendors aren't EXPECTING a tip and that it's the norm not to give one...but I"m still kind of in shock at how much tipping vendors that it didn't occur to me to tip will add to the bottom line cost of the wedding.

  7. This is a interesting question that my friends ask me about a lot (I am a wedding photographer). It is my understanding that traditional etiquette suggests tipping people who work for another company (like a DJ who works for a larger company and only makes hourly rates), and no need to tip people who own their own company. I think the idea is that people who own the company set their own rates and benefit when the company benefits. People who they hire don't benefit directly, so it is nice to tip them.

    Obviously, if someone is especially awesome, a tip is always appreciated :)

    But as a wedding photographer who sets my own prices, I don't expect a tip in addition to my rates.

  8. presents. they can be better than tips (sometimes)

    we had boxes of yummy chocolates for vendors. and brought extra to give to anyone else who was extra helpful.

    and i always tip banquet servers. "gratuity included" my ass. those folks usually get NEXT TO NOTHING out of the tons of cash you throw at a caterer/venue.

    -a former banquet server.

  9. well fudge. I hadn't even thought about tipping. but I do really like the feedback you've gotten here, and I like the idea of sending a thank-you note for awesome pictures (I haven't decided whether or not I'd like to enclose a tip with said note)

  10. very interesting post. I personally wouldn't think to tip our photographer, I would consider the price of her service for the day the actual price. Since we are paying her a mutually agreed upon amount, I wouldn't think an additional amount is expected. However, the catering staff - tipped well.

  11. Interesting post, thank you! I generally follow the school of thought that if a vendor works for themselves then no tip is necessary because they've already chosen what they think is a fair rate.
    That being said - certain people (like a second shooter to our photographer) I do plan on tipping because those people often work to expand a book or for experience and may not get paid as much as the owner. And we are definitely tipping the servers, because really, when have you ever heard of a waiter being paid a decent amount of money?

  12. Great input in the comments section. I agree with the point that if the person is the owner of the company they have set a rate they feel comfortable with and there is no need to tip. That is exactly why we do not expect a tip from our clients. And YES referrals are a wonderful way to thank your wedding vendors!

  13. A DJ who doesn't text message... right on the money.

  14. My fiance is a wedding photographer and he doesn't commonly get tips. Although he frequently does get gifts — one client gave him 18 fresh eggs from their chicken coop and another gave him homemade beef minestrone soup. But he never expects either.

    I worked as a catering server for one year and never received tips. I don't know if the clients were tipping or if the catering company just weren't passing them along. I wouldn't be surprised if the second option was what was happening.

  15. such perfect timing. i was literally JUST pondering this yesterday. thanks esb. :)

  16. thanks for this info...i'm totally clueless about tipping protocol.

  17. What if some of the "vendors" are your friends doing you a solid and offered to take your pictures or agreed to be the celebrant? Is it appropriate to tip or give a thank-you gift?

  18. @Angie gift, all the way. you don't want to make em feel like they're WORKING for you.