Who, When, and How Much? The Ultimate Event Gratuity Guide

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Talking tips can be an awkward topic! You've already spent so much on your vendors, and some of them (i.e. caterers) can tack on administrative or other fees that are an additional percentage on top of your total! This fee is almost never a tip and will not get distributed to any employee who has worked on your event. You don't want to seem cheap or ungrateful, but if you have 20 or more people to consider tipping, it can really add up.


Gratuity is almost always an optional add on left up to you to figure out. For weddings, it's pretty much expected for the couple to tip most or all vendors involved, but there are a lot of guides out there that are confusing and not specific enough to help you figure out what level of gratuity you would like to provide. You probably plan on tipping your caterer, but do you tip the staff you won't even interact with on the day of the wedding (i.e. rental delivery staff, florist, baker)? If you plan (or hire an event planner to plan) a kids birthday party, do you tip the venue staff, face painter, planner, etc? If you are a bridesmaid planning your friends bridal shower, do you handle the tipping of staff, florist, venue, etc?


With my experience as an event planner I want to make sure all of these questions are answered (and way more!), which is what I've done in this "Ultimate Gratuity Guide" below. If you are still left with questions, please e-mail us! We'd love to help you figure out which situations you should tip in.




Should I Tip?

The easiest answer is yes, you tip. When you are figuring out your budget (or a ballpark budget of how much you think the whole event might cost), plan on tipping everyone involved at least $20. For small parties, that might add up to $100 - $200. For weddings, plan on setting aside substantially more than that. If you have hired Luxe Life to plan, coordinate, or design, we will send you a list of all vendors, how many staff, and a suggested gratuity range. As an event planner I work closely with each of your vendors and know how much work they have (or maybe haven't) put into your day. Also, it used to be that you don't tip the owner of a business or establishment, however since we specialize in unique "outside the box" events, we seek and work with many local, small business owners like ourselves. Most young modern couples and clients understand that these small businesses work so hard to provide a unique, fairly priced, and personalized service to you without the resources of a large corporation. That being said, here's a guideline to start with:



GRATUITY GUIDE


FOOD


Caterer / Staffing If your venue is a space only and you are bringing in all vendors, your caterer will likely have to work a bit harder than a banquet hall or restaurant staff. They'll need to bring in a lot more equipment, tour the space to assess needs, alter their usual process, bring extra staff, etc. Consider if they have worked with you to create a really unique menu customized to your needs, offered free or low cost tastings, chatted on the phone with you about menus / updates, and generally were attentive. A lot of guides suggest to tip 10-15% of the total bill which can seem really excessive (e.g. $100 pp x 125 people = $12,500. Plus a potential 10% fee on the top and 8.875% NYS tax = almost $15,000. Then to tip 15% on top of that is almost $2,250.

  • If your caterer / chef is someone you personally hired (i.e. not part of a venue staff), tip $100 - $200.

  • Tip each staff member $20 - $40 depending on how hard they have worked and how your experience with the company was.

  • If you've hired a food truck or drop off catering, a tip really isn't required. They may suggest 10% - 20% on top of the bill, but a small tip for delivery person(s) or serving staff is more accurate.


Bakery If you've worked really closely with your baker to create a custom cake or other desserts, consider adding a small tip for them. Especially if they are delivering the cake and setting it up. For your convenience, tip them, ahead of time or ask your planner to tip upon delivery, as you likely won't see them on the day! If the cake is included in your venue package, or you order a pre-designed cake, this isn't necessary. If you order a cake for a kids party, wedding shower, or other event, this isn't necessary.



EVENT PLANNER


Event Planner / Day Of Coordinator Although we never expect gratuity, as an event planner I would be remiss to not include a tip for your planner / coordinator in this guide. Especially when we are suggesting that you tip everyone from the rental delivery team to the florist. We are often the ones who work the closest with you, and we are at your event longer than anyone else! As planners, we also work hard to describe what we do. Since we don't deliver a product that has an obvious value (food or flowers), and we don't have one obvious task that is necessary for the event to run (bartending or delivering items to your event), it can be hard to justify why we charge what we do! We are the ones behind the scenes making your entire event happen and we take your event from good to Instagram worthy! Consider providing a tip for your planner and their team!

  • Small party (i.e. kids birthday party, small bridal shower): $20 - $100 ($20 if you hired a coordinator to help set up / clean up, $100 if you hired a planner to handle all details).

  • Large party (i.e. adult birthday party, retirement party): $50 - $150 ($50 if you hired a coordinator(s) to help set up / clean up, $150 if you hired a planner(s) to handle all details).

  • Wedding or other complex / long event: $200 - $500 depending on level of service ($200 if you hired a DOC, $500 if you hired a partial or full service planner that charged a reasonable fee and went above and beyond).



DÉCOR


Florist Along with your baker, your florist is someone that you'll work with to plan but won't see on the event day. They often don't get tipped because of this as well as the fact that many clients don't understand how much design and sourcing goes into making the arrangements! And even though they will charge what they need to charge to make the work worth it, if flowers are something you really care about and put thought into, then certainly consider tipping your florist $25 or more!


Event Designer Sometimes you may have a more complex vision that requires you to hire an event designer. (See our post on types of event planners for a complete definition of event designer!) We offer event design along with our planning and coordination services, but some companies offer it as their only service. Your designer will work closely with you to create your visions, and / or provide designs for you to chose from. They are the ones responsible for taking your event to a whole new level (oftentimes one that you may not have even been able to envision) through statement pieces, sourcing or creating décor, and at times handling the florals.

  • Following suit of a florist, they don't normally expect to receive a gratuity as they leave before your event starts, but they are the ones who leave your guests talking about your event for months after. A small gratuity of $25 or more added to the bill OR a thoughtful gift is always appropriate.


Rental Company If your event is in a space where you need to bring items in (i.e. tables, chairs), we'll be sourcing a rental company to hire for your event to bring in all of these items. A rental company is also used if you want specific items that your venue doesn't offer. The company loads all of these items from their warehouse, drives to your venue, unloads your cleaned and pressed items in a quick and organized manner, and comes back after your event to load everything (not so clean and pressed anymore) back in, sort and clean them and put them back in inventory. We work at some venues where they have to unload right before the event and pickup immediately after and let me tell you - THOSE CREW WORK HARD!

  • If you have had a positive experience with a rental company and they went above and beyond to place some items in the area of the room you need, work quickly or at least within your specifies timeline, and leave everything in perfect working order, its a really nice gesture to tip $5 -$20 per person, especially upon pickup. Since you probably won't see them at your event, have your planner or a family or venue representative provide this for you.


ENTERTAINMENT


DJ YES, you should tip your DJ $50 - $100, more or less depending on service. DJ's are often credited with making or breaking the vibe of the event, if yours was a great emcee, played your faves, and dealt with your tipsy guests, they deserve a tip!


Band Absolutely. You should tip each member of the band or ensemble, $25 - $50 per person. Live music costs a lot for good reason - the musicians provide talent, entertainment, and roll with the flow of your event. They sometimes take requests on the spot from your guests and have to keep their energy level up for several hours.


Kids Entertainment We hire a lot of kids bands for entertainment during kids parties. Similar to wedding bands, kids bands have to have a ton of energy and entertain a room full of kids (and parents!). They deal with screaming, crying, yelling, throwing, and tons more. Definitely plan to tip $20 per band member if it fits in the budget.


Kids Party Characters We also work with a lot of kids party characters! From Disney princesses to Superheroes there are a lot of companies that offer character appearances for your kids party. Depending on the package, this may include a meet and greet, balloon twisting, a song / entrance, singing / dancing or games with the group. Tip the characters $20, more if they were excellent.


Face Painter / Balloon Twister / Magician, Etc. All other kinds of entertainment follows suit with tipping - consider tipping at least $20 for each entertainer.



OTHER SERVICES


Photographer / Videographer This is another controversial one since many wedding guides suggest most photographers or videographers own their own business. We tend to think it's really important to provide at least a small tip of $25 - $50 for your photographer and / or videographer. Most vendors show up at your event, provide their service, and then their professional relationship with you ends. Photographers still need to edit the photos and videographers need to create and edit the video! There is so much more work that goes into their post-production, and that deserves gratitude in the form of gratuity!


Hair / Makeup 15% is customary, more if you have a lot of girls / guys and a lot of complex requests, Think $10 - $25 per girl / guy receiving hair and the same for makeup.


Ceremony / Reception Staff Many officiants will not accept a tip, but a donation of $50 - $100 to their church or organization is great. Some ceremony locations require a fee or permit (i.e. Parks), if there are staff for these locations it's not necessary to provide a tip. If you work really closely with your reception location staff, it's nice to provide a small tip for each person who was involved. Some reception venues provide a "coordinator" who is responsible for the logistics of set up, running the event, and clean up. If this person worked especially hard to make sure your vision became a reality, they definitely deserve a tip of $50 or more.


Transportation Some companies will include gratuity in the contract, and most will at least specify a suggested gratuity. Although it feels like it can add up, it's thoughtful to include a 10% - 15% tip onto of the total bill, or at least $50 - $100.


Other Staff Coat check, valet, extra set up crew at your event. Everyone who works hard deserves a few bucks if possible.


Other Deliveries Cupcake drop off, food drop off, ice delivery, balloon delivery - these are ones that really aren't too necessary but would be very appreciated. If you budget allows, a few bucks will likely go a long way for these staff. You'd tip the pizza guy delivering to your home, so you may want to do the same when someone is delivering to your party.



The Bottom Line

If your budget is tight, it's still important to think about all of the people working so hard to make your event happen! Think about the vendors you worked closely with first, and then about the ones you don't see at your event. As long as everyone was on time and delivered what they stated they would, even $10 - $15 per person will show your appreciation of their work. At the very least, make sure to leave them a positive review and spread the word that you recommend their services or product. If you were unhappy with their services or product, I urge you to contact them and the owner of the company directly within a few days of the event before posting a negative review.


Vendors usually hope for a tip to verify your happiness with their services or product, but it should never be expected! It doesn't mean they didn't exceed expectations, nor does it mean you won't hire them again. But if you're planning a large event and putting funds into so many aesthetic details and wonderful luxuries for your guests to enjoy, consider tipping everyone who helped to make it happen!



Photo Credit: Isabelle Selby Photography

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The Luxe Life Event Design is a premier full service event planning company based in NYC and NJ. Specializing in the planning, coordination and design of unique weddings and special events, as well as providing extraordinary experiences for every client.

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