Elopement Tipping Guide for 2023
How much do I tip my elopement wedding vendors?
That’s a question we get all the time. If you’re working with an experienced elopement wedding planner or coordinator, they should be advising you on this. But if you’re going it alone, it’s hard to know who to tip and how much. And it’s awkward (and the answer probably not very reliable) to flat out ask your elopement photographer, “Hey! Am I supposed to tip you, and, if so, how much?”
Tipping in the US has gotten a bit out of hand
It used to be that tipping was pretty much a no-brainer. It’s always been customary to tip your full service waitstaff, your hairstylist or barber, and the pizza delivery guy (or gal). In the past, that was pretty much it. But it seems like everyone expects a tip nowadays–from the fast food server who hands over your fries to your dog walker to the guy who shows up to repair your washing machine. Anyone else beside me get annoyed by being presented with a charge screen that aks “do you want to include a tip?” before you’re allowed to approve the charge? I was in a butcher shop lately where I paid a king’s ransom for some rib eye steaks, only to be asked if I wanted to tip the guy who’d wrapped my steaks for me! (I politely declined.)
Tipping gets even more confusing when it comes to weddings. And doubly so regarding tipping for an elopement.
The purpose of tipping is twofold. There are some industries (such as waiting tables in full-service restaurants) where staff receive a bare bones hourly rate because it’s assumed they will make up the difference in tips. Other than that, tipping is meant to be an incentive for the one (hopefully!) receiving the tip to provide the absolute best service.
Having said that, most reputable elopement wedding vendors do their best to give couples an absolutely superlative wedding day experience without thought to gratuity–simply because they love what they do and their only motivation is to make their clients happy.
Here’s your ultimate tipping guide for elopement wedding vendors
Note: tipping amounts and customs vary by country, so I can only speak to what is customary in the United States. Also note that extenuating circumstances should dictate whether or not you tip and how much. For example, if services are delayed for any reason that isn’t the fault of the vendor, you should tip. If your ceremony is delayed for 30 minutes due to rain and you’re not otherwise paying a late start fee, then you should tip proportionately. If your hair and makeup styling runs later and knocks the entire day’s schedule off kilter, you should tip affected vendors accordingly (unless you are charged a late start fee, in which case, tipping above that is optional). You should also lodge a complaint with your hair stylist (unless the delay was your fault), but that’s another story.
Vendors you should always tip (unless their service is a disaster)
- Your hair and makeup stylist, manicurist or massage therapist. Unless you just crawled out from under a rock, you know you would always tip these providers if you used their services at any time. Your wedding is no different. Fifteen to 20 percent is the going rate. If you’ve purchased an all-inclusive elopement package and your cost for these services wasn’t broken out for you, expect to pay at least $50 ($70 – $90 is probably a better estimate) to a stylist if they provide both hair and makeup services. Divide that in half if you have two separate providers for hair and makeup. And if you have additional ladies for hair and makeup, you or they should also be tipping 15-20% for their services as well. Customary tip for bridesmaid or mother of the bride/groom hair and makeup would be $35 to $50 per woman. It’s pretty typical for your guests that get hair and makeup services to pay for their own (unless you decide to spring for it as your gift, but that shouldn’t be expected), so make sure you alert them ahead of time that a cash tip on the day of the wedding is customary.
- Anyone who delivers anything to your door. The guy who drops off your flowers. The gal that delivers your cake. A $5 tip is customary for all delivery drivers.
- Anyone who sets up anything. Be it chairs, an arch, or on-site cake decorating. Depending on the complexity of the setup and/or tear-down, you should tip $10 to $50 per person.
- Your wedding officiant. Some people would say this one is arbitrary. It goes back to the days when nearly 100% of wedding ceremonies were performed by clergy members who may have not even charged for their services if you were a member of their church. Many couples today are married by a professional wedding officiant for whom the work is a business. Use your judgement on this. If you’ve paid $1,000+ for a professional wedding officiant to customize and deliver a ceremony for you, then they’re probably not expecting a tip. But for elopements, the officiant is usually the lowest paid vendor on the list. And it’s not just about “showing up and reading a 10-minute ceremony.” A professional wedding officiant will speak eloquently, and loudly enough for your guests in the back to hear. They will put you at ease, welcome you and your guests to the event, work seamlessly with your photographer and–most important–at the end of the day, they’re the one that ensures you’re legally married. It is customary to tip them $30 – $75.
- Your driver. If you’ve hired a private car service to chauffeur you around on your wedding day, then you should tip the driver 15 to 20% of the total bill. Note that some car services add in the cost of a gratuity to your bill, so check with them to see if the tip has been included beforehand.
- Your musicians. If you’ve hired a violinist to play for your ceremony, a bagpiper to herald your arrival or a classical guitarist to provide background music at dinner, they should be tipped. Again, check your contract to make sure a gratuity was not automatically included. A tip of $25 to $50 per person is typical.
- Shuttle driver or anyone that schleps your luggage for you. At the airport, car rental agency or hotel, it is courteous and expected that they be given $1 to $2 per bag.
- Catering staff. If you hire a personal chef or caterer–be it for an intimate dinner for two or a larger soiree, you should tip them 20% of the total bill.
Elopement wedding vendors for whom tipping is arbitrary
Generally speaking, the more you pay for a service, the less the expected tip. On the other hand, if a service provider goes above and beyond, it’s nice to show your appreciation with a monetary gift.
- Your elopement photographer/videographer. The photographer or videographer is one of those vendors for whom a tip is not expected, but always appreciated. If a photographer goes above and beyond for you, then a tip is appropriate. Perhaps they go slightly over your booked shooting time with no additional fee. Or they offer to go to a secondary location on the spur of the moment. Or they were just so much fun to work with that you–who are usually as stiff as a board in front of the camera–simply had a great time and your photos reflect that. There’s an art to putting people at ease.
- Your florist. Generally speaking, for an elopement, you rarely see your florist in person, unless they are the ones who deliver your order. Subsequently, they tend to not get tips unless you go out of your way to make it happen. If so, a $25-$40 tip for a bouquet and boutonniere is typical. The exception to this would be if you order some ceremony or dinner party decor and the florist actually shows up to decorate the site for you. Since that is a service-based task, you would tip 15-20% of the flower bill.
- Your elopement wedding coordinator. This one usually depends on circumstances. Owners of multi-faceted wedding planning companies do not expect a tip. For us, reviews are much more valuable than monetary thanks. So if you’re happy with the service you’ve received from Blue Sky Elopements or any wedding planning company, be sure to ask them where the best place is to leave them a review (for us, it’s Google). However, a coordinator who works for a company such as Blue Sky Elopements could be tipped if you think they’ve gone the extra mile.
Other things to know about tipping elopement vendors
Before you tip anyone, be sure to read through your contracts to see if a gratuity has been automatically charged. We don’t do that at Blue Sky Elopements as we feel tipping is a personal choice, but many other companies operate differently.
Have a small stash of 5’s and 1’s handy on your wedding day. You never know who you might want to thank with a small gratuity: the front desk clerk that brings your flowers up to your hotel room, the street performer who entertains you as you walk to your venue, or the hotel worker who rushes forward to cover you with an umbrella as you sprint to your car. These are all folks to whom you might want to slip a few dollars.
It’s generally not expected that couples will tip business owners. The assumption is that business professionals charge an amount for their products and services to compensate them adequately for their professionalism and experience. However, if a business blows you away with the service they provide, a tip would be appropriate (and highly appreciated).
A word about non-monetary gratuities–avoid doing that. Unless it’s something like a Visa gift card that can be spent anywhere, it’s a landmine. You don’t want to give chocolates to someone with diabetes or alcohol to someone who doesn’t drink. Store-specific gift cards can also be challenging. A lot of folks think Amazon and Walmart are the devil incarnate when it comes to retail and your card will probably get tossed. Restaurant gift cards are also not always a good idea. Not everyone enjoys dining out, especially since Covid. And dietary preferences and restrictions are all over the place these days, so food gifts might not be as appreciated as you hope.
Also, inviting your vendors to your post-ceremony dinner should never be an excuse to skip the tip. Unless the vendor is a personal friend, attending the dinner is usually perceived more as an elongation of their workday, not a reward. In addition, since elopement wedding dinners are usually small and intimate, it would be awkward to have your officiant sitting there among a handful of your friends and family.
Also–and I’m sure I’m going to offend some folks with this, but it has to be said. It’s not appropriate to “tip” your vendors solely with some memorabilia from your wedding. Unless it’s accompanied by cash. I once received a personalized shot glass from a couple that held a $50 bill. I thought it was an adorable way to present me with my gratuity. But just the shot glass alone? Ummmm…. no. Just no.
How to tip your elopement vendors
As far as tipping your pre-booked wedding vendors, the easiest way to tip is to put cash in an envelope and give it to them close to, or at the end of, their services.
If you forget to tip on the wedding day (there is a lot going on that day and you’ll undoubtedly be preoccupied), it’s not too late. After you arrive back home, you can either reach out to your individual vendors and ask how you can get a tip to them, or, if you booked a package, contact the package provider and they will guide you on how to tip any vendors you choose.
Avoiding elopement tipping sticker shock
Many couples elope as a financial alternative to paying the $35,000 and up that is typical for a big wedding. And while it’s true that most elopements cost a fraction of traditional weddings, expenses can still add up and you might not anticipate that tipping vendors will cost as much as it ultimately does. It helps to allocate a line item in your budget for vendor gratuities. If you plan for them right from the start, their bite won’t feel so sharp when it comes time to thank your vendors for a job well done.