October 2, 2014 – Guest Blog Post: “Let’s Celebrate the $35 Wedding Ceremony!” by Rev. Sandra Bearden

My good friend Rev. Sandra Bearden posted this on her blog yesterday. This is a great insight for those concerned about what the cost of your wedding officiant should be. Enjoy!


A wonderful Officiant friend of mine gave me this list recently after a hilarious discussion about a bride who budgeted $35 for her wedding Officiant.

Over the years, each time my friend encountered a couple who thought $35 was a fair amount of money to give to the Minister or Officiant who was solemnizing their wedding ceremony, she asked them why they thought $35 was sufficient.

Here are the top 10 answers:

1. They think ministers perform weddings as a part of their required duties, even if you have never met them before!
2. Ministers have taken a vow of poverty so it would be wrong to pay you.
3. It only takes a couple of minutes to perform a wedding ceremony, so that’s plenty of money!
4. They are “doing up” the reception because the ceremony is just about getting the required piece of paper.
5. Shouldn’t they pay you the same as what the courthouse charges?
6. They’re broke and they thought they’d pay for your gas. Isn’t that enough?
7. They just need you to sign the license. They’re getting a friend to do the “real” ceremony.
8. The mayor does it for $35. Why wouldn’t you be willing to accept the same? What do you do that he doesn’t do?
9. You’ll get a GREAT referral from us if you do a good job.
10. What makes you think you should be paid more than $35?

OK, so now you’ve seen the top 10 answers regarding a $35 fee for an Officiant. Let me respond to these answers one by one.

#1. I am a professional wedding Officiant. I am not a minister with a congregation or someone who gets paid a consistent salary by a company or institution. So when a couple approaches me for a wedding, it is usually anywhere from 6 months to a year before their ceremony. I don’t just print off any old boilerplate ceremony; I actually create and craft a ceremony that applies to the couple’s situation and their relationship after I’ve interviewed them and asked many questions.

#2. Do you have a mortgage? Well, you may not, but I do, and this is a full-time job for me. I live on the money I make as a wedding Officiant and I charge what I feel I am worth. If you go to some of the wedding websites where you can read my many 5-star reviews, you will see how wonderful people think I am. So it behooves me to do a wonderful job on someone’s ceremony. I show up on time, usually early, and execute the ceremony with emotion, style, and grace. I work hard to exceed the expectations of my couples, too!

#3. So it only takes a few minutes….really? When I work with couples, I can spend as much as 20 hours interviewing them, talking on the phone and online with them, working on the ceremony, driving to meetings and the venue, conducting rehearsals, and helping people understand their roles as Bridesmaids and Groomsmen. I also speak on the phone to worried parents, reassuring them the ceremony will be lovely. It is a lot to juggle multiple couples and families and still have a life, but I love it!

#4. Many people think of their wedding ceremony as 15-20 minutes to endure before the party starts. Well, to me it is 15-20 minutes of pure heaven. Why? Because this is the best job I have ever had! As a professional wedding Officiant, I am someone who cares about you and the words said about you, and especially those you say to each other on one of the most important days of your life!

#5. A professional Officiant is not just someone who strolls in 15 minutes prior to your wedding and then reads a nondescript, unmemorable ceremony that may or may not reflect you as a couple. The county clerk can do that for you – they have a document with blank spaces where they plug in the names. Is that what you really want?

#7 (#6 comes soon!) Professional wedding Officiants are just that: professionals who have learned everything there is to know about weddings. They travel to your venue, customize your ceremony, and attend and often orchestrate rehearsals. Some provide blessings at the rehearsal dinner and reception dinner, and they do much, much, more. This is something a friend or relative may not be equipped to do. There are often surprises that can catch an inexperienced individual off guard, like when the groom or best man passes out, or the flower girl vomits on the bride’s dress. A professional wedding Officiant must be calm, cool, and definitely collected enough to keep his or her wits to quickly help a couple through these kinds of near disasters.

Most Officiants are hardworking individuals who have families, hold down a full-time job (or maybe several part-time jobs) to make a living, and work as an Officiant on the weekends. Most full-time Officiants cannot make enough money on weddings alone to live on and must do funerals, baby namings, and other creative or wedding-oriented things to create a life. Just like you, they have mortgages and financial obligations to meet.

When you call an Officiant, here are some of the things they have to consider. Am I available? How far do I have to travel? How much time do I need to invest? Do you have a large bridal party? Do you want a rehearsal? And of course, what level of service are you expecting or want? Yes, of course it is about you….but first it has to be about the Officiant. I need to know exactly what you are looking for, asking for, and expecting.

Now for #6. Personally, I feel it is important for you as an engaged couple to be able to support yourselves. Get a job, save up some money, and get a place to live before you get married. You will both be happier for it. Again, you could save some money by going to the courthouse (#8). The county clerk or the Judge or Mayor may be available to officiate your ceremony. Your license alone will probably cost $35-$90 so be prepared to pay extra for the ceremony, an additional expense of $50-$100 (or more) at the courthouse. If you choose the courthouse as your ceremony site, it will not cost as much as I charge, but if you use a professional Officiant, the wedding ceremony will be the focus of your special day, and honestly, since a wedding Officiant is the only vendor you actually need to get married you should consider budgeting enough for this critical part of your wedding that not only makes it legal, but creates very special memories! Wedding Officiants are not county clerks who get paid by the county. Some are not associated with a church, unlike ministers, priests, and rabbis who get paid by their church or temple and may require as much as a $300-$10,000 donation to the church or temple to officiate a wedding. Some may require you to rent the church and provide a stipend. So the costs can vary a great deal.

According to the Wedding Report, in 2012 wedding Officiant costs averaged about $263 across the United States. In my area, $600-$800 will get you a beautiful personalized ceremony.

#9. As a professional wedding Officiant who understands your vision, who has a great personality, and speaking voice, I love to receive wonderful referrals on one of the industry sites, but honestly, it is so much better to be paid for the work I do. You telling your friends or neighbors may only spark the interest of one or two people. Posting something on Facebook or other social media sights might help too, but I would rather be paid so I can meet the needs of my family.

#10. The point is this: you get what you pay for. In the wedding business you can literally get anything and people are willing to pay for what they want. But look at it this way: since the wedding ceremony is the core reason and purpose of your day, why would you skimp? Pay for a great, meaningful, authentic, personalized ceremony. You will be glad you did. Let a wonderful professional wedding Officiant help you. You won’t regret it and you will have warm feelings and memories about your wedding ceremony for the rest of your life.

So how much should you budget? It depends mostly on what your area demands. On the east and west coasts, budgeting $600-$1200 is completely appropriate because wedding Officiants are in great demand. You also have to calculate possible travel charges, rehearsal fees, the cost of a sound system, robes, food, and accommodations for your Officiant. In the central US, $300 may be sufficient. Look around; ask around. Value your Officiant and he or she will reward you with an amazing ceremony.

I hope you enjoyed this list. I found it interesting, amusing, and very twisted!

The list was provided by Rev Judy Burroughs of A Cincinnati Wedding-Wed Now Cincinnati.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s