Guidelines for Tipping for Your Caribbean Destination Wedding

Hola Chiquitas and Hombres! It was another fantastic day on Vieques. In the low 80s and breezy… are you jealous? A few minutes ago I had to jump up from my desk and go out on the front porch with my husband to have a giggle. There are two horses munching grass in our driveway. We forgot to shut the gate after we brought in all the groceries, so we’re getting the lawn mowed for free. The bad part is that they’re probably pooping in our yard too. Talk about needing a giant pooper-scooper. The horses are the only reason we have a big fence all the way around our property. They make a real mess if you let them hang out on your lawn. They didn’t budge when they saw us looking at them. Apparently, they feel quite comfortable in our yard. I wonder how they’ll feel when our dog arrives next month!

I promised to write about wedding tipping in this blog, so here we go. Back to business.

Tipping is important when you have a great wedding experience. In some cases gratuities (sometimes called “service fees” or “service charges”) are built into your contract. Other tips are at your discretion. Some vendors don’t ever require a tip, but if they do something over and above the call of duty for you, a tip is a nice way to show your appreciation. But you shouldn’t feel like it’s an obligation. With a destination wedding, tipping might be a little different than at home, so use this list as a guide. Note: If I say “don’t tip,” that means don’t tip unless there was something special above the agreed-upon contract that you want to acknowledge.

  • You do not need to tip your florist unless he/she does something spectacular or really out-of-the-floral-realm for you. If he tracks down the filling for your goody bags, or she blows your mind with something you weren’t expecting, by all means, feel free to tip the florist. But it isn’t something you need to build into your budget.
  • You don’t need to tip your caterer, but you will need to tip the servers and bartenders. If you don’t have a wedding planner to guide you, ask the caterer what’s appropriate per person.
  • Don’t tip the photographer. If you adored her, order more prints!
  • Don’t tip the wedding cake baker.
  • Don’t tip a band, unless they stay extra time and don’t bill you for it.
  • Tip a DJ if he’s really, really good. $50 is more than enough.
  • If you’re staying in a small hotel and you’ve taken over the whole place for your wedding, be sure to tip the hotel manager/concierge who has helped you with everything. You should also tip the breakfast or housekeeping staff, but you don’t need to do it individually. Give a tip to the person in charge of that staff and ask them to split it with the people who worked during your wedding.
  • If you’re staying at a villa or private property with a house manager or caretaker, tip if you’re having the reception on the property and the person is being very helpful. Remember, the property owners made money on you. The caretaker or property manager is on salary and had to put up with you because it’s part of his job. If they do a great job, acknowledge it. If you have daily maid service, it’s appropriate to leave a tip of $2-$5 per day in your room. If you have a 5-bedroom house, you should tip $10 per day at the end of your stay if they did a good job.
  • Do not tip your wedding officiant.
  • Do not tip your rental equipment delivery guys — you paid a delivery fee already.
  • Finally, do tip your wedding planner. As self-serving as this may sound, I get asked this question a lot so I’m going to tackle it openly and honestly.

If you have a good wedding planner who is charging you a reasonable fee and isn’t marking up your services, you should tip her at the end of your wedding if you are happy with her services. When deciding how much to tip, think about how much her total fee was, and think about how much money she saved you (there will be items that stick out when you think about it), and how challenging you may have been as a client. If you know you drove her nuts or were very demanding (and she was nice about it), compensate her for the extra time and effort she had to put in to your big day. Tip between 15 and 20 percent of her wedding fee. To some extend it’s like a restaurant, if you were satisfied, go 15 percent. If you were thrilled and she did a great job for you, go 20 percent or more. If you felt like she dropped the ball, give her 10 percent, or don’t tip her at all. A tip is supposed to be a gratuity for a job well done, whether it’s a waitress, a hairdresser or a wedding planner.

The exception to the rule is the wedding planner who asks for a tip. That is just so gauche. Sometimes I’ll make a joke about it to my clients when they’re really super impressed with something I’ve done. When they’re telling me how great I am or how much money I’ve saved them, I’ll make some joke like “remember that when it’s time to tip me,” or something like that. But I’ve never ever told a bride up front that a tip was required, or asked a bride for a gratuity after the wedding. Some brides are just thoughtful. I’ve received lovely thank-you gifts and even sweeter notes — and those can be very rewarding as well.

If you don’t use a wedding planner and a banquet manager or someone else from the hotel steps into that role for your wedding, be prepared to tip her at the end of the event as long as everything has gone smoothly. She is your de facto wedding planner and you should thank her for executing that role well. It doesn’t need to be as much as you would tip a wedding planner, but a token to let her know her work was appreciated is more than appropriate.

So when your wedding planner gives you the list of tips you’ll need for your wedding a few weeks before the big day, take a moment to think about whether you’ll want to have some extra on hand to tip your planner too, assuming she delivers all that she promised on your wedding day. If in the end she doesn’t deserve it, spend it on a spa day on your honeymoon.

Until next time… Happy Wedding Planning. I need to go shoo horses out of my driveway now.


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