To Tip or Not to Tip?

As a wedding planner, I get this question A. LOT. Like, every week, multiple times.

Thing is, there's no real answer, unfortunately.  In Canada (because we're so gosh darn polite), we don't like to have open conversations about this kind of thing, and everyone is kind of wishy-washy about it.  With a few exceptions, of course!

First and foremost, let me just say that, in the depths of my soul, I believe that a tip should be earned, not expected.  I price my services at a point that I feel reflects industry standard, my years of experience, the training and experience of my team, the number of hours we put into each wedding, and what I pay my team.  That said, wedding planning is also seen as a 'luxury' service, or as expendable, and is often an easy cut from an overdrawn wedding budget.  Therefore, my profit margins are not enormous.  I'm not buying a private island in the Maldives anytime soon, y'all. 🙂  My team are a bunch of absolutely spectacular ladies, and I pay them a reasonable wage, but I would love to pay them more - if I could justify the overall cost to clients, many of whom just honestly don't know how many billable hours we put into their weddings. But I digress . . . and that's another blog post for another day.

There are certain sectors of the wedding industry in which tipping is expected, and in some cases, is explicitly stated, or built into the bill.  Caterers and venues generally (with few exceptions) charge a non-optional gratuity (or service charge) of 15-18%.  This is not the place for a discussion about venue ethics, or semantics, but I know for a fact that a lot of the servers and bar staff at a lot of venues that charge a gratuity never see a cent of it.  In fact, a lot of venues will call it a 'service charge' rather than a 'gratuity', because then they can legally wiggle out of passing the fee on to their staff.

Another wedding vendor that notoriously quotes their prices plus tax and tip are limo companies.  This is because they pay their drivers less than minimum wage, and if they're to make any money, it'll come in the form of your gratuity.  A limo tip is generally expected in cash on the day of.

Bartending is another really gray area.  Even at venues that charge a gratuity, bartenders will often put out a tip jar.  I think a lot of this is because at ANY bar, bartenders are paid the servers' wage, and it's common to have a tip jar out, since bartenders don't get tipped at the table or on the bill like servers do.  This translates into weddings even when there's a gratuity because I don't think a lot of the bartenders actually see any percentage of the service charge.  This one is extra tough, because the ball is kind of in the couples' court on this one.  You can choose to let them keep the tip jar out, which means that your guests will be paying for their gratuity (which could be awkward if it's a host bar and most guests don't have cash on them), or ask them to put it away, in which case you'll be expected to cover their tip.  If the wedding is on private property, and you've hired the bartenders yourself, have the conversation with them prior to the wedding to determine their expectations.

If you trust the all-knowing internet, the general consensus surrounding tipping is that if your service provider owns the business, you don't need to tip because they've built their tip into their overall price, whereas if you're working with a lowly minion, you should tip them, since they're clearly paid pennies.  As a business owner, I can tell you that that's not the case (at least in my personal business).  By the time I pay my staff, cover my overhead, and look after miscellaneous expenses, I often make less than my team.  Obviously, that doesn't apply to all businesses, though!

SO. Back to my original point.  I really feel that a tip should be earned, not expected, and it's completely at your discretion (unless it's already built into your bill) as to who you tip.  If a service provider goes above and beyond for you, showing your appreciation is never a bad idea.  Below are some suggested (based on industry standard here in Southern Ontario, number of one-on-one hours spent with you, in consultation or on the wedding day, and my OPINION) gratuities for various vendors:

Catering: 15-18%

Bartending: 15-18% if at a venue, $50-100 flat if on private property

Transportation: 10-15% of overall service cost

Photographer, Videographer, DJ: $100-150 flat, depending on number of hours

Live Musicians: depending on length of contract and number of musicians, $25-75 each

Officiant, Florist, Decorator, Baker: $50-100 flat

Hair, Makeup, Aesthetics: 15%

For a lot of these vendors, a thoughtful gift also goes a long way.

Again, there's no real correct answer here, but hopefully that at least gives you a jumping-off point.  Post your comments to let me know what you think!



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