Tipping On Top Of A Service Fee

Our catering package includes an 18% service fee described as this: The Service Fee (not a gratuity) is calculated on food/beverage and labor and is subject to sales tax. Service staff is paid in excess of minimum wage. Gratuities not expected and at Client’s discretion.

Considering that an 18% service charge is already a huge amount, are we expected to tip on top of this? Another 18% would be an extraordinary amount to pay and we simply can’t afford it. We also don’t want to be cheap. What is the proper etiquette for this situation?

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Brandi Hamerstone, Owner/Senior Wedding Planner All Events Planned

Tipping is optional in all matters. If you receive service above and beyond what was expected, then you should consider tipping someone for their extraordinary work, you are not required to tip. Since the service staff gratuity is being included you don’t have the option to tip or not to tip them, it is just a fee that is included. Since that fee is already being paid, you do not need to tip on top of a tip!

As with any of your wedding vendors, you are paying them for their services so do not feel obligated to tip them on top of their fee. If you feel like they did something extra special to make your day even better or if you had a wonderful working relationship with them, then of course you can choose to tip them, but under no circumstances should you feel obligated to tip.

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I have a question for you. The property is charging this “service fee” of 18% which is not a gratuity and is subject to sales tax. So does that mean on top of the 18%, you’re going to be taxed an additional 7%, whatever your state sales’ tax is? So if your reception cost is $10,000, you’re paying $1800 for the service fee and an additional $126 in sales tax?

If I were you, I’d want a definitive breakdown of these charges. If they are also including state and local taxes and fees–besides this 18% “service fee”–I would dispute it vehemently!

Good Luck!

Amy Rubins, Fete Perfection

Taxes on service fees vary by city and state so this may very well be normal but I would double check. Otherwise if your caterer provide excellent service above and beyond what you expect you might add another 2 to 5% which I am certain would go directly to the servers. Having worked in the catering industry, this would be very much appreciated. Enjoy your wedding day!

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Emmanuela Stanislaus, Precious Occasions, Wedding and Event Planner

I agree with the other experts as far as tipping being optional. Tipping is reserved for service that is above and beyond so do not feel pressured to provide the staff with a tip. According to etiquette, if you receive exceptional service, then the banquet captain should receive a tip of between $1 to $5 per guest which depends on your wedding location. The wait staff usually receives 15%-20% of the food bill (prior to service fee and taxes) or somewhere between $15-$20 per wait staff.

Tips should be something that you include in your budget. In addition to the catering staff, you should include tips for your photographer, videographer, dj or band, officiant, limousine driver, and planner. Please do remember that tipping is optional.

Good luck!