Don't Make This Wedding Budget Mistake - Plan For Gratuities, Thank You Gifts and/or Tips!

When creating a wedding budget it is so easy to remember to account for all the big ticket items – venue, dress, photographer, flowers. But, it is easy to forget all the little things that can quickly add up. One of those little things that is usually forgotten is the gratuity or tip for your service providers. Should you tip every single person that provides a service? Not necessarily. But knowing who and how much ensures that your budget doesn’t take an unnecessary and unpleasant hit in the last few days leading up to your wedding. To help you make a more accurate budget and to navigate the tricky waters of tipping, we’ve created a handy checklist and provided a little bit of insight into the murky waters.

While no one should ever expect a tip or gratuity, certain service providers are almost always tipped, while others only receive one if they have done and amazing job and have went above and beyond what they were contracted to provide.

I am going to fly in the face of tradition on aspect of tipping – if a service provider (be they the owner of the company or just a hired employee) go above and beyond what they are contracted to provide, if they make everything more amazing than you ever felt possible, or provide you with those few extras that you wanted but couldn’t get, tip them. Going above and beyond their contract means that they didn’t include it in the cost of their original services and are not getting any money for doing it.

Wedding Planner –

Your wedding planner has been there from the beginning. They organized all of your hopes, dreams and ideas and kept you grounded when you needed it. They don’t expect a tip, but if they went above and beyond what you contracted them to do, show them you appreciate it. Send a heartfelt thank you card when you get back from your honeymoon (or before if you aren’t leaving right away) and include a tip or personal gift. If you can, include a few pictures that they can use in their portfolio of them in action.

Hair Stylist and Make Up Artist –

Your team of beauty experts has made you picture perfect for the day that you are the center of attention. You will have more pictures taken of you this day than you have since the day you were born and they are the ones that made sure that your look came together. Just as you would tip your salon stylist, tip your beauty team. Have a few blank thank you cards with you and jot down a quick note as your team is cleaning up to leave. Have a big bridal party utilizing their services? Have everyone write a few words in the card. When your photographer arrives, have him take a few pictures of the team in action and a few close ups of the amazing job they did and send them along when you get a chance.

Officiant –

Without your officiant, your wedding is just a wonderful party for you and your family. If your officiant has done an extraordinary job in telling your story, created an amazing and unique ceremony that is just for you, added elements that require research or additional work or have just done an outstanding job in performing your ceremony thank them by giving them a token of your appreciation. Ask in advance what the guidelines are for tipping your officiant. Church pastors, priests and rabbis may be prohibited from taking a personal cash gift, but you can make a donation to their personal fund or church.

Ceremony and Cocktail Musicians –

Ceremony musicians lend ambiance to your ceremony, they set the mood, may have to learn new songs and add that certain something to your wedding. Tip them if they have had to learn all new songs for your ceremony or if they have created something custom and unique just for you.

Photographer/Videographer –

These are the two vendors that give you lasting, concrete items from your wedding. They will spend hours on site with you and even more hours editing and putting together amazing albums and DVD’s for your viewing pleasure. Definitely tip any second shooters, as they are more than likely not getting an equal portion of the original contracted amount. Consider sending along a tip when you see your final products, or send your thank you cards, especially if they deliver their final product sooner than expected or if they throw in a few extras like prints or a teaser video.

Reception Staff –

Includes your venue coordinator, maître d’, banquet managers and servers. Check your contract and ask if the included service charge is a gratuity that will be split among the day of staff or if it is an additional fee. Also check if there is a gratuity line, to whom does it go to and how is it split. If anyone goes above and beyond, please tip them a little something extra, and offer any left over cake, food or favors to the staff. The same with any fresh flowers, who doesn’t love a little something pretty to take home?

Reception Attendants –

By attendants I don’t mean your bridal party, but the people that attend to the needs and wants of you and your guests – bartenders, wait-staff, parking attendants, bathroom attendants and coat-room attendants.  As with reception staff, check the contract for included service charges or gratuities and ask who will receive a portion and how the portion will be split. If there is no provision for these attendants, ask for a head count and plan accordingly.

Reception Band/DJ –

Responsible for so much more than just pushing play on a computer your reception band and DJ guide the flow of the party and assist your coordinator on keeping the reception on track and on time. Be especially aware of tipping this pro if you have asked for a number of obscure songs, have an extensive must play/do not play list or have a complicated reception that requires a large amount of emcee work. Make sure you take care of any sound technicians or other assistants that help with making your reception the party you wanted it to be.

Transportation –

Check your contract to see if this is included, but be prepared to tip your driver. Be generous if you ask for additional stops, run late, or have a mishap in the vehicle. Make sure to budget for guest transportation gratuities, as well as your own transportation. Generally be prepared to tip, in cash, after the last guest has been dropped off or you are safely ensconced in your hotel at the end of the night.

Optional vendors to tip – once again flying in the face of convention, there are a number of vendors that other resources will tell you not to tip, that I feel, if they have gone above and beyond, deserve a little note of appreciation.

Bridal Salon –

If the salon goes out of the way to ensure your clothing and accessories are to you by arranging for special delivery, adjusting their hours or fitting you in to a last minute appointment, send a note and some yummy cookies or flowers to the staff. The smaller bridal salons will also love reviews and a few professional pictures of their lovely gown and accessories as well.

Cake Baker –

Again if the baker goes above and beyond what they are contracted to do such as changing the cake and frosting flavors the night before, repairing a cake that has been damaged or working around a difficult delivery situation, send a note along with a tip and some amazing professional pictures for use in their advertising.

Sweet I Do's is a wedding planning company located in Surprise, AZ (a suburb of Phoenix). We specialize in wedding day management (also known as day of coordination). We help you create an amazing, unique and totally "you" wedding that allows you to be in the moments making the memories, not worrying about the details. From contract review and timeline creation to day of management, set up and tear down, we're focused on ensuring our couples, their families and friends experience a stress and worry free night to remember.