Wedding tipping etiquette
February 8, 2006 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Tipping at one's wedding--to whom, how much, and based on what?

We're getting married quite soon. Our photographer is charging rather a lot of money and he owns his own business--my understanding (based on reading at Indiebride and the Knot) is that a tip is not necessary. The reception location has an exclusive caterer who has not included a gratuity or service charge in the contract, but is charging a not-inconsequential amount for "staffing" based on the number of guests and the number of hours. The contract also charges per-guest rates on chairs and booze, and requires that if we do tip, it should be delivered to the head caterer.

So what to tip? (I assume we will be happy with the service.) The caterers/servers are presumably making more than a restaurant wage, yes? It doesn't seem like we should tip on the amount meted out for "chairs." Should we tip a restaurant rate (i.e. ~18%) on the food bill? A flat fee? What would James Surowiecki say? Thanks for your help!

For what it's worth, this is taking place in a fairly expensive eastern USA city.
posted by mookieproof to Human Relations (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
googling tip, caterer and manners turns up these links here.

Personally I think it's bunk, but then I am opposed to tipping maid service as well. Or, for that matter, any transaction where the person providing the service isn't a part of the money transaction. But I'm a crank.
posted by phearlez at 9:12 AM on February 8, 2006

Lots of places seems to charge an 18% service fee on top of the catering bill-- which for wedding catering adds up fast. And it's a fairly absurd number-- you know there's no way that all of that money is actually going to pay the waitstaff. (Grr-- sorry, I'm in the middle of trying to find an affordable caterer for my wedding to).

So, you're lucky that you don't have that. I'm not sure what amount you should pay to tip the servers at your wedding. But one thing I am sure of: tip them directly/individually, rather than giving the money in a bigger sum to the caterer (who may or may not pass it all along)
posted by mollymolo at 10:07 AM on February 8, 2006

I worked as a caterer for a few years (actually serving the food, not management level). These were pretty expensive events (average cost ~$75K). As far as I know there was a service charge, but that was included in the quote prior to the event. No cash exchanged hands at the event (excluding the occasional tip to an individual server).

So I would recommend you tip any workers that you feel went above and beyond to make your event special, but don't add extra to the check you write to the company. Caterers are (typically) not paid at waiter/waitress rates, so tips are not an expected part of their income. YMMV.
posted by istewart at 11:13 AM on February 8, 2006

We are also getting married soon, and according to what we've been told, you tip the waitstaff, but not at a percentage, but more a flat rate, something like $20 per person of the waitstaff and that you hand this day of to the head waiter-personage or manager/supervisor, and that he/she would dole it out to the people equally. We were told that the waitstaff is well paid and that tips shouldn't be above the $20 mark because of that.
posted by JonahBlack at 12:45 PM on February 8, 2006

I can't answer much of your question but can confirm that tipping the photographer is not usual and not expected. If you like what he produces, the best way to show it is by word-of-mouth recommendations for him or her to friends or relations that might be getting married in future.
posted by normy at 4:13 PM on February 8, 2006

Agreed about the photographer. I know a couple of wedding photographers, and none of them would ever expect a tip. You are already paying them a pretty significant figure for the work they're doing, they don't expect to be slipped an extra 20 on the day of. I'm sure they wouldn't complain if you did, but they would probably think you were a weirdo.
posted by antifuse at 1:33 AM on February 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

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