When did tipping get so confusing?!, a bride recently asked me.

I couldn’t blame her.  Knowing which wedding vendors to tip and how much who gets IS confusing.  My good friend Google isn’t super helpful on the issue, offering a wide range of expert opinions that are inconsistent at best. Because this is something I am often asked by clients I thought sharing my opinion on tipping might be helpful for those who are engaged.

A tip and a gratuity – although synonyms – are a bit different.  Check out the definitions:

A tip is giving a monetary “reward” for services rendered.

A gratuity is an inclusion to a bill and non-negotiable.

For example, when your caterer includes a 20% gratuity in the contract, you pay this mandatory fee up-front.  When you choose to tip the wait staff employed by the catering company, you provide tips based on the quality of the services rendered.

I personally  think all tips should be handled in that manner.

Instead of relying on some hard and fast rule when it comes to tipping, how about basing the amount of your tip on the level of service and attention your were given by each vendor? Sure, you might need a standard to base the tip amount around (10-20% of your bill is considered “standard” depending on the vendor), but overall I think that if a tip truly is a reward for services rendered then how much you give should be based on the quality of service provided by the vendor.

Bottom line: If a vendor doesn’t do a good job, they are tipped (or not) accordingly.  If a vendor did a fantastic job, they should be tipped accordingly as well.