Ok, so you're engaged. Now what? Well, pinterest is often every newly engaged couple's first start. Lets go surfing for ideas! What are our colors? Vintage? Modern? Cowboy themed? What are we doing? Slow down. Those are not the most important pieces. Lets start with budget. Do you have enough in your wedding budget to hire a planner? Can you afford to fly to Maui and bring all your family and friends? Logistics are a really good place to start. Here is a good idea of what couples are spending on weddings. Once you have one vendor you love, ask them for their recommendations! They know other people in their field that can help!
If you can hire a planner, start there. By there, I mean REVIEWS. Don't focus too much on one review... read a BUNCH of them to get a really good snapshot of the vendor! Every vendor should have a list of reviews, that all sound different, like their many clients wrote them... and use those as a barometer of whether or not they're what you're looking for. Start with planners, and move on from there. Ask your planner, who should know your personality well by the end of your get-to-know meeting... for all of their recommendations. They have a list of a million vendors that they work with, and they'll tailor them to you. Our wedding planning options...
Planners vary widely in pricing, and your budget, once again comes into play. A planner often saves you a good chunk of what you spend on them, as long as you listen to what they tell you. They keep you from making mistakes. They range from 10-20% of your wedding budget, on average. An option for someone with less funding is to have a day-of-coordinator, or wedding coordinator. That person helps you through the final 4-6 weeks before the wedding, calming things down, smoothing things out. See this link for more info on what a coordinator does...
You choose a planner based on a mix of their reputation and how well you get along. If your fiancee hates the planner you meet with, don't hire them. You're just asking for trouble, for both you and the planner! Nobody wants to spend a year working with someone if there is tension. You don't have to be besties, but you DO have to get along. Have a similar lifestyle. Are you an A type? find an A type planner. Your life will be easier.
See the "read more" below on photographers, caterers, florists, and wedding venues!
Caterer and Catering Staff
The Catering bill is a hefty one, typically. People ask me all the time, "do I have to tip 20% of the WHOLE THING?!" No, is the answer. With catering, first figure out if they INCLUDED the gratuity in there already. Some caterers do. If they did, you can boost that tip if you like, by handing cash to the catering captain the night of. If they didn't, think about what that staff is doing for you. They move tables and chairs, setup and breakdown, take care of your unruly uncle Joe, and make sure your dinner goes smoothly. I usually recommend some tip for the staff, usually broken down into separate envelopes for each staff member. $20 or $30 per person is an OK tip, and more is of course better. I usually recommend tipping your catering captain a bit more, as they are the person managing the rest of the staff. Cater-waiters typically make $10-15 an hour, as a rule. That's a decent hourly wage, so it's not like a restaurant server making $3 an hour. That $30 is a nice bonus for them at the end of the day. If your food is more high end, tip more. The more high-end your event is, the more skill it takes to handle serving the guests. Did the fancy staff do synchronized service, so all your entrees hit a table at once? Plated dinners require more service, and more skill than buffets. Keep all of those things in mind when tipping. HERE is what Martha Stewart says about tipping...
So there are several types of wedding planners: those who do just your last minute details, month of coordination, and day of service, and those who do it all from start to finish. I would recommend starting with that day-of coordinator and working up from there. Just like when you think about tipping in your regular life, think about how much work that person has done for you over the life of the service. With a restaurant server, it's an hour or two. With your wedding planner, it could be a hundred hours or more! Consider that when you tip. A very nice tip for your planner is related to your overall budget. Tip them based on how much work it was to put together your event.
The bigger budget events are more work than the smaller budget events (typically!), so it is scalable. An average wedding in Denver with a wedding planner is spending about $40,000 on the wedding, and around $5,000 on the full-service wedding planner. $500 as a tip is a nice tip for that planner. That person has spent between 50 and 100 hours on your day. They have likely spent hours in the car, miles driving around the city collecting stuff and meeting with people. They have worked their butts off for you. They deserve it. This person is the most involved person in your day. Another option for a wedding planner is a nice gift. I have often seen people get a nice basket for the ir planner, say a nice hotel room, a restaurant gift certificate, wine and cheese, and tickets to a show. Something valued at what a tip would have been, but personalized to your planner. You typically get to know your planner pretty well over the course of the event, and can often build a more personalized gift for them with a little thought.
Wedding Coordinator, or Day of Coordinator
Here is an article on day-of coordination and what a coordinator actually does. Your day of coordinator typically makes $1000-1500. They, of course, work for many hours outside of your day. They build timelines, manage rehearsals and walk throughs, handle your vendor coordination to make sure everyone knows where to be wherever they are supposed to be, etc. Keeping with that 10% model from above, they would receive $100-150. That is a very reasonable tip for that coordinator. If they went above and beyond for service, and your day wouldn't have been possible without them? Maybe consider that when you tip.
Photographers and Videographers
Photographers and Videographers are two vendors whose actual work you wont see for weeks if not months after the events. You see them busting their butts that day to get that perfect shot from the top of the hill, and of course you see them herding your family into group shots. You don't see the hours and hours of slaving over their computers, the THOUSANDS they spend on equipment and digital sites to house your media. My recommendation, when I do wedding planning, is to tip them for the work they do the day of, and their on-site service that day. Then, if you're particularly happy with the result, and if you hired the right pro, you should be, tip them after. I usually recommend for a photographer you spent $3500 on, tip $100-200 on the day of, and do that again at product receipt. That can vary, of course, if you spend more, tip more. Think of this in hours worked, as well. Many photographers spend 10 hours on the day of, and another 10-20 hours editing, uploading, creating albums, etc. They too, are in the service industry.
The Knot says this about tipping...
How do I distribute tips at my wedding? When do I tip my photographer? Guide to tipping at weddings...
Here is the layout of how to distribute the tips at the right time. First, you're going to want to have envelopes with everyone's names on them, and their job - "Joe Smith - DJ". That way whoever is distributing them knows just where they go.
Here are separate tipping guides for each vendor, in more detail.
HERE is a post to tell you how to tip on the day of.. cash? Check? Envelopes? How do you give it to them? What's customary, What's expected?
So I've had many of my wedding clients ask this question, and I realized that a bit of an article may help lots more of you wedding clients struggling with this question. I'll start with a regular life example, so you can get an idea of how I feel about tipping in my life outside of weddings. To read about tipping at weddings, read THIS article!
The moral of the story here? Tip the people who take care of you. They deserve it. I think we can all pretty well agree on the above standards, as they are pretty much... standard in the US.
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About the Author...
Lilli Black is the owner of Bella Calla, a full-service high-end florist in Denver Colorado. She has been in the design industry for 15 years, and was raised around plants, flowers, and art. Bella Calla has allowed her love of all things growing, and her love of all things lovely to come together. 303.995.2867