Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tips for Tipping at Your Wedding

When you're in the final planning stages of a wedding, it probably seems like money is going from the two of you, outward- every which way, to anyone who is there to catch it.  Your final payments are due for everything: your venue, your flowers, your DJ/Band, your final clothing fitting/pickup, your photographer, videographer, hair/makeup, limo company, hotel, wedding coordinator, officiant, trusted babysitter and more. You may be running around grabbing last-minute gifts, putting the finishing touches on your favors, figuring out logistics for details such as backup shoes, Bathroom Baskets, Out of Town Bags, program printing, place card printing, signs for your Supercharged or Unplugged wedding, pre-wedding food for your entourage, planning/sharing your wedding weekend schedule, planning your after-party and more. Those last few days leading up to a wedding are often the most busy, expensive days for a bride & groom.

The list of payees is exhausting, but not exhaustive, so as you're planning and signing contracts with vendors, find an easy way to keep track of what has been paid and what is owed. Note whether you'll have someone who works for the company, or someone who owns the company. Don't forget anyone, and try to make any payments you can before the big day. A few nights before the wedding, get your last-minute payments together and ask someone trustworthy (a parent, best man or MOH, who will be responsible --and sober-- enough at the end of the night) if they would take care of business for you while the two of you say your goodbyes. This will make your lives easier and make your night more enjoyable. You'll still have the honeymoon expenses to take care of, but otherwise, you're all done with the payments...right?


There's one more thing to remember. Don't forget to tip your vendors at the end of the night! These people have worked hard- in some cases, for many months- to make this day flow exactly as you imagined.  They have provided the soundtrack for your magical ceremony, served you and your guests, masterfully mixed drinks, played some rockin' tunes, wiped up spills on the dance floor, hung up coats, made the amazing food you've all enjoyed, cleared empty dishes, transported you, your wedding party and your guests around, and captured every moment of it, with a smile- and social custom deems it appropriate to give a gratuity as a thank you for their services. While you can pay gratuity at any time, it feels right to give it- and receive it- after a job well done. Plus, if you have been unhappy (or very happy) with a certain vendor or staff member, you can allow that to be reflected in your tip.

Occasionally, venues will allow you to add a tip with a credit card, but know that it will be taxed and part of it will come out of staff members' paychecks. The best way to show your gratuitous thanks is with cash.  Below, you can see an infographic to help you figure out how much to tip. At the end of the party, take a few minutes to make any final changes to your tips if you'd like, then ask your trusty helper(s) to pass them out to your vendors.

- Etiquette: In some locations around the world, tipping is discouraged and considered insulting, and in some locations tipping is expected. Here in the U.S., it's completely appropriate and graciously accepted.
- Ceremony: In some cases (such as with U.S. government workers and some religious clergy members), it is illegal or wrong to accept monetary tips.  When in doubt, you can ask- or you may want to do some research ahead of time. Ask if your congregation has donation guidelines. Typically, if you're marrying in a house of worship, plan to make a donation of $100-$500 (or more). You can give this money to the officiant. If you're already paying a fee for your officiant (i.e. a nondenominational officiant), a tip of $50-100 is fine. Court clerks are prohibited from accepting tips, but a small gift or a thank you card will be appreciated.
- Reception: Some venues have already included gratuity in your total cost for the event. If this is the case, be careful not to pay tips twice if you don't have to. That being said, know that if the staff was exceptional and you would like to tip someone additionally, it will always be well received. Also, the tip that you paid with your contract may be split up evenly to allow for a slightly higher hourly wage for all staff members of the event...meaning that if someone did an outstanding job for you, they may not be earning any more than anybody else. Feel free to add on an extra bonus for a job well done.  If the tip is not included in your total, see below.
- How Much? The customary tip can be a specific range of money or a given percentage of the bill (see below). Theknot.com also has a more detailed Tipping Cheat Sheet here.
- Note that if the vendor owns the business, you do not have to tip. Tips are typically given to individuals who work for a company. If the owner provides exceptional service and you would like to tip them, there's nothing wrong with that, but you do not have to. 
- Don't forget about delivery staff! If you were not there to give them a tip, you could send it to the owner and ask that they receive it, or if possible, you can ask the manager at your venue (or your event planner, if you have one) to ensure that they receive it in advance.
- If someone has really gone out of their way for you, or you've come to them time and again throughout the planning process for an opinion, a sounding board, a friend, you may consider giving them something special- a gift certificate, a bottle of wine, or another tangible token, in addition to (or instead of) their gratuity.  
- Not sure how many catering staff members are working your wedding? Ask your catering manager. You can even give this person all of the tip money and he or she will be sure to split it up and make sure everybody gets his or her share. 

If you're really on top of things, these tip envelopes (seen on Pinterest from It's A Bride's Life) are so clever and unbelievably well thought-out! It's easy enough to have these prepared ahead of time and it shows your wedding team that you're taking an extra step to say thanks...which is nice to hear at the end of a big celebration, when staff likely have at least another hour of clearing/breakdown/cleanup/reset to go.  

Lastly, know that your wallet has power (while it may not feel that way at this moment), but your words have power, too! If somebody provided exemplary service for you and their goal is to find more jobs like this one, you can help them. One of the best things you can do for your vendors is spread the word about what a good job they did and help them generate more business. Get online, tell your friends, share with other brides and grooms, and consider using them again for your own future celebrations. Most of all, though, tell the vendors. Send them a thank-you note, write a message on their business's facebook wall, post on their website, offer that they can use pictures from your big day (and send them a few good ones when they come in), and make sure they know how grateful you are. After all, a wedding celebration like yours would not be possible without all of the hours of hard work and care that this great team has put into it. 

Congratulations! I hope these tipping tips have helped you :) 

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