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Ask the Pros: Tipping Etiquette

May 23rd, 2012 by Jeannine

 
Ask the Pros: Tipping Etiquette

To tip or not to tip? Most importantly, who do you tip? These are some questions in the minds of many brides… which is what inspired me to delve a little deeper into this topic. A reader emailed me asking if I can do something on tipping etiquette so I went straight to those who would know best – 3 fantastic wedding planners in Vancouver:

Briar Johnston, owner and principal planner of Epic Events – Briar is a familiar face on my blog, not only is she a Vancity Vendor, she has also contributed to my article about how to host an open bar for less. She brings to the table 5 years of event planning experience and is passionate about creating events that are uniquely you, no matter how intimate or lavish.

Kailey-Michelle Veenstra, owner and principal planner of Kailey Michelle Events – Kailey has been in the industry for over 4 years, specializing in vintage weddings that are as pretty to the eye as it is meaningful to the couple. She recently wrote an excellent article about tipping called Gracious Gratuity, so I jumped at the chance to interview her and she happily obliged!

Erin Bishop, owner and principal planner of Filosophi Events – A former DreamGroup girl, Erin has 7 years of event planning experience under her belt and quickly established her fledgling company, Filosophi, into a trusted brand in the Vancouver wedding industry. Together with her team of event planners and assistants, they  are “the cure for the common event.”

What is the suggested tipping percentage? Is it the same for every vendor?

Briar: Tipping is not the same for each vendor. In some cases (Food and Beverage, Transportation) there is a gratuity automatically added to your bill. Make sure to check this in your contract to make sure you don’t tip twice! We offer a tipping cheat-sheet with all of our consultation packages and there are lots of handy tools online. Use your best judgement with gratuities – if someone didn’t provide a level of service you were happy with, a gratuity is not necessary. Alternatively, regardless of what the norm is, if someone when above and beyond, your acknowledgement is always appreciated.

Kailey: Tipping Etiquette varies by vendor, while reflecting, in general, social standards for food and service gratuity. Just as with any service, wedding vendors use gratuity to gauge how well they met your needs. If nothing is provided, you could leave them feeling inadequate, unappreciated and assuming you were dissatisfied. For a complete breakdown of gratuity etiquette by vendor, feel free to reference the KME Certified Gratuity Guide: Wedding Vendor Tipping Etiquette.

Erin: Tipping percentages when it comes to wedding vendors generally are the same as you would pay at a restaurant – 15% – 20% depending on how much you enjoyed the vendors exceptional service.

Who should you tip? Is there a general rule to help you determine who to tip?

Briar: Although a gratuity is most often not expected it is always appreciated. Typically your Transportation, Catering and Bartending have included gratuity in their total bill. Those vendors with which gratuity is optional, yet preferred, are Band/DJ, photographer/videographer, ceremony musicians, officiant, floral/decor delivery and set up crew, hair stylist and makeup artist. I believe that there is no one you should never tip – if you feel the service was extraordinary, let that person know!

Kailey: With some vendors, gratuity is deemed necessary, like your hair stylist, make-up artist and transportation. While with others, like your wedding planner , photographer or invitation designer, a tip is non-essential . A great rule of thumb: if your vendor owns their company and will be providing said services themselves, you need not offer gratuity.

Erin: It is my belief that all tipping is voluntary and the point of tipping is to offer thanks for a job exceptionally well done. There are a few cases where tipping is considered ‘mandatory’ which is a weird reality of our culture. Servers and bartenders are an example of vendors who are always tipped, whether it’s a wedding of just an everyday meal out. Because of this, caterers and venues will add the gratuity right onto the bill. Thus, my rule is that if it isn’t automatically added to the bill, a tip isn’t required. That said, any and all vendors should be considered for a tip or thank you gift if you felt they really did their job well and helped make your experience wonderful. This would could be any or all of your vendors – Officiant, Florist, Decorator, Planner/coordinator, Hair & Makeup artist(s), Band/DJ, Photographer, Videographer, Limo Driver, Graphic designer, etc. It’s worth mentioning that some limo companies add a gratuity and others don’t but tipping your limo driver is considered mandatory unless they somehow delivered poor service. The most commonly tipped vendors in my experience are Hair & Makeup artists, Bands, Officiants and Planners.

When should you tip?

Briar: The best etiquette for tipping to prepare sealed, labeled envelopes with the tip for each vendor and give them to your planner/coordinator to hand out at the wedding once the vendors shift is done. That way, you don’t have to carry around any cash on the wedding day and worry about missing people before they leave! A hand written card is always appreciated.

Kailey: Typically, gratuity is provided at the end of a service or contract period. For vendors that will not be present throughout the entire day, like Make Up artists and Delivery Staff, gratuity is provided before departure. Others, that will work the leg of your event, like photographers, gratuity is typically offered after returning from your honeymoon, in conjunction with a thank you letter. One exception is your officiant, as they are typically contracted by donation. In this case, you would provide a donation, along with gratuity, at your rehearsal or prior to your ceremony’s commence.

Erin: It’s nice to tip along with the final payment, as that way you don’t need to go through an extra step to get the money to the vendor, and if it’s before the wedding they will be grateful and touched, and will likely go yet another extra mile on your day since you showed them such thoughtfulness and generosity beforehand. Tipping after the fact with a card is also very acceptable and makes a nice surprise.

Venues usually have a service charge on their contract. Are these rates ever negotiable? What happens if service is not up to par to deserve a full tip?

Briar: Typically these rates are non-negotiable and are charged before the event. Food and Beverage typically charge between 15-18% gratuity so it is not unreasonable to see that amount. Make sure to have a conversation with the venue coordinator if you are concerned and look over your contract carefully to see what recourse there is if you felt the service was not up to par.

Kailey: The key lies in your contract: if a tip has been included, you need not offer more. That being said, mandatory gratuity is rarely negotiable. Should service fall short of your expectations, a meeting with the manager or a letter of concern would be appropriate. A reputable company will care to hear your thoughts and do their best to appease you.

Erin: Venue/Caterer gratuity fees are not negotiable as our society just happens to be set up in a way that service staff make part of their pay in wages and part in tips. If you had an issue with the service at your event you can definitely take it up with the service provider and try to receive a discount if it’s justified, just as you would take a broken or damaged item back to the store after you bought it to try to work something out. This has never happened to me though, here in Vancouver we have some fantastic caterers and venue staff!

If budget is an issue, is sending a thank you gift in lieu of a tip appropriate? What else can couples do to show their thanks?

Briar: Absolutely! A thoughtful gift is always appreciated.

Kailey: In the end, a sincere thank you note always takes the cake. For most vendors, they do their work for the love of it; it’s their passion and it sets their heart on fire. Praise and appreciation is what makes their job worthwhile

Erin: Definitely – gifts have been my favourite over the years because they are so personal. Gifts and cards are definitely appropriate as it truly is the thought that counts, and in this love-based industry, the vendors all tend to be the emotional types that truly enjoy something thoughtful. Another great thing that couples can do is spread the word about their experience with the vendor, to their friends, on their blog and Facebook, and via review sites like WeddingWire. A little testimonial can go a long way :)

Hope you’ve learned a lot – I certainly have! Thank you again to Briar, Kailey and Erin for taking the time to answer my questions. Please take the time to check out their websites and follow them on Twitter to see what beautiful events they’ve created in the last little while :) Lots of eye candy to be had with these ladies behind the helm, that’s for sure!

Epic Events | Facebook | Twitter
Kailey Michelle Events | Facebook | Twitter
Filosophi Events | Facebook | Twitter

Feature photo courtesy Shutterstock
All photos provided by Epic Events, Filosophi, and Kailey Michelle Events.
Photographer credits: Jenna & Tristan Photographers, Robyn Michelle Lee Photography (now Robyn Thompson), Ophelia Photography, Fractured Light Photography (now Boutique Studios), Adam and Kev, Ameris Photography, & Kris Krug

Mouse over each photo to identify the wedding planner and photographer.

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