How Much Should You Pay the Officiant Who Performs Your Wedding Ceremony?

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No matter who will foot the bill for your wedding, when you sit down to plan your budget, don’t forget to include an appropriate fee to the person who will perform the ceremony and pronounce you husband and wife.
Who has been granted the power to make your union legal? It may be a member of the clergy such as a preacher, priest, reverend, pastor, minister, rabbi or other holy man or holy woman. In some areas, tribal chiefs or other appropriate officials may perform Native American ceremonies. Or you might choose to be married by someone with ties to the legal community such as a judge of various divisions of the court, justice of the peace, a retired judge or justice.

Will your wedding take place at a church? Be sure to ask exactly what the church’s fee includes. Sometimes there will be a fee for renting the facility, possibly another fee for clean-up, and often these fees do not include the fee for the minister to officiate. Or there might be another package that, for a few hundred dollars more, will include the officiant.

How much should you expect to pay the officiant?

It depends on where you live and what is customary….

If you will have a simple civil ceremony performed at a courthouse, city hall or other location, you should anticipate paying $50 to $100.

A pastor or minister will expect to receive anywhere from $100 to $400 or possibly more, depending on the cost of living in your area.

How can you avoid the embarrassment of paying someone too little?

Ask around. If you have friends who were married recently, ask what they paid their officiant. Is your minister skirting around the issue or possibly telling you, “Oh, anything you decide to pay me is fine”? Check with the church secretary to see if she knows what is customary, ask someone on the church board, or seek the advice of the church wedding coordinator (if one is on staff).

Another way to check would be to visit bridal message boards and see if the topic has been discussed recently. If it hasn’t, post a new discussion thread to see what other brides are paying and make your decision based on their feedback.

Additionally, there is a great resource for determining the average costs of a wedding in your local area that is even broken down into the individual categories.  Here’s a link directly to their information collection on the average cost of a wedding in Sheboygan http://www.costofwedding.com/index.cfm/action/search.weddingcost?zipcode=53081

Does your minister require you and your fiancé attend pre-marital counseling sessions before he or she agrees to perform the ceremony? If so, that is another reason to boost the amount of money you pay him or her.

Many officiants meet with the couple prior to the rehearsal to go over any customs, traditions and church rules. This would be the time to discuss the structure of the ceremony, any readings or songs you would like, and to set a time for the rehearsal.

Prior to your wedding day, your wedding coordinator will most likely collect checks from you, and then she will pay the appropriate vendors including the officiant, musicians, etc. If you are having a smaller wedding or you didn’t employ a professional coordinator, prepare an envelope in advance with your officiant’s payment inside and give it to someone you trust with strict instructions. While you are at it, don’t forget an envelope for the Wedding DJ and anyone else expecting payment.   The best man or the bride’s father are two possibilities for taking care of this task. The designated person will then pass the envelope to your officiant at the appropriate time, which could be at the rehearsal or right before the wedding. Any time is fine, as long as you remember to take care of it. A firm handshake and a “thank you” are all that is needed to ease the nerves of whoever will take care of this task on your behalf.

Following the wedding, your officiant will be responsible for signing the marriage certificate and returning it to the appropriate government office to be filed by a specified deadline.

As with any other professional, the person performing your wedding ceremony is providing a service. You’re not just paying for his or her time. You are also paying for their years of education, knowledge and experience, just like you would be expected to pay for any other professional.