Ok ok ok, this Friday let’s get down and dirty and talk about- money. Yes, I know a very touchy subject for some, but I felt it necessary to dive into the subject of “the gratuity” other wise know as “tipping” in Sin City. Often an overlooked expense when planning your wedding so let’s delve in to this traditional practice.
Let’s begin with a little history; in the 16th century guests at English mansions were expected to give a “vail” or a small amount of money at the end of their visit for the servants and the extra work they had to do while there were guests. The word “tip’ is actually an acronym, T.I.P. actually comes from “To Insure Promptitude” which is odd in and of itself in that a gratuity is not given prior to receiving services but rather after.
The dictionary definition for the word “gratuity” is a gift of money over and above payment due for services or something given without claim or demand.
Tipping is also a cultural practice. In a city like Las Vegas there are several opportunities in our day in which it has become customary to tip. In addition to the usual waiter or waitress we have become accustomed to tipping the valet parking attendant, the door man, the bell hop, the change girl, the showroom usher and the bartender to name a few. In fact tipping is SO customary in our city that the IRS gets their share of it as well. Employees that fall in to a job class defined as as tipped employee are often times paid a lower hourly rate because the IRS has made the assumption that the average amount of tips earned maintains the deficiency in the hourly rate.
In many countries tipping is not a part of their day to day practices. Tips and their amount are a matter of social custom, and the custom varies between countries and settings. In some locations tipping is discouraged and considered insulting; while in some other locations tipping is expected from customers. In Japan for instance tipping is not a part of the culture. It is not expected and can cause confusion. Japanese people see tipping as insulting. Let me add one more twist to this whole tipping scenario for you, as if I haven’t given you enough to think about already. In some regions a service charge is automatically added to your bill.
So how does this all fit in to your wedding plans? Las Vegas remains the wedding capitol of the world and we are privileged to work with couples from virtually every country and culture so what is a planning couple to do and what should a wedding service provider expect.
The concept of tipping is not itself difficult to understand but the who to tip and how much to tip those providing services for your wedding can be a little tricky to navigate. This being somewhat of a hot topic we turned to “The Knot” for some recommendations.
Wedding planners won’t likely expect anything; however, if yours did a great job you can always offer a token of your appreciation. (Note: Non-monetary thank-yous like professional photos of the wedding for the planner’s portfolio can go a long way too.) Approximately 50 percent of couples do tip their planners — typically those with more opulent weddings.
The Standard: Up to $500, or a nice gift
When to Tip: The bride should hand off the envelope at the end of the reception, or, she should send a thank-you note with photos or a check after the honeymoon.
Wedding Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist
This is one area where a gratuity is definitely expected. Tip between 15 – 20 percent just as you would in a hair salon, and consider giving a little extra if there’s a crisis
The Standard: 15 – 25 percent, depending upon the quality of service
When to Tip: At the end of your service
Wedding Delivery and Set-up Staff
Slip a few dollars to anyone delivering important items to the site ( wedding cake , flowers, or sound system). And if a lot of gear needs to be brought in and set up (tents, chairs, or port-a-potties), the workers deserve a tip too.
The Standard: $5 – $10 per person
When to Tip: Drop off cash envelopes the day before the wedding to the catering manager so the person accepting deliveries can turn the tip.
Wedding Ceremony Officiant
If your officiant is affiliated with a church or synagogue, you’re often expected to make a donation to that institution. If you’re a member you’ll probably want to give a larger amount than if you’re not. However, if you’re getting married there and they’re charging you to use the space, feel free to give a smaller amount. If you’re using a nondenominational officiant, no tip is required because they will charge you for their time.
Expected (depending on officiant)
The Standard: Donate $500+ to the church or synagogue, or, for a nondenominational officiant, an optional tip of $50 – $100
When to Tip: Most ceremony fees are required prior to the wedding. Otherwise, have the best man pass the cash envelope at the rehearsal dinner if the officiant is in attendance.
Wedding Ceremony Musicians
If you worked with a mini orchestra to come up with the perfect score for your service (and they pulled it off flawlessly), consider showing some monetary thanks for their talent. However, you probably don’t have to tip the solo church organist who was required to play.
The Standard: $15 – $20 per musician
When to Tip: At the end of the ceremony.
You’re not expected to give your shutterbugs any dough beyond their normal fees. Yet if the wedding photographer or videographer doesn’t own the studio, consider tipping each person (or give a certain amount with a thank-you note to disperse to staff).
The Standard: $50 – $200 per vendor
When to Tip: At the end of the reception.
Wedding Reception Staff
This type of staff includes the on-site coordinator, maitre d’, and banquet manager. A service charge (typically 2 percent) is almost always built in to the food and drink fee, so check your contract. If the gratuity is not included, tip as follows.
The Standard: 15 – 20 percent of the food and drink fee (based on labor, not the cost), or $200 – $300 for the maitre d’.
When to Tip: If it’s covered in the contract, the final bill is typically due before the reception. Otherwise, have the father of the bride or best man hand the envelope to the maitre d’ at the end of the reception since you will need to know the final tab to calculate the percentage.
Wedding Reception Attendants
When it comes to bartenders, waitstaff, parking, bathroom, and coat-room attendants the rules of tipping are dictated by your contract. If the service fee is included, consider doling out extra only if the service was exceptional. If it’s not included, ask ahead of time how many attendants will be working your wedding and calculate on a per person basis.
Protocol: Optional, based on contract
The Standard: $20 – $25 per bartender or waiter; $1 per guest for coat room and parking attendants; $1 per car
When to Tip: Although tips are traditionally passed out at the end of the event, you could alternately distribute them at the beginning of the evening, to encourage all the workers to give you great service.
Wedding Reception Band or DJ
Whether you hire 12-piece swing band or grooving to a DJ, tipping musicians is completely optional. (Depending on the quality of the job and how willing they were to follow your ideal playlist!) And don’t forget about any sound technicians they bring with them.
Protocol: Optional, yet preferred
The Standard: $20 – $25 per musician; $50 – $150 for DJs
When to Tip: At the end of the reception, by the best man.
Again, check your contract, as gratuity is usually included. If it isn’t, plan to tip provided they show up on time and don’t get lost!
The Standard: 15 – 20 percent of the total bill
When to Tip: At the end of the night or after the last ride. If you used a separate company for the guest buses, designate a bus captain to hand the driver a tip, otherwise, this duty falls to the best man.
When in doubt the best rule of thumb is to follow the customs of the country you are in. CNTraveler has a fantastic guide on gratuities in 50 countries if you would like to learn more about tipping in other cultures. Lastly, for those receiving tips as a part of their compensation, above all just be gracious both in accepting and not receiving a gratuity. For those giving if you aren’t sure just ask…. if it is customary they WILL let you know. When a client asks me about a gratuity I tell them “it’s never expected but always appreciated.”