Tipping your bartender is optional in the same way that remembering someone’s name is optional. Sure, it’s not required per se, but the type of person who only does what is required probably eats lunch alone with their headphones in.
There is one place, though, where bartender tipping gets a little more complicated: Weddings. Tipping bartenders at weddings is one of the many topics that can divide online comment sections into partisan battlefields.
On one side, you have the people who act astonished that the question is even being asked. Those people will generally claim they tip just a bit more than the previous astonished commenter claimed to tip. On the other side, you have people who trust that the bar staff is getting the equivalent tip from the couple hosting the wedding, and therefore don’t feel the need to slip dollar bills to the bartender.
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So who’s right? It depends.
In many cases, tips and gratuities are included in the vendor contract that the hosts sign. The people footing the bill simply add gratuity when they get the final check. In that case, the payee is the only person responsible for paying a tip — generally between 15 and 20 percent of the final cost. However, as like every other traditional tipping case, tip higher if someone gives better service and if you ask for a lot.
If the couple is covering the final tip, guests are not expected to tip as well. No matter how wrong it feels, a wedding guest digging in their pocket for cash and openly exchanging money isn’t proper etiquette, the manners experts at the Emily Post Institute say. The guest is, after all, a guest, and shouldn’t be expected to shell out for the free booze they came to the wedding for.
That said, there are exceptions to the norm. First off, if it’s a cash bar, always tip. You’re paying for the drinks, so you are partly responsible for taking care of the person providing said drinks. Second, if there’s a tip jar out, you should probably throw something in it. Tip jars could mean that the bartender accepted a lower rate in exchange for it being there. It could also mean that the cost of good service won’t be completely covered by the hosts.
Lastly, if you are someone with extra cash floating around in your pockets, go ahead and pass it over to the person behind the bar. The bartender might refuse it if they’ve been instructed that they will be tipped in full after the event, or they might take the tip and notice you first every time you work your way up to the bar.
The only way to be sure is to ask. If that’s not an option, however, you know what type of friends you have. Just look around your friend group for the person eating lunch alone with their headphones in. If that’s the person hosting the wedding, you know what to do when it comes to tipping.