On the list of wedding etiquette to-dos, tipping costs money – money that you must put into your budget. You might consider who and how much you tip as optional, but Hudson Valley Weddings founder Judy Lewis says tipping is almost always expected. One rule of thumb to guide your tipping decisions is to remember that vendors and those who provide a service, rather than a product, receive tips, unless they own the business.
Proper etiquette calls for thanking the rabbi, priest or clergyman with an honorarium of $100 that is separate from any fees paid for use of the worship facilities. If they traveled to perform the ceremony, a larger honorarium is in order. Tipping a religious officiant may also take the form of a donation to the church or synagogue. If you go the donation route, Martha Stewart Weddings suggests also giving the officiant a restaurant gift certificate for a more personal thank you. The honorarium should be sealed in an envelope with a handwritten note and presented immediately following the ceremony by the best man or whoever you designate to handle tipping.
Legal guidelines often prohibit tipping for ceremonies performed by judges, magistrates, justices of the peace or city clerks during public and court business hours. However, gratuities are acceptable after hours. Judith Todd-McNichol, a Brewster, Mass., justice of the peace, says that the average civil officiant gratuity ranges from $50 to $75, doubled when travel is involved.
Your food service supplier, be it a catering firm, restaurant or hotel, usually adds 18 to 20 percent to your bill for gratuities as a "service charge" or "service fee." When someone provides exemplary service that you would like to recognize, an extra dollar or two per guest is appropriate. Bartenders commonly get an additional gratuity of 10 percent of the bar bill. Avoid putting your guests in an awkward situation by prohibiting bartenders from accepting their tips. When the bill does not include gratuities, you should tip waitstaff and bartenders 15 percent of the food and bar bill, respectively. If you can negotiate a flat amount per individual, consider tipping the catering manager $100 to $200, servers and kitchen workers $20 to $30 each and chefs, $50. Other behind-the-scenes helpers you would thank with a tip include deliverers ($5), limousine driver (15 percent when not included on the invoice), parking valets ($1 per car) and coatroom attendants (50 cents per guest or a flat fee).
Unless the business-owning vendor does something extraordinary, you shouldn't feel compelled to tip. Extend your thanks in writing or acknowledge the florist, videographer, photographer and seamstress on your menu, wedding program or website. Photos of their work or them at work make an appropriate gesture of appreciation. However, you should tip vendor employees who work for you -- not the proprietors -- $30 to $50, and as much as $100 when a person acts as a wedding coordinator.
Trudy Brunot began writing in 1992. Her work has appeared in "Quarterly," "Pennsylvania Health & You," "Constructor" and the "Tribune-Review" newspaper. Her domestic and international experience includes human resources, advertising, marketing, product and retail management positions. She holds a master's degree in international business administration from the University of South Carolina.