How Much Do You Tip Your Wedding Bartender?

Planning a wedding day has a lot of moving parts to keep track of. One major thing is how much to tip specific vendors, especially when it comes to the wedding bartender.

By Monica Mercuri

How Much Do You Tip Your Wedding Bartender?
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

Many people know to tip servers and bartenders at restaurants, hairstylists at hair salons, and other service industry members when a service is properly performed. But, did you know that tipping also applies to your wedding vendors? When you’re in the process of planning your wedding and booking vendors for your big day, you may find, during the contract signing, that a line item for gratuity is listed; however, many vendors do not include this. If not stated, what do you do when it comes to tipping your wedding bar and bartender?

When it comes to wedding planning your wedding, one thing that people generally don't want to skimp on is the bar. Bartenders play an important role in a wedding––they keep the drinks flowing. They also make sure that the various kinds of wines, liquors, and soft drinks that you want are fully stocked, while also pouring beverages and making various cocktails.

Generally speaking, bartenders do a lot of things behind the scenes that you may not even realize. They try to help set the tone for the guests with small talk, keep them happy throughout the event, and also keep an eye on who may be drinking too much, as well as adjust what they are serving as a way of doing some damage control. Given the job that they have, tipping them accordingly is important. Here are several things to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to tip your bartenders.

How Much Do You Tip?

Knowing how much to tip is always something that comes up, and for people who are in the service industry, being tipped well can make a huge difference. A good general rule of thumb is to tip between 18-25 percent. If someone gave you exceptional service, showing your appreciation of them via a good tip is always the way to go.

Another thing to take into consideration is the vendor's contract. If you hired a caterer and they have bartenders included in their events’ package, double-check to see if gratuity is included in the price. If this is the case, then the tip will be divided up among the various staff that worked your event, but it’s important to find out for sure. If gratuity is not included, then you can apply an 18-25 percent tip onto the total of whatever the catering bill is. If you’ve hired a more expensive catering company and are working out how much to pay various staff, you can also offer a flat rate of gratuity per worker.

According to Jordan Catapano, co-founder of This Girl Walks Into a Bar LLC, “When gratuity is included, it’s important to ask how many people will be splitting the tip. Twenty percent added gratuity can be fantastic for a crew of five, but not so great for a staff of ten. Everyone’s role in the success of a wedding is important, but if there’s one area of service that particularly stood out then tipping more is always appreciated.”

When it comes to tipping bartenders at your wedding, you want to think about the overall job that they are doing and also the level of service being provided. Typically, bars with weddings are extremely busy throughout the reception, and, as such, bartenders will be the members of the service wait staff that will interact with guests the most. These things should factor into the tip. Catapano suggests tipping $100 to each bartender, and to keep in mind that the average length of most bar shifts are six to 10 hours.

However, you may decide to hire bartenders separately from a catering company. If you’re hiring bartenders and mixologists separately, be sure to negotiate an hourly rate that both you and they are happy with. From there, you can apply a similar equation as stated above, where you can tip 18-25 percent of the total bill.

Hiring a Bartender Separately: Tips and Cost Considerations

Hiring a bartender separately from a catering company does offer some advantages. If you decide to go that route, you do want to keep several things in mind. Catapano noted that they can use their mixology expertise to help give you and your wedding guests an even more memorable experience. They will also offer “guidance when planning the drink menu, and a specialist behind the bar to execute those drinks,” Catapano said.

When it comes to the bar, details matter, so you want to work with someone who will think ahead. “We’ve worked too many events where the bar isn’t stocked with the appropriate equipment to create drinks quickly, or where the correct ingredients aren’t supplied for the signature drinks. Fresh lime juice is very different from concentrated lime juice. Lemonade is not a substitute for margarita mix. Cranberry juice and cran-raspberry juice are not always interchangeable. The bar at a wedding is the artery of the party,” Catapano said.

When you’re hiring a bartender separately, Catapano also offered these tips:

  • Try to have a 50:1 guest to bartender ratio for the best possible service. There’s some wiggle room here depending on the drink selection.
  • Your specialty drink menu should max out at five, but three is ideal. The more specialty drinks offered, the longer the bar line, and the more one will have to buy for ingredients.
  • If the bar won’t have sink access, any cocktail that requires muddling is discouraged. If the couple has their heart set on muddled jalapeño and mint margaritas, speak with the bartending company in advance about how to prep for a drink like that in advance.
  • Think about having batched drinks. It can not only save time, but also cut down on waste and save a lot of money. They also add lovely, inviting décor to the bar.

The other thing to keep in mind is what the cost of this is and how much to tip. Often this will be an hourly rate, however the rate depends on your region; a typical hourly rate ranges from $30 to $50 per hour, plus 18-25 percent gratuity. “Negotiating a flat rate works best when the wedding venue has a hard stop and load out time. If the evening’s end time is fluid, a flat rate could cost the couple more than necessary or short-change the bar staff,” Catapano added.

There’s also the uncomfortable situation when a flat rate has been negotiated and the staff underwhelms the couple with their service. If a generous gratuity was already given but, in the end, not earned, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the couple on a day that should have nothing but warm and positive vibes.

Do You Tip at a Cash Bar?

When it comes to a cash bar, when guests are paying for their drinks, various companies have policies about tip jars. However, unless a couple gives the okay for one, the industry standard is not to have one. If guests choose to tip on their own that is up to them. However, the bartender should be tipped by the people hired for the service they provide, regardless if the bar is cash or not.

Do You Tip With Cash or on a Credit Card?

Generally, most people consider cash to be king and if you plan ahead you can make sure that you have enough cash to tip your bartender. However, if you don't have cash on hand, tipping on the card is always an option. One thing to keep in mind is that because of credit card transactions it may sometimes take a few days for the bartender and other staff to be able to get the tip from the credit card. The advantage of tipping in cash is that they are able to leave with their tip immediately.

If you’re tipping with cash, be sure to plan ahead and make sure that you have enough money. Also, you may want to place it in an envelope. Generally, it’s also presented at the end of the wedding reception after the wedding is over. However, if you’re tipping on your credit card, this will usually be done prior to the wedding, due to the contract that is signed.

Generally bartenders are known for going above and beyond when it comes to customer service. If there’s a lull, they’ll leave the bar to pick up abandoned plates and cups, circulate the party with a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red wine to top off glasses, or bring the couple fresh cocktails when they can’t seem to make their way to the bar. Having a tip that reflects this and how your bartender staff contributed to your big day is important.

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