White flower wedding bouquet

Which vendors you should tip―along with how, how much, and when.

Tips are never obligatory―they are supposed to be expressions of appreciation for especially good service. That said, unless the service was terrible, would you walk away from a restaurant table without leaving one? The same applies to weddings: It is customary to show your gratitude by tipping many of the people involved in making yours a success. Here are a few guidelines to help you navigate.

Check Your Contracts

“Many gratuities are built into the price quotes for major items like catering―typically 15 to 20 percent―or smaller things like limos,” says Alan Fields, coauthor of Bridal Bargains ($15, amazon.com). Read carefully to avoid unnecessarily double-tipping. “If the gratuity is not included in the contract, you might consider adding it in the contract so you don’t have to deal with it on the day,” suggests Anna Post, author of Do I Have to Wear White? Emily Post Answers America’s Top Wedding Questions ($15, amazon.com).

Don’t Tip the Owners

If your photographer owns the studio, there’s no need to tip him. The same goes for bands not booked through an agency and the beauty-shop owner who does your hair.

Reward Extraordinary Efforts

Beyond the customary tips, when someone goes out of his way for you―the baker makes those last-minute tiny changes you requested for the cake; the deejay digs up that old Caruso recording that will make your nonna misty-eyed―consider thanking them with a gift certificate (“Not more than $50 or $100,” suggests Fields), a bottle of wine, or another tangible token. If you’ve sat with your wedding planner hour after hour and she’s knocked herself out to pull it all off flawlessly, you might want to add a personal thank-you note and small gift to her customary tip. If you’ve used her more sparingly, a nice personal gift alone should suffice.

Check Ceremony Policies

Ask if your congregation has donation guidelines. Typically, if you’re marrying in a house of worship, expect to make a donation of anywhere from $100 to $500 (or more), depending on how active a member you are (the more active, the more you should probably give). You can give this money to the officiant. For a nondenominational officiant, whom you are already paying a fee, tip between $50 and $100. However, court clerks are prohibited from accepting tips. For either, a little gift, like home-baked cookies, or a thank-you card will be appreciated