Tipping Points

Figure gratuities into your wedding-day budget

You budgeted until you went blue in the face and negotiated until you nearly went nutty. But you could still be caught hundreds or even thousands of dollars short if you don't factor an often forgotten expense into your wedding preparations: tips.

Don't worry. With a little planning, you'll be able to compensate all those hard-working service providers without resorting to rifling through gift envelopes or diverting dough from a dollar dance.

Of course, gratuities reward a job well done, and are never mandatory - unless of course they are included in the final bill, and they often are, especially for food and bar service. The charge should be covered in your contract - you do have one, right? - but if it's not mentioned, double-check with the establishment, because if it is included, you don't have to leave additional money unless you'd like to.

Custom dictates you don't tip business owners, just the hired help, who rely on gratuities for a large part of their income. For an owner who went out of his or her way, consider giving a small gift or writing a heartfelt thank-you note that can be used as a testimonial. However, if a business owner incurred expenses, worked longer hours, or dealt with undue stress he or she didn't bargain for, a gift of money would certainly be appropriate.

Seeing as how you'll be busy enough, TheKnot.com wedding guide recommends you apportion predetermined cash tips in labeled envelopes and appoint the best man or the father of the bride - or somebody you trust who comes bearing pockets - to dole them out to the help. Or ask your bridal consultant or event planner to do the job if you prefer family and friends to concentrate solely on rehearsing their toasts. One additional envelope with some extra cash will take care of anyone who goes out of their way to do something not included in the contract or provides exemplary service. Just make a point to catch people - especially delivery and set-up workers - before they take off.

As for your officiant - that is, the person performing the ceremony - traditionally the best man presents the tip, which should be between $100 and $200, according to TheKnot.com. For a church wedding, you're often expected to donate a percentage of your total wedding cost - so if your wedding costs $20,000, pencil in a $2,000 donation. However, if you're not a member of the church and you didn't have a lot of involvement with the officiant, go ahead and give a lower amount, says The Knot.
Do make wedding guests aware that you're covering tips for services such as valet parking or coat-check attendants - as you should - by conspicuously posting a sign reading "Gratuities have been arranged by the host" so no one feels caught short, according to Brides magazine.

How much is enough? While you're welcome to let your conscience be your guide, here are some standard guidelines courtesy of Brides:

Caterer, maitre d', club manager, hotel banquet manager: 15 percent to 20 percent of the total food and drink bill before tax - unless it's already included in the contract.

Wait staff: 15 percent of the total food bill, given to the catering manager or maitre d' to distribute - unless included in the contract.

Bartenders: 15 percent of the total bar bill (given to the catering manager or maitre d' to distribute).

Musicians, DJs: $25 to $50 each.

Limousine drivers: 15 percent to 20 percent of the bill - unless included in the contract.

Delivery drivers: $5 to $10 each.

Powder room and coat-check attendants:
50 cents to $2 per guest.

Valet parking attendants: $1 to $2 per vehicle.

Hairstylist, manicurist, and makeup artist: 15 percent to 20 percent of the total bill.

Gratitude Yes, Gratuity No
You can always give a modest gift or thank-you note, but according to Brides magazine and TheKnot.com, unless they've done an outstanding job, the following people are customarily not tipped:

- Bridal salon - Stationer - Florist - Photographer
- Videographer - Baker - Party rental company
- Organist, soloist - Wedding planner - Altar boys

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.