You’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on your wedding, and you’re now in the final stretch. You’re crossing things off your to-do list, executing last-minute decisions and making final payments. Just when you think you’re in the clear financially, up pops the topic of wedding gratuities and tips.
While tips for your wedding vendors are never required—unless specifically included in your contract—they are ALWAYS appreciated. In most instances, these professionals have spent hours the day of your event and countless more in the weeks and months leading up to your wedding to get your vision just right. They’ve been with you every step of the way, and in most cases, you’ll be thrilled to thank them for a job well-done.
But there’s much confusion about who gets what and how much. Every contract includes different specifics. “Service charges” don’t always include gratuities. And friends and family will have different opinions on what you should—or should not—give. So hopefully this guide will help clarify what’s customary in New Jersey so that you can better understand who and what amount to tip.
Misconceptions About NJ Wedding Tips
First, let’s clarify a few misconceptions that you—or your parents—may have.
- Forget the old rule about not tipping owners of a business. If they’ve done a good job and fall within one of the suggested categories below, you should tip regardless of whether they own their business or not. It’s not always about the money—it’s the praise and recognition that comes with even a modest tip. But the old practice of NOT tipping a business owner is outdated. If you’re tipping the vendor’s assistants, you should also include a tip for the head vendor/owner.
- Can you give a gift instead of cash? Sure—you can give anything you’d like! But remember, cash is king and is the most appreciated.
- An additional thank-you that doesn’t cost you a dime? Wedding reviews. Since these real-life recommendations can make or break the success of a company, a positive review will be appreciated more than you know.
- You do NOT need to give 20% across the board. See below for specific recommendations and guidance on this.
- You do NOT need to tip every wedding vendor. See below for details.
How to Distribute
Sit down the week before your wedding and mark envelopes for each vendor you want to tip. Enclose the amount, seal the envelope and put the vendor’s name on the front. You can even include a card personally thanking them for everything they’ve done.
One envelope for each vendor category will suffice—there’s no need to create multiple envelopes for every member of the vendor’s team. For example, the band leader, head photographer and maitre d’ etc., will accept and distribute to their team. You can even mark on the envelope how much you’d like each person to receive if you’d like, such as $200 for lead photographer and $75 for assistant. But you don’t need to create a separate envelops for every person working at your wedding.
Who Should Distribute
Delegate the responsibility of distributing these gratuities to your fiancé, a parent or very close family member. Unfortunately, I’ve heard about instances when the full amount that the couple “gave” was not in the envelope by the time the vendor received his or her tip. I would only trust these large amounts of cash with those closest to you. There’s just too much room for misappropriation when cash is involved.
When to Distribute
There are a couple of different ways you can distribute. Many people wait until the end of the night to hand out. Others may give a partial tip at the beginning and tell the vendor that if all goes well, there will be more coming at the end of the night. And then there are couples who distribute the week after the event has taken place once they have had a chance to assess everything. The most common practice is to distribute at the end of the night, but since this is voluntary and not required, you can truly handle this how you’d like.
NJ Wedding Tip Recommendations
So here are recommended tipping guidelines. Remember, this is a GUIDE. You can take these suggestions and do as you please with them. Ultimately you get to make the final decision as to who gets what. But here are some common guidelines regarding New Jersey wedding tips:
Venue (Maître d’, Servers, Bartenders, etc.)
First consult your contract to see if a specific percentage is required. At some venues, the “service charge” includes gratuities, while at other venues this is an administrative fee and gratuities are an additional expense. Be sure to find out exactly what is required well in advance of your event since this number can add up.
If you’re unsure, ask your venue and they will let you know what’s customary. You don’t want to pay too little or double what’s suggested—or not at all. Every venue is different. Suggested gratuities could be any variation of the following: 15% to 20% of your food and beverage costs, $5 to $10 per person (so if you have a guest count of 100, you’d give $500 to $1,000) or a specific range such as $1,500 to $3,000.
You can tip your venue’s onsite coordinator between $100 and $200, along with $25 to $50 for any assistants who may have worked on your wedding.
Bartenders (if not included in venue contract)
These services are typically included in your venue’s bill, but if you’ve hired bartenders separately, a few dollars per guest is standard. So for a party of 150, $300 to $450 is customary.
Hair and Makeup
Twenty percent is standard and is typically included in your contract. If you’ve arranged for hair and makeup services for your bridal party as well, let your maids know in advance if they need to pay gratuities so that they’re prepared the day of. And yes, you also need to top for hair and makeup trials.
Your photographer is the one person who is with you ALL day long, sometimes lying in puddles and climbing trees just to get that great shot. Head photographers/videographers often receive $200 and up, while second shooters can receive anywhere from $50 to $150 each. For engagement sessions that are included in your wedding package, I always recommend to tip $100 for the engagement session.
Band or Deejay
The success of your party is often in the hands of your deejay or band. For bands, $50 to $100 per band member is standard; so for a 10-piece band, you’d give $500 to $1000. For a deejay, tips $200 and up are standard, with $50 for assistants. If they agreed to keep the party going longer than they were contracted for—and didn’t charge you—you should tip even more.
For a full-service event planner who organizes every detail, oversees contracts and does all the worrying so you don’t have to, a 10% to 20% tip is fairly standard. Or you can give between $300 and $1,000 depending on the range of services they’ve provided. Assistants receive $50 to $100.
You don’t need to tip your floral designer on top of your total bill, but a $20 delivery tip is recommended. If your florals require significant setup/teardown or if your florist is remaining onsite, moving flowers from ceremony to reception, $50 to $100 per person is appropriate.
Not all clergy members are allowed to accept gratuities. If allowed, $100 is a good amount. If not, a donation to your house of worship can be made instead. Gift cards to a local restaurant or a bottle of wine or liquor are also appreciated. If your officiant is being paid for his or her services, $100 is appropriate. If the officiant is a friend or family member doing it for free, you can still give a gift as thanks. Civil officiants at city hall are not allowed to receive gratuities by law.
Gratuities are typically included in transportation contracts. If not, you can tip your drivers at the end of the night, typically 15% to 20% of the pre-tax bill.
Valet and Coat Check Attendant
If not included in your venue’s contract, $1 per coat and $1 per car is standard. It’s typically frowned upon to leave a tip jar out at an event you’re hosting. Your guests may tip as well, but you shouldn’t rely on that being the only gratuity.
You can tip the cake delivery person $20 the day of your wedding; it’s not expected to tip on top of the cost of the cake itself.
$20 per delivery person is standard.
Cigar Roller, Event Painter, Photobooth & Other Reception Entertainment
If these vendors have done an outstanding job, you can tip them $50 to $100 each.
Wedding Gown and Alterations
It’s not necessary to tip the stylist at your wedding salon or the seamstress who alters your gown. But if someone has done an outstanding job and you want to recognize their hard work, a tip would always be appreciated.
Stationer and Calligrapher
A gratuity is not expected, but if they went above and beyond, you can tip them as well.