Do I Tip Wedding Vendors?

the Eternal Question I’m About to Answer.

Tipping: what a controversial topic, especially in the wedding world. So many engaged peeps want to know if they should tip wedding vendors. There are oodles of articles out there, but so few are written by people actually inside the industry. By in it, I mean, you’re terrified of starving kind of in it. These articles often give weird advice, like this one, that advises you to tip wedding vendors except THE PHOTOGRAPHER (Thanks The Knot for hating). Other articles like this one talk about how business owners shouldn’t and don’t expect a tip. I mean, com’on Brides.com, we aren’t billionaire CEOs here. We’re hustling and struggling as small business owners! Hell, this article right here that explains why photogs charge so much, estimate photographers only earn $15-$19 an hour. An hour. AND we have to pay for our own taxes. (Did you know all small business owners have to pay a 15% small business tax, on top of all the other taxes? Yeah, the government hates us small folk).

So I’m going to share some controversial advice: tip wedding vendors. All of them. Make it freakin’ rain on the people who work their asses off to make your day perfect. I feel like there is a lot of misinformation or misrepresentation of what it takes to make a wedding day go off as smoothly as possible. I am going to spend a few paragraphs to share with you my opinion on the matter, as someone who has seen the industry morph in the last decade. I’m going to go over some of the key players in the day, to tell you a little bit about why they should be tipped. My other opinion on tipping is to do it when they go above and beyond.

Tip Wedding Vendors

What is considered above and beyond: This industry is saturated with weekend warriors, i.e people who won’t starve if their wedding business goes under. Therefore, some will work harder than others, which is important to notice and understand. What I would consider above and beyond is meeting with you multiple times, becoming your friend, throwing in complimentary services, delivering the promised experienced cheerfully and on time, responds to emails in less than 48 hours and never makes you feel like you aren’t a priority.

What you don’t see on the back end: All vendors work their asses off in this industry. It is WILDLY oversaturated. I would say the sub-industry of photographers, planners, DJs and florists are just as saturated as realtors. We have to keep our prices down, our packages bloated, our phones on at all time…just to have an edge in late stage capitalism.

Did you know all small business owners have to pay a 15% small business tax, on top of all the other taxes? Yeah, the government hates us small folk.

via GIPHY

Wedding Planner: I could never be a wedding planner. On the wedding day, they work an average of 14-16 hours, on their feet with, hopefully, a smile plastered on their face. They almost never eat, I can’t remember the last time I saw one hydrate and they command the entire production of your day with competent authority (again, hopefully). On the back end, do you have any idea how hard these folks work?! They network to create relationships that benefit you, they spend hours on design, picking up items, answering emails, running errands, being the in-between you and disgruntled rude relatives, being your champion at all times and of course, making sure all of the vendors know where they’re supposed to be and when.

*phew* ON TOP OF THAT, they don’t charge nearly enough. Most charge less than $4k (often much less). That amount is expected to cover at least a whole year of client care, for all of the above. No thank you. They’re beasts among men, wedding planners. I’ve seen wedding planners fix/hide/improve some of the craziest shit, without the clients ever finding out!

Suggested tip: 15%-25% or a spa day somewhere nice. Wedding planners don’t get enough massages, probably.

DJ: Disc Jockey’s legit make or break a reception. Have you ever been to the club and you’re feeling the vibe, groovin’ and jiving and suddenly….ERREEKEKKKEKEKEKEKEKEKE WICCA WICCA SLIM SHADY SINGLE LADIES WONDERWALL T-PAAAAIIINNNN. Groove ruined. The jive runneth dry. That transition hurt your soul.

Imagine that at your wedding.

Being a DJ is so much more than playing song to song. At least, it should be. I’ve seen some DJs play the crowd like a fiddle, knowing when and how to get them shuckin’ and twerkin’, but also when to create those chillaxed hold-me-tight moments. Others? I sometimes look at them like they’ve lost their goddamn mind. Your guests will too. Do you know how hard it is to make smooth intelligent song transitions? Me either. I do know, however, how rare it is. So if your DJ doesn’t make your guests cringe and your champagne glass to shatter, I suggest a tip.

Suggested Tip: 15%

Tip Wedding Vendors

Servers and Bartenders: While most caterers include a service fee, those actual servers and bartenders work hard on the day of the event. Do you have any idea how many stupid questions people ask? Imagine that a wedding is much a discussion board on the internet. Everyone is discussing a meme topic that is slightly personal, controversial and provocative, like whether or not Baby Yoda is or isn’t Yoda (he isn’t).  Now imagine that internet room as your wedding, held in a dimly lit room, with free alcohol, good food and your angry self-hating cousin coming alone because her boyfriend of three months refused to come. And she came to drink.

That’s what your servers and bartenders are dealing with. Hell, that’s what all of your vendors are dealing with, but servers and bartenders are the grunt workers, with the most hands on experiences with your guests. I hear some of the rudest things directed towards me sometimes, so I can’t imagine what they deal with. On top of it all, most servers and bartenders picked up that gig for extra cash, which means they’re putting up with all of that shit simply to keep their phone and internet on. Take pity/care, tip them individually!

Suggested tip: $20+ each.

Florists: Do you have any idea what plucking, manipulating, trimming and pulling flowers does to your body? What about lugging around all of those flowers? Caring for them days before the wedding? Delivering them? Me either. But I had a florist recently tell me about her carpal tunnel, developed over years of making gorgeous bouquets. Styling bouquets is an art form and should be respected as such. Not nearly enough make a profit off of it, because brides value the cost more than the sheer artistry involved. Oh, you want peonies in November but refuse to pay the premium? Oh, you want six bouquets with orchids but pay less than $200 total? Are you out of your mind??? Florists work so damn hard for so damn little. Most have side jobs, because it’s not profitable enough. Sure, they just show up and drop off, so it doesn’t look intense to an outside eye. Yet, florists spend dozens of hours every week, making sure that the exclamation point to your day that a bouquet provides is a good one.

Suggested tip: 15%-25%

Officiant: Remember how I said a DJ can make or break a reception? An officiant can make or break your entire ceremony. You know, that thing that makes it all official in front of your friends and family? Yeah, don’t skimp on this. I’m sure it’s so cool to have your second grade best friend’s cousin officiate, because you once played in a sandbox together, but if they’ve never spoken in front of that many people…things can get dicey. Over my career, I’ve had to even tell guests to sit down, because the officiant is so inexperienced they can’t focus on anything except the piece of paper with words written on it right in front of them. I’ve seen inexperienced officiants forget to tell them to kiss, make them put the rings on the wrong finger, skip vows, stutter, ramble, etc. And the number one thing that pisses me off about officiants? When they stand there, like a creeper, watching you kiss. Not moving, just STARING.

To command a crowd, infuse emotion and help you start the journey of your commitment…officiants are not dime a dozen. If your experience is amazing AND they get to know you, make sure to tip them!

Suggested Tip: $50-$100

Tip Wedding Vendors

Unique and Amazing vendors: Did you hire a llama to come to your wedding? Tip them, because a llama eats a shit ton of food. Did you get pyrotechnics for the grand exit? Tip them, because fire is dangerous AF. Did you hire a getaway car? Tip them, because them ol’ fancy cars eat up money. Did you hire someone to design your entire wedding? Please tip them, design is so damn hard.

When in doubt, tipping 10%-20% of a service is a good starting place. If they go above and beyond, take that into account.

Makeup Artists: Girl, let me tell you: not all makeup artists are created equal. Do you apply makeup on every day? No? Let me tell you something: eyeshadow palettes start at $60 each. Individual mascara and lip stick wands add up. Having a foundation color for every skin tone? Jesus lordt, may the makeup gods bless them with a sale. Then, they have to learn how to apply makeup to different skin textures, picky brides who are never happy (I once saw a bride remove ALL of the makeup after the artists left and the work had been flawless), people always talking, coffee breath, witnessing brides fight with family, snarky remarks, heavy cases filled with makeup and supplies…I could go on and on.

The best makeup artists also give a touch up kit. Man, I judge makeup artists if they don’t at least give her the same damn lip color to use later, so she isn’t naked lipped after the first sip of water. Don’t make me deal with the aftermath, please. Speaking of aftermath, I literally have the clean up the mistakes of shitty makeup artists.

Makeup artists are also, in my opinion, the number one reason weddings run late. They’re too slow, late or too chatty.  Some refuse to do the bride first or even in the middle, insisting on “the most fresh look,” without taking into consideration of a first look or even how long it takes to get dressed.

So if your makeup artist makes you feel and look like a gazillion dollars, is on time, charges fairly (anything less than $175 for bridal hair and makeup isn’t cool, but more than $225 should raise eyebrows) and gives you a touch-up kit? Tip them.

Suggested tip: 15%-20%

Did you hire a llama to come to your wedding? Tip them, because a llama eats a shit ton of food.

Photographer: Okay, I’m definitely biased but I feel like I have a point to make. However, let’s start with a fact: Photography was given the prestigious award of top 25 worst jobs in the world. That’s right, I’m comin’ to you live, all the way from my office deep in the pits of business hell. I work a minimum of 50 hours a week, every week. I have to do my own social media, website and branding design and run my own website/SEO/coding, edit all of my own photos (and learn how to do that well, which is more hours and money), network, answer emails and take care of clients, edit, paying for an obscene amount of subscriptions just to keep my daily business going (client care program $50 a month, google storage $10 a month, publication website $15, Instagram website $20 a month, email newsletter website $40 a month, gallery hosting $50, required magazine advertising and expo codes $490 a month, editing software $20 a month, equipment cleaning $300 a year, $120 a month in chiro care, $70 in at least one massage a month, equipment repairs up to $1500 a year, ON AND ON AND ONNNN). This doesn’t include my actual living expenses.

It’s a hard knock life, let me tell you.

On top of all the above, I have had to continue my education to be the best photographer possible. I’m doing an upcoming workshop in Mexico and will spend around $4500 to do so. It’s worth it, but yeah, it’s expensive. I take time to learn how best to care for my clients, keep in touch with all of them before/after wedding, edit as fast as possible and above all, spend every day terrified that this is the day I’m going to finally go broke and starve and be the laughing stoke of the entire social media world. *deep breath*

On the wedding day, I field question after question, make decision after decision (after the wedding planner, the photographer is the biggest puppeteer of the day), keep to the timeline, keep communication open with vendors, take pictures that rock while also being charming AF so no one hates me, carry up to eight pounds slung around my neck for 8-10 hours, sitting down for maybe thirty minutes the whole time, walk ALL OVER THE VENUE for the best spots and so much more! SO MUCH MORE. LOL

If you would tip a tattooist, who creates you a piece of art that lasts forever…why wouldn’t you tip a photographer? If you tip a massage therapist, a hair stylist, a valet, a server, a bartender, a wedding planner, a DJ…why not a photographer? Again, if someone wants to make the point of us being business owners, let me tell you something: most photographers can’t charge enough. The industry is too saturated. Pricing is the main motivator for most of the market, so most of us are only making the bare minimum. Barely a living wage, for the vast majority (I’m not interested in hearing from people in the high end market). Any extra money you give will most likely go towards equipment we need, an unpaid bill or even food for our kids. It isn’t being wasted, I assure you.

The simple fact is, though, that everyone in this industry works their asses off, we don’t charge nearly enough and our families are tired of never seeing us on the weekends. 

Of course, there might be some things I don’t know about any of these industries. Maybe there is a reason makeup artists run slow. Maybe there is a reason some wedding planners never create a timeline. Perhaps there is a reason the officiant wants to stare as you swap saliva with your newly wedded partner. I don’t know everything, I’ll be the first to admit that!

The wedding industry will always be full of people with big opinions. Some say you shouldn’t even tip wedding vendors. I have no doubt people will disagree with me. The simple fact is, though, that everyone in this industry works their asses off, we don’t charge nearly enough and our families are tired of never seeing us on the weekends. Your makeup artists might have missed their kid’s soccer tournament, your wedding planner left her newborn at home, your photographer has kids that want to know why they’re always working. “Late stage capitalism” isn’t the best excuse or so I’ve found. So understand why tipping is so important in this industry. It’s a thank you for putting up with whatever shit you’ll never tell me about. It’s a thank you for showing up and making my day sparkle. It’s a thank you that goes towards our child’s therapy bill, because soccer tournaments are almost always on Saturday (why!?).