Gratuities (Tips) are often an overlooked expense when planning your wedding so let’s delve in to this traditional practice. Starting 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 a cultural and/or social 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 significantly lower hourly rate because the IRS has made the assumption that the average amount of tips earned maintains the deficiency in the hourly rate.
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.
A gratuity and your wedding day… What’s expected?
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 PlannerWedding 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. Protocol: Optional 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 ArtistThis 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 Protocol: Expected 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 StaffSlip 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. Protocol: Expected 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 OfficiantIf 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. Protocol: 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 MusiciansIf 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. Protocol: Optional The Standard: $15 – $20 per musician When to Tip: At the end of the ceremony.
Wedding Photographer/VideographerYou’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). Protocol: Optional The Standard: $50 – $200 per vendor When to Tip: At the end of the reception.
Wedding Reception StaffThis type of staff includes the on-site coordinator, maître 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. Protocol: Expected The Standard: 15 – 20 percent of the food and drink fee (based on labor, not the cost), or $200 – $300 for the maître 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 AttendantsWhen 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 DJWhether 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.
Wedding TransportationAgain, 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! Protocol: Expected 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.
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.”
Hopefully these pro-tips have given you some good insights. If you’re planning a wedding in Las Vegas we’ll be right here waiting for you when the time is right for you and your wedding…
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