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Behind the Service: How to Understand Wedding Vendor Gratuity | Austin, TX Wedding Planners

Before you spend countless hours on Google trying to read the between the lines of various blogs and websites about the industry's standard, we are breaking it down for you. We think any vendor can agree, a five star review on the vendor's preferred website is the best form of flattery and a wonderful way to show your appreciation. We will start by saying that the biggest misconception on the internet is that if the vendor owns the business, do not include gratuity. Whether the vendor is an employee of someone else or owns the business, you should determine whether or not to include gratuity based on their quality of service and not their employment status with the company. Most self-employed business owners pride themselves on not building gratuity into their price point. With that being said, we recommend checking your contract and invoice closely to see if gratuity has been added ahead of time. It is important to remember if you are receiving a service or a product when you are considering how much gratuity to provide.


Protocol: Optional

The most important things to focus on for your band of choice is whatever can be done to make their job easier. Bands appreciate an isolated spot for their breaks that can be considered their green room, plenty bottles of water, and a hot meal before they perform. Not only do they have to play several sets, but they have laborious set ups and breakdowns. Although they only may perform for 2-3, one hour sets, we would definitely recommend $50 per band member as a thank you.


Protocol: Expected

Event bartenders are still considered in the service industry and we would say there are a few ways to handle gratuity. If the bride and groom choose to tip them before the wedding, the standard 15-20% of the waitstaff's wages would be applied. This means you would not tip on the cost of alcohol, rather the cost of their time spent at your wedding. A second option would be to allow your bartenders have a tip jar on the bar and allow your guests to tip them. It's always a courtesy to check in at the end of the night to make sure they have been taken care of. If the bar staff is included in the venue, I would check the contract to see if that an automatic gratuity has been applied.


Protocol: Expected

Much like bartending, the same service industry standard of 15-20% gratuity is applied. You will see costs from the price of food, or alcohol per person, as well as a service charge/admin fee. The service charge/admin fee is not gratuity; it helps cover the costs to prep and plan the execution of your wedding food and beverage. Tipping off of the total cost of the food allows the caterer to divide up the gratuity enough to also include the cooks, instead of just the servers and various staff. If you still feel unsure, we highly recommend talking to your caterer directly. They are more than happy to help you understand where your gratuity will go. We would say that catering gratuity is the most misunderstood in the industry.


Protocol: Not customary

If you choose to have your cake delivered, they can charge you a delivery fee and people like to tip off of that service. Sometimes they are given as little as $10 to thank them for the safe arrival of the cake to $200 because the bride's mother had her socks blown off at the cake artist's skills. Again, it is never expected but always appreciated. A detailed review about the cake's appearance and flavors go a long way!

DJ Protocol: Optional

When looking at the quote from your DJ they are providing you with a service and possibly a few upgrades like lighting, projectors, etc. Depending on how you feel they acted as an emcee by controlling the crowd during announcements and reading the crowd's interest on the dance floor, a standard ~$150 is typical, but we recommend 10-20% of the total cost of the DJ services sans upgrades. We will be the first to say that the DJ is who runs the whole show and we really encourage our couples to make sure you take that importance into account when budgeting. A a five star review is also a form of gratuity that a DJ appreciates more than you know.


Protocol: Not customary

We have found that florists are rarely tipped. A lot of their job is done before the wedding day and when they get there on the day of, they almost always include a percentage that covers their time setting up the installations and being there on the day of your wedding. A lot of the time, they come back at the end of the night to pick up their rentals. When they do receive a tip, it is usually around $100 and they distribute it to the employees who helped deliver and execute your floral vision on your actual wedding day.

HAIR + MAKE UP Protocol: Expected

Much like bartending and catering staff, doing hair and make up is a service industry profession and the 15-20% off of the service total is pretty standard. Remember that your hair and make up artists are not compensated for the drive time to and from the destination, as well as the amount of product that they use to execute your vision during all of the trials, and the amount of time they have put into prepping for the big day's look. They are not charging an hourly rate and sometimes will spend more time on certain looks so tipping could be very situational and a standard dollar amount per person is also appreciated.


This can be a very vague answer depending on the service they are providing. At weddings we have seen donkeys being walked around carrying beer, to magicians, face painters, fireworks, photo booth operators, late night snack food trucks, tarot card readers, and caricature artists. If someone is walking a donkey around handing out beers for cocktail hour, $50-$75 is more than enough, but if someone is operating a photo booth all night and engaging with guests, you would want to thank them with a higher percentage or fixed amount based off of the total cost of service. You can always tip any type of delivery (alcohol, appetizers, ice, etc.) $20 as a thank you for their service.

OFFICIANT Protocol: Optional

Unfortunately, this vendor is the most overlooked out of them all. It is not that their great ceremonies go unnoticed, but more so that they are at the wedding for less than an hour and do not get to spend time engaging with the couple after the ceremony. If you do choose to tip your officiant, we recommend a fixed amount of $50-$100 and that you make sure it gets to them before the ceremony. Although it is not customary, they are executing a very important aspect of your day and a lot of them will even go the extra mile to mail the certificate in for you so no one has to worry about handling or losing it on the day of. If you get married in a church, it is standard to give a donation to the church as a form of gratuity. If it is a family or friend, most of the time they will not accept your money so a thoughtful gift is a recommended secondary approach.

PHOTOGRAPHY Protocol: Optional

In our opinion, photography is the most important aspect of your wedding as pictures last a lifetime. Photographers, self-employed or not hold themselves to a very high expectation to give you the memories you may have blinked and missed. If you do recognize the effort and dedication your photographer(s) are putting into your big day, we recommend a fixed amount of $150-$200 per shooter. When paying your final invoice, you can also round up to the next hundred as a thank you. Again, it is the last thing that they expect and are just happy to document the big day in exchange for a five star review.

PLANNER Protocol: Optional

Tipping your wedding planner seems to happen about 75% of the time. Personally, we can say that a five star review is equally valuable. That being said, if you see your planner or coordinator going above and beyond for you by finding a kleenex for you to wipe your tears, sewing your button on your dress during a private dinner, or executing a very labor intensive bustle, a minimum amount of $150 per lead planner, or 5% to 10% of the total planning package is customary.

The job of the coordinator is to put out any potential "fires" and to ensure you don't know about it, therefore a lot of the chaos they are controlling is behind the scenes & never mentioned. If you witness the labor of love that goes into executing a wedding, you can always offer to electronically send a gratuity or check after the big day.

TRANSPORTATION Protocol: Expected

We suggest that you read your contract carefully because some of the time, transportation automatically includes a gratuity charge at a certain percentage of what you are paying. If this is the case, there is no additional gratuity required. If you feel that they exceeded your expectation, a fixed dollar amount from $50 to $75 for the driver is always appreciated. When it comes to valet, a dollar per guest is standard, if their gratuity is not included in the cost of the service.

VENUE Protocol: Not customary

You may see a lot of charges when it comes to your venue's contract, but gratuity is not one of them that you will have to worry about. If your venue has a built in coordinator in the contract, we recommend you see what we advise about planners . If the venue is just providing a venue manager on staff the night of your wedding, it is not customary to offer them any type of gratuity. They are there to make sure that the establishment is functioning properly during your wedding and will hang out more behind the scenes. If you do feel like a venue manager or sales representative has gone above and beyond for you, I would use your discretion on how you would want to recognize their impact on your wedding.

VIDEOGRAPHY Protocol: Optional

Much like photography, it is not customary to tip for videography. When asking a preferred vendor, he said it happens about one out of every three weddings. Again, if you feel that they did go above and beyond and you were not expecting to tip it is completely acceptable to send them an electronic tip after the wedding. We recommend sticking to a fixed amount around $150-$200 per shooter. It's a good thing to remember the hours of editing that they put into your video after your wedding. It is completely acceptable to deliver the tip after you receive your finished product!


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