Tipping in the wedding industry is a little bit different than tipping in life. Tips are truly not expected but are so appreciated. However, doing the math, if you tip each vendor 10-20%, you're paying another few thousand in tips alone.
There is a rule of thumb some like to follow- if the vendor is their own business, don't tip BUT if the vendor is an employee of a company, then tip. I agree to this, to an extent. That extent is that I believe you should tip those who truly deserve it (went above & beyond, worked extra hours, did more than just their job) - despite being an employee or not. There are plenty of vendors in this industry who are rude, entitled and belittle their couples. Tip those that truly deserve it.
Note: There are some vendors that you should definitely be tipping - like hair & makeup. Or bartenders (depending on the type of bar you're doing).
(A little story: I never knew people tipped photographers until last year. It was my first year as a business owner and I charged cheap, like super cheap, and offered unlimited hours with TWO photographers and an engagement session (unreal). I was tipped several times and each time literally brought me to tears because I was SO thankful. I wasn't charging my worth and was essentially paying to attend these weddings, so receiving a tip here and there made me feel so good. I think my couples understood that too. But, I never once looked at a couple differently that chose not to tip).
So, here are some ways to show gratitude that doesn't require spending MORE money!
1. Writing a Review.
Having a client take the time to write about their experience and give a review of my business means the absolute world to me. For one, I'm a giant sap and I print out whenever somebody says something nice to me. For two, future clients always request reviews. I can talk about my business as much as I want but they want to read it from a former client's perspective.
(Note: If you want to really help - copy & paste your review to all of their review options. I personally have Google reviews set up and a Facebook business page that allows reviews. Other photographers use The Knot, Wedding Wire, etc. to collect reviews. We cannot manually add your review ourselves.)
2. A Thank - You Card / Coffee Gift Card
I receive these a lot in the mail! Again, the hoarder in me loves to collect little things to hang on the wall above my desk. Having a client take the time to write out a thank-you card means a lot and recieving mail is just really exciting. I constantly look up while editing and see the little cards people have written for me. The gift card is totally optional but it is a small "tip" that doesn't cost hundreds of dollars. I am at coffee shops for 30+ hours a week so that's really the fastest way to my heart.
3. Interacting On Social Media
This sounds stupid, because it is, but you have no idea how much it helps when you "like", "share", or "comment" on something we post. If your vendor owns their own business - simply interacting with their social media accounts (especially Instagram) really helps boost engagement, which tells the algorithm that we are important, which helps more people notice us. Sometimes brides will post their photos in a status and tag all of the vendors - which is super helpful. Sometimes brides will post in their personal Facebook groups - giving reviews about all of their vendors - which is also very helpful. Even simply crediting your photographer when posting their photos goes a long way!
4. Just Saying Thank - You.
There's a joke in the photography world about how much you communicate with your couples up until the wedding, but then when they receive their gallery, you never hear from them again. I truly don't think this is with ill-intent, I just think that they get so excited to look at their photos that they forgot they never replied. Having a couple even just stop us at the end of the night to say a simple, "thank you" or getting a message saying thank you after we deliver means more than you would ever think. Being a business owner means doing a lot of demands with little gratitude. Which I don't expect people to fawn all over me but after spending so much time with you- I am genuienly SO EXCITED to hear your response. I wish I could see your reaction as you view your photos for the first time.
What if I want to tip cash?
Do it! Seriously, nobody doesn't ever NOT want a tip. Like I mentioned earlier, there are going to be vendors who you really think went above & beyond. There are going to be vendors that become your friends because the chemistry is so strong. There are going to be vendors that literally save your wedding day... feel free to tip them. Tips are truly never expected but so, extremely appreciated. Weddings are long, tough and draining and there are a lot of behind the scenes things that vendors do, that you will never know about, just to prepare for your day. Tips are so nice.
Also, don't feel like you need to tip 10-20% for tips. Almost every couple that has ever tipped us- gave me and my second shooter $100 each. We've had a few couples give us close to $500, which, was unreal. But for the most part - we normally get tips of $50 or $100 each. 20% of my package is about $600... I could never accept that as a tip. No way.
I hope this helps! I know this is a stressful & awkward topic!