You’ve heard us say it before – those last few weeks of wedding planning are the most detail intensive of the entire planning process. Tensions are stressing, budget is straining, and then Wham! You realize all of a sudden you haven’t allotted any gratuities for your wedding vendors or budgeted for any vendor meals. We’ve seen these questions time and again in our local planning groups: “Should we be providing meals for wedding vendors?”, “Do you tip vendors?”, “How do we ensure a smooth, working relationship with our vendors on wedding day?”. So today we’re giving you the behind the scenes scoop on all things wedding vendor etiquette so you can have good vendor relationships!
BUILDING THE BEST FOUNDATION
To kick off good vendor relationships, start with your best foot forward! When working with vendors we always recommend:
- Share Your Budget (and be honest!). Vendors truly want what’s best for you and your event, and they want to be able to meet and then go above your expectations. Sharing a budget range, and if there’s flexibility, allows the vendor an opportunity to best meet you where you’re at. Don’t feel comfortable sharing a number? Ask the vendor what their starting pricing is, or what the average couple invests so you have a better understanding of what to prepare for.
- Give Them the Details. You might not have them all yet, and that’s okay, but sharing what you do know – ideal date, location, anticipated guest count, ideal wants and overall feel – will help your vendors curate an event that best fits your needs. Struggling to figure out what those details even are? We highly recommend bringing a wedding planner onto your team.
- Tell them the “Why”. What stood out to you and what makes you want to work with them over another vendor? On the flip side, if you’ve selected another vendor, be honest and let them know. Allowing for open and honest communication helps support these vendors into always being their best selves for you and for future couples.
- Ask for Next Steps. What does the timeline of working with them look like? When will you hear from them, when should they hear from you, and what information will you need to provide when it’s time. Open lines of communication are the framework to creating an amazing wedding day!
The quickest way to creating good vendor relationships is through the stomach! Providing meals for your vendors is always appreciated but (generally) never expected. We recommended including key wedding vendors in the final meal count. These vendors can include photographer(s), videographer(s), wedding planner(s), DJ, band members, bartenders, and any vendor working 8+ hours through the dinner portion of your wedding day. While you’ll not often be “required” to provide a meal for these vendors, they are required to take a dinner break during their working shift. Providing a hot meal on site ensures that vendors won’t have to leave the venue, and then quite possibly miss some of the major moments in your wedding day timeline.
You won’t have to serve them the steak and lobster entree (unless you’d graciously like to offer that!). A filling, hot meal is often a much appreciated selection. Be sure to check with your catering team on this – caterers often have a simplified vendor meal option offered at a reduced rate to your wedding meal. Make sure to have your wedding planner collect all of the vendor’s allergen and dietary considerations to provide to the catering team with final meal count numbers. Another kind gesture is offering and including them in the non-alcoholic drinks package. While your vendors are professionals and won’t be taking shots at the bar, a nice caffeine boost throughout the evening keeps them sharp and ever-attentive to your needs.
Our best rule of thumb is that when you and your babe are eating, your wedding vendors should be eating. Vendors who bring multiple team members to the event will often cycle through break times to ensure someone is always present should an emergency arise. Let your caterer know that your key vendors should be fed directly following you to allow for smooth transitions into key moments following dinner like sunset photos, toasts, first dance, etc. Additional vendors (support staff, bartenders, catering team) can be fed following dinner service once the dance floor opens.
Each and every wedding vendor will agree that any gift you choose to offer is thoughtful and very much appreciated. But the best tip ever? A referral to everyone you know and a review online will go just as far in their hearts as anything else. If you decide you’d like to go above and beyond for your wedding vendors, we’ve pulled together these tipping guidelines.
- Hair and Make-Up Artists
- How Much?: 18-25%
- When: After services are complete, but before their departure.
- How Much?: 15-20%
- When: Often included in the contract and on the final bill, typically due prior to event.
- How Much?: Tip jar and/or $125-$150 each
- When: If your bartenders are contracted through the venue, gratuity is most likely included on the invoice and paid prior to event. If not offered through your venue, pay each bartender the evening of the wedding.
- Photographer and Videographer
- How Much?: Personalized Gift and/or $150+
- When: At the end of the reception or after you return from your honeymoon. If they provided a second shooter, it’s considerate to offer them a small token of appreciation.
- Wedding Planner
- How Much?: Personalized Gift and/or $150+
- When: At the end of the reception or after you return from your honeymoon. If they provided any wedding assistants, it’s considerate to offer them a small token of appreciation as well.
- How Much?: 15-20%
- When?: Gratuity is often included in the contract and final bill. If not, deliver the tip prior to their departure.
- How Much?: Ceremony musicians – 15% or $25-$50 per musician. Band – $25-$50 per musician. DJ – 15% or flat $150 – $300
- When: Ceremony musicians – After the ceremony, prior to their departure. Band/DJ – After the close of the reception.
Next on the list of good vendor relationships is giving your vendors a break. We recommend first checking the vendor’s contract to determine if they’ve already outlined break times and scheduling. For example, hiring a band for your wedding could come with a rider that requires the band to take two mandatory breaks of 15 minutes, in a private room.
Taking breaks isn’t just for vendors, though! Work in buffer time to the wedding day timeline for both you and your vendors. Wedding days are long days, and you deserve a chance to kick back and take the moment in!
Separately from your break area, it’s a great idea to dedicate a private space for the vendors for their meals and to allow for breaks. The benefit of this private space means they aren’t directly visible to your guests and will have the chance to relax and come back refreshed and present for you. If there’s not a private space available, consider adding another table to your seating chart specifically for vendors.
WEDDING DAY POLICIES
This is definitely one conversation we’d recommend having when interviewing vendors, leaving no room for surprises on the wedding day. While we have full confidence in the professionalism of the Kansas City wedding community, it’s also completely fair to ask that any vendors you hire match the formality of the event. Highlight any specific dress codes requirements, and confirm in writing that they are able to meet those before hiring your selected wedding pro. Phone and social media policies should also be included as part of the dress code. We love a good TikTok trend, and it’s so fun to see the creativity of wedding vendors on social media, but if having your wedding on TikTok isn’t your jam, that’s okay! Be sure to outline any cell phone and social media policies for your wedding prior to booking, that way everyone is in agreement and rolls into the wedding day on the same page.
You’ve probably guessed it by now, but the key to good vendor relationships is communication. Establishing clear and open lines of communication will ensure a happy wedding weekend experience for all!
Enjoy Good Vendor Relationships? Ready to start finding vendors for your wedding? Check out our collection of Kansas City Wedding Vendors.