Posted on Apr 24, 2012
I have a soft spot in my heart for those in the service industry, even before I became a part of it. As a result I always tip REALLY well, and I’m pretty forgiving of people as a whole. As in, the waitress would have to wipe her butt with my steak in front of me in order to affect her tip. So when clients ask me about tipping, my advice is pretty short. “If you think they deserve more than you paid them, give them a tip.”
I posted that on Twitter and was kind of taken aback at people begging me to elaborate. Keep in mind I do NOT represent the wedding industry as a whole, or Miss Manners, and I’m weird and have my own ideas about this stuff. That being said, here goes.
General rule of thumb, you tip who’s there on your wedding day. There’s some thinking out there you don’t tip the business owner, and I agree/disagree with that. Basically, is the business owner going to be there on your wedding day? Big name caterers, venues, rental companies, obviously you wouldn’t tip the big boss there. Small businesses don’t have a plethora of employees to send out, so it’s totally possible your photographer, planner, DJ, ice sculpture guy, are all business owners who are busting their butts for you. If they’ve gone above and beyond, they deserve a tip just like the server who does this on weekends.
“But if they’re the business owner, they set their own pricing!” This is true. But honestly? Many sole proprietor wedding vendors undercharge for themselves. When you do the math and figure out how much you should be charging, it’s scary as hell, and you have to work up to it in degrees. I paid some big shot business person to tell me to charge more, and I’m still not where they want me to be. Not to mention, a tip is basically a monetary thank you. Does someone not get that thank you just because their name is on the letterhead?
Some people say a referral is the best tip you can give a business owner, and much as word of mouth advertising is appreciated, I think it’s kind of lip service for vendors to say that. Because, lets be honest, they aren’t going to turn down a gratuity if you offer it. And if they did a good enough job to earn a tip in the first place, of course you’re going to be suggesting them to all your friends.
This is definitely one of those do as I say, not as I do things. I don’t think anyone should ever feel obligated to leave a tip just because someone showed up. Let’s get all Dictionary.com on this.
Tip: A sum of money given to someone as a way of rewarding them for their services.
Reward: Make a gift of something to (someone) in recognition of their services, efforts, or achievements.
So, what are some of the things you should tip for?
ASFGA is a horrible anagram, but alas, these are some of the things to think about to consider if someone gets a reward.
Generally you want to handle tips with discretion. You look like an ass if you’re waving around a handful of money and making a big show of it. Think of it like a covert spy thing. A nice shake of the hand, smile, say “Thank you”, and that’s it. Don’t try to be cute about it by saying “Buy yourself something nice”. That’s icky.
Most of my clients give me an envelope to tip vendors with, some have several smaller envelopes with pre-measured tips, others just have a quantity of cash and since I’ve been the one working with the vendors all day, my clients trust my judgment. I can sneak the money over and not make a big deal of it at the end of the night, or whenever the vendors are packing up.
I know some etiquette guides say to give a gift in lieu of cash. My thought is unless you’ve gotten to know your vendor on a personal level and can give them something thoughtful you know they’ll love, just go with money. Cash goes with everything, and as a vendor nothing is worse than getting a gift card to a restaurant you hate (or can’t eat at because of allergies), or receiving something that isn’t to your personal taste, then feeling guilt for not knowing what to do with it.
Does this sound bitchy? More than likely, but its a waste of the client’s money to buy a gift card that won’t get used, or a vase that will never get displayed. If you’re emailing with your photographer and they mention how they love chocolate, getting them chocolate is totally appropriate. If you become close to your wedding planner, and see a statue on your honeymoon that reminds you of them, it’s totally fine to send it to them with a thank you note.
Catering is the main vendor everyone worries about tipping, and they make it as confusing as humanly possible. So, for helpful clarification, I present the following:
So what’s the conclusion? Ask potential caterers how they handle tipping, before you even hire them. Ask if you can get the service charge as a flat fee item. If they do forced gratuity, ask if there is a performance guarantee to go with it. (If they’re guaranteed a tip, you should be guaranteed a good experience) See who your tip will go to. My opinion is the people who serve you are the people who should be tipped. That means the people who are there on your wedding day. If someone has been obscenely helpful to you, even if they aren’t there on the day of, feel free to tip them.
Because this is already obscenely long.
In case of Too Long; Didn’t Read, everyone is eligible for a tip, its just a question of if you think they deserve one.
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