Do You Tip a Wedding Caterer?

Everything you need to know about if, when, and how much to tip your wedding caterer.

By Deanna deBara

food platters
Photo by Yasmin Khajavi Photography

Your wedding vendors play a huge role in creating the perfect wedding day. Your wedding venue acts as the perfect backdrop for your “I dos,” your wedding photographer captures all of your most important moments, and your wedding DJ keeps people dancing all night long.

And one of the most important vendors is, of course, the one that ensures the food and drink flow freely from cocktail hour through your reception—and that’s your wedding caterer.

Your wedding caterer has a huge job—depending on who you hire, your caterer may be in charge of everything from crafting your menu and renting your place settings to tending bar and serving food throughout your wedding reception.

And because they have a huge job, you want to make sure they’re compensated appropriately. But the question is, does that compensation include a tip? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about tipping your wedding caterer:

You Tip a Wedding Caterer?

Let’s tackle the most pressing question first: Do you need to tip your wedding caterer? The short answer: It depends.

Some caterers write gratuity directly into their contract as part of their catering service fee. If that’s the case, the tip is already taken care of. In this case, the tip is rolled in as part of the overall catering package, and there’s nothing additional you need to do.

But if your catering contract doesn’t include gratuity, you are definitely going to want to tip your caterer and any staff members (like servers, bartenders, or chefs).

Read your catering contract carefully to see if gratuity is included (and, if it is, how much that gratuity covers). If you’re not sure whether gratuity is included in your catering service fee or what that gratuity covers (for example, does the gratuity cover all staff members?), ask your caterer.

Do you Tip a Wedding Caterer? Photo Credit // Astray Photography

Much Do You Tip a Wedding Caterer?

If gratuity isn’t written into your contract and you’re going to be tipping your caterer independently, the next question is how much should you tip?

There are a few different ways to tip wedding vendors. The first tipping method is also probably the method you’re most familiar with—and that’s tipping a percentage of your overall food and beverage costs.

Think of this method of tipping like you would tip in a restaurant. If you went out and had a great meal, you would leave a tip that covered at least 15 to 20 percent of the total bill. It works the same way with wedding caterers. Leaving 15 to 20 percent of the total food and drink bill is considered an appropriate tip amount. From there, your caterer will decide how to divide the tip amongst their staff.

Alternatively, you can choose to tip a flat rate for each member of the catering staff. Depending on the number of staff members and the total cost of your food and beverage service, this may even be the more economical method. If you decide to go this route, plan to tip in the range of $200 to $300 for the catering manager, $20 to $30 for waitstaff, and $50 to $100 for chefs and kitchen staff. If your caterer is manning the bar, plan to tip bartenders 10 to 15 percent of the total bar bill.

Do you Tip a Wedding Caterer? Photo Credit // Yasmin Khajavi Photography

When (and How) Do You Tip a Wedding Caterer?

The last question when it comes to tipping your wedding caterer is when—and how—to tip.

Again, there are a few different times and ways that are appropriate to tip wedding vendors. If you don’t want to think about tipping on the day of your wedding, you can tip your wedding caterer in advance—typically when you pay your final bill. If you’re paying a lump sum (between 15 and 20 percent of your food and beverage bill), you can give that sum to the catering manager. If you plan to tip each staff member a flat rate, make sure to confirm the staff that will be in attendance at the wedding, separate their tips into individual envelopes, and give them to the catering manager to distribute before your big day.

It’s also appropriate to provide tips on the actual day of your wedding. Typically, you distribute tips at the end of the reception. For waitstaff and bartenders, you may also want to consider delivering tips before the ceremony, while they’re getting things set up; having their tip in hand before the catered event gets started can incentivize them to provide a high level of service,which will add up to a better event for you and your guests.