Last-minute wedding expenses suck hard. You finally thought you were done whipping out the checkbook and credit cards and were just beginning to look forward to watching your bank balance go up instead of down for the first time in months, and whammo, one more thing.
It’s even more frustrating, as I discovered, when it’s your fault because it’s something you should have thought of, so there’s no one but you to get mad at. People implode over less.
Anyway, that’s why we’re going to talk about tipping.
The envelope, please
Your guests probably didn’t bring singles and should not have to deal with tip jars anyway. Make sure all your tippable vendors, like the bar staff and coat check people, are aware that they’ll be tipped at the end of the reception and tip jars are not OK. If Uncle Louie wants to slip the piano player a $20 to get him to play “Drop-Kick Me, Jesus, Through the Goal Posts of Life,” that’s between them. But no open soliciting for tips.
Traditionally, your best man gets the job of handing out tip envelopes as the reception winds down. (He doesn’t fill them unless that’s his wedding present. He just passes them out.) If a relative has paid for the reception and considers himself or herself to be the host, it’s also fine for him or her to pass out the gratuities.
Hands across your reception hall
Tipping is never required, but many vendors will be used to receiving them. Those include waiters and bartenders, musicians or DJs, limo drivers, parking attendants, and stylists. It’s a good idea to go ahead and make up labeled tip envelopes for everyone you plan to tip before the wedding and then pass them off to your best man or designated tipper. Either checks or cash will be appreciated, though starving artists and hardworking waiters do appreciate cash.
Cash also allows you to raise or lower the tip according to performance. Which brings us to our next topic…
You seem a little stiff
While tipping is not required, stiffing entirely makes a pretty big statement. It just may not be the statement you want. Many people believe that they are teaching the waiter a lesson for substandard service by withholding a tip, when in fact the waiter has no idea what the problem is. If you spot a problem with the service, don’t wait until the end of the evening. Have someone tell the caterer or bandleader or whoever specifically what is wrong at once so he or she can help solve the problem. Your vendors want you to be satisfied enough to tip just as much as you do.
If you’ve been clear about the problem and the staff is unresponsive, by all means, stiff away.
So how much, already?
Tipping rates will vary according to the area where you hold your reception, so the best I can do for you is ballpark it. Your wedding planner, if you have one, or other experienced brides can be a little more specific.
As a rule of thumb, your limo driver, bartender, and possibly your caterer (and your hair and/or makeup artists) will be used to getting a tip equal to about 15% of the bill. 20% is generous (Unless you’re in, say, New York City. Ask around.) Check in with the caterer to see if a tip for your wait staff (and, for that matter, your caterer) is included in your overall cost. If it isn’t, you can ballpark about $10-$15 per staff member.
Coat check attendants should get about $1 per guest, and parking attendants $.50 to $1 per car. The tip rate for your DJ or band members will be another regional thing, but you’re probably safe figuring $20 for each.
This is, of course, all basic. If you’re feeling generous, or if you’ve noticed that a particular staff member has really gone above and beyond the call of duty, it’s nice to slip him or her a little extra. Yes, they live to please, but paying the rent is nice too.
Rumbling stomachs aren’t music.
It’s easy to think of your vendors like decorations and forget that they’re people who will be at the reception just as long as your guests are. It’s only sporting to feed them.
Your vendors don’t need a table to eat with your guests, but they do need a place where they can sit down and eat something. They also don’t need to get the full meals your guests will be getting, but a bag of cheeseburgers from the Tastee Freeze is considered bad form.
Check in with your caterer. He or she probably has meals for the wait staff covered, and can give you good guidelines for feeding the band, photographer, and other vendors. Your wedding planner or any musician buddies you may have will also have opinions to offer. Remind your musician friends that even if they’re vegetarian, weed doesn’t count.