Wedding Wednesdays Q&A: Catering Service Charge

Wedding Wednesdays Q&A by Jamie Chang Destination Wedding Planner of Mango Muse Events

Q: I’m trying to figure out the tips for our vendors and I obviously want to tip my caterer, but they have a service charge listed in their proposal.  Is the catering service charge the gratuity?  Do I need to tip on top of this?

Tipping can be a bit tricky, so this is a great question.  The short answer is that it depends.  For some caterers, the service charge is the gratuity and they build that into the price so that they make sure the staff gets tips.  But for other caterers, the service charge is for administrative costs, setup, travel or other miscellaneous expenses.

All you need to do is just ask them and they will tell you whether the service charge is the gratuity or not.  If it is, then you don’t have to tip them any extra, but can if you want to (more on that in a bit).  If not, then you definitely want to make sure you tip them.  You’ll want to tip all members of the onsite team from the catering manager to the bussing staff.  You can either tip a percentage of the bill (10-20%) or you can set aside tips per person ($150-300 for the catering manager, $20-50 for all other staff members).

Now before you say, wow that is a big tip, there is something I want you to keep in mind.  The catering team does the most physical labor (besides maybe your wedding planner) and interacts with your guests the most on your wedding day, so appreciating their work with a tip is a nice gesture.  I also usually suggest that you consider tipping extra (whether the service charge is the gratuity or not) if the service was exceptional and/or if they did some special things above and beyond for you on the day of.

Groom peeking at the catering team setting up for the wedding reception at a San Francisco wedding by Destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events

(Photo credit: Jerry Yoon Photographers)

Was this helpful?  We hope so!  Let us know in a comment below and please keep sending us your wedding planning questions.  See you next week!


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