Ask the Experts: Who Do I Tip?

Plus how to squelch wedding party drama and what to do about guests with food allergies

Q: One of my bridesmaids and one of my fiancé’s groomsmen just ended their long-term, live-in relationship, and our wedding is in two weeks. Is there anything we can do to make being in this wedding together less painful for them and keep them from making a scene?

A: A heart-to-heart with your ‘maid and her former beau—separately, of course—can help you get a feel for their attitudes about the Big Day and even help avoid disaster, says Angela Malicki of Philly’s Angela Malicki Events. Say, "Listen, I know this is uncomfortable. We love you both—and we want you both to still be a part of our day," she advises. If they feel uneasy and want to bow out of the wedding party, let them. But if not: Make sure they don’t have to walk down the aisle together, allow each of them the option to bring a new date, and rework seating arrangements so they’re at tables on different sides of the reception venue to try to prevent their paths from crossing more than they have to. And maybe keep an eye on the champagne.

Q: I know it’s customary to have meat-free dishes on hand at our reception for vegetarian guests, but what about food allergies? Should we be prepared to cater to things like lactose intolerance and nut allergies?

A: This is becoming an issue more and more, says Jeffrey Miller of Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Miller Catering, though it’s certainly something caterers can accommodate—especially with advance warning, which lets them prepare special dishes ahead of time. “For a wedding, we might have on hand 12 vegetarian entrées, one garlic-free meal and two kosher dinners,” he says. “The problem arises when we don’t know about a specific allergy until we’re in the middle of serving—at that point, we still do the best we can, but it’s always better to give advance notice.”

Q: I’ve heard conflicting things about this—what are the general practices for tipping my various vendors?

A: “A good rule of thumb is to start with the up-front people,” says Mark Kingsdorf of Philly’s Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants. “You’ll want to give cash to the hair and makeup people—and transportation services, depending on what their contract says—that day. You’ll also want to tip your servers, unless that’s included in your contract, and it’s become the practice to separately tip your maître d’.” For others—like your planner, florist, photographer and band—if they’ve gone above and beyond and you just loved them, he says, you can give them a cash gift, a restaurant or spa gift certificate, or just some lovely flowers. “And,” he says, “definitely send them a nice thank-you note they can post on their website for other potential clients to see.”