Gratuity Etiquette

thank you note

An often overlooked and hidden cost in wedding planning is the subject of tipping and gratuities. Though seemingly small amounts when broken down individually, these costs can add up quickly and need to be budgeted in at the beginning of your planning process. Here are some simple rules of thumb when it comes to wedding gratuity etiquette:

1) Don’t assume the service charge on your catering bill includes the gratuity. This almost always comes as a shock to brides, but the 22% service charge that you’re already paying on top of your food cost often doesn’t include the tips for the wait staff or the folks in the kitchen. Ask your venue or caterer specifically if it includes the gratuity for your service providers so that you aren’t caught in a sticky etiquette situation on your wedding day.

2) A tip jar sitting out at a wedding bar is enough to make me curl up in a ball, suck my thumb and melt into a puddle of convulsions. And I’m a pretty laid back, make-your-own-rules, it’s your wedding anyway, type of gal. But there are just some things you never do, and that includes putting the expectation on your guests that they have to pay for anything related to your wedding reception. Make sure the bartender knows that you will be taking care of the gratuity and that no tip jar is to be put out during the reception. Get it in writing if you have to, and then make sure your coordinator is up to speed so they can 86 it should the situation arise. Same goes for the valet.

3) Gratuities should be given in cash or check and should be divided up into individual envelopes with the name of the recipient marked on the front. It’s the wedding planner’s role to distribute the envelopes, so make sure they are ready to go when you come to the rehearsal so that you are not having to worry about it on the wedding day. If you don’t have a consultant, then the job goes to the best man. If you’re afraid he’ll be a little too tipsy by the end of the evening, designate a responsible non-drinking friend to take care of distributing the envelopes for you.

4) Each gratuity envelope should be given to its respective recipient at the end of the evening or upon delivery of services. For food service employees, the envelopes (one for each server, chef, etc – find out ahead of time how many people will be scheduled for your event) can be given to the banquet captain by your coordinator or designated friend. One exception: even with a wedding coordinator, your officiant’s payment/honorarium/gratuity is always presented to him or her by the best man. This should be done after the ceremony and you may need to prep him for a little bit of back and forth ending with an “oh no, I insist” on the part of the best man.

5) There’s always a big debate over whether or not to tip the owner of a company. Most wedding businesses are small, locally owned companies, so there’s a very good chance that most of your vendors are the owners of their companies. There’s no cut and dry answer to this, and the bottom line is that it is really your call whether to tip them or not. A gratuity should never be expected by the owner, but I can guarantee that it is always appreciated.

Tomorrow I’ll share some helpful information on who to tip and what to tip, so be sure to check back!

{photo via Kiss ‘n Tell Cards}