Let’s start by stating the obvious: a killer party can cost a pretty penny! While most people know what your main budget items will be (catering and entertainment), today I want to talk about one that is commonly forgotten until the last minute: gratuity.

How to handle gratuity is one of the most common questions I am asked as an event planner. During the final weeks or even days before an event I am typically asked questions such as: Is it required? How much should we tip? I don’t want to blow my budget, but I don’t want to seem cheap! Help, what do I do!?

Here is what I always tell people:

Think of your event as a bigger version of a night out.

Yes, it’s a MUCH bigger version, but you’re getting the same amount of attention and service that you would at a restaurant. Dinner is being put out in front of you and cleaned up after you. Bartenders are pouring individual drinks for you or even mixing intricate cocktails for you and hundreds of other people as well. So, while I will always tell you that it’s completely up to you and staff is usually being paid a fair wage, I do recommend tipping at least your catering and bartending staff for the evening. My suggested amount is to tip somewhere between 10-20% of the food portion of your bill that can be handed over to the banquet captain and then divided among their own staff.

Speaking of bar staff, keep in mind that bartenders will likely receive some tips from your guests throughout the evening. Many people are worried that having tip jars at the bars will look tacky, but these days most people expect them. Even if you make a point to request that no tip jars are out, many people will still slip the bartenders a little something for taking care of them. This is something you can take into consideration when thinking about if you want to tack anything on at the end of the night as well.

Tipping catering and bar staff is likely anticipated, but things can vary much more as you get into the other categories of vendors. A good rule of thumb is that if someone who owns the business is providing the service for you, they don’t generally expect a tip. For example, myself as a wedding planner or a DJ who spins his own tunes. However, people may include day-of venue staff or a photo booth attendant. In cases like these, I tend to encourage people to lean more on what they’re comfortable with and the level of service they believe that person provided as a piece of the night.

These suggestions are just my two cents! The most important thing to worry about is enjoying your special day, and everything will fall into place. Happy Planning!