Wedding officiant with couple

So, you’ve been asked to perform a wedding ceremony. Congrats! First things first – you go online and sign up to get ordained. With minister license in hand, you’re just itching to get up to the altar on the big day. But then you realize: there is one important detail you’re unsure about. How much should you charge for an officiant fee?

This is a question we get from our ministers all the time.

Sure, officiating a ceremony is a tremendous honor and it can be a ton of fun, but it’s also hard work. Given all the preparation and practice involved, you should absolutely be compensated for your time. So, how much is reasonable?

The short answer: it depends. Our friends over at Thumbtack were able to offer some insight into the factors that shape wedding officiant fees. Let’s examine a few:

1. Location

verage cost of a wedding officiant by city

The first thing to consider is where the wedding will take place. If it’s in a mid-sized city like Seattle or St. Louis, your price will probably hover around the average for the U.S.

If it’s in a big metro area like New York City or Los Angeles, the market price will be a bit higher.

Conversely, if the wedding is in a small town or a more rural area, you’ll probably charge a bit less.

The graph on the right shows the average officiant fee for a number of different cities.

Note: In the case of destination weddings, the couple will generally cover the officiant’s travel costs. But since traveling is always a hassle, this type of ceremony might also call for a higher officiant fee. Of course, make sure to work these details out ahead of time.

2. Type of Ceremony

Another aspect of pricing is what type of ceremony the couple wants. Will it be long and complicated, or short and sweet? Will it follow a standard format, or will you have to do some extra planning to prepare for a unique twist?

Since your time is valuable, these are important details to understand.

3. Services Included

While you’re asking about ceremony preference, make sure to nail down precisely what your duties will be. Does the couple expect you to assist in other aspects of the wedding, or will your job simply be to show up and officiate on the big day? Will you be crafting the ceremony script for them? Providing premarital counseling?

Additional services such as these often justify a higher fee.

4. Relationship to the Couple

Finally, how well you know the couple will also factor in. Are you a good friend or family member? Were you already planning to attend the wedding? If so, a thank-you card and a nice bottle of wine might be considered sufficient compensation.

However, if you don’t know the couple  — or they hired you specifically as an officiant — then you should treat it as a business relationship and charge market rate for your services.

Finding a Fair Price

Ultimately, you’ll need to take all of the above into account when determining the right fee. As a general rule, the more duties you take on or hoops you have to jump through, the higher your fee should be.

Note that there are no hard-and-fast rules for what to charge. Some highly experienced officiants charge upwards of $500 per ceremony. Others are happy to perform ceremonies for much less than that. Whatever you decide, be sure to speak with the couple and agree on a fee upfront so you can focus on the important task: officiating the wedding!

Have a question? Let us know in the comments below!

 

53 comments

  1. William Clapie says:

    love the idea. “Finding a fair price”. To whom?

    1. Chester says:

      That’s the hard part. Finding that balance so it’s fair to both sides. Maybe not a great deal for either, but fair to both.

      1. Joannie says:

        I am part of the ULC community as well as holding the position of a “Standing Marriage Commissioner”. in my home State for which I do not get paid by the State and all fees, notary, etc, are up to me. I have officiated thousands of ceremonies. I perform ceremonies at my home…either indoors or outdoors in a lovely setting. I prepare the application paperwork for their certified copy from the State and even put the postage on the envelope so the details are handled properly. I provide them with a packet that includes copies of all the documents sent to the State, in case they need to follow up and a copy of the vows they have repeated, suitable for framing. Most of the couples are military or do not have a regular Church they attend. The most I have “charged” to officiate a ceremony has been $250. because I traveled 100 miles total. My usual fee is 100.00. this is what I feel is affordable. Not what I feel my time and effort is worth, by any means, but, what the couples can afford. Those that can, usually include more, but, I’m comfortable knowing what I’ve brought to the couple. I’ve been an “officiant” for our State for 24 years and have met some very outstanding people along the way. I don’t consider this a “job” but more, a service and it’s true, some things, you just can’t put a price on. Each person has to decide not “their” value, but what they can offer to others, affordably.

  2. Mark says:

    I’ve done simple ceremonies and let the couple decide – I’m usually very pleased.

    then, there is the other kind…..

    – Meeting with the couple prior to the ceremony.
    – Rehearsal for ceremony.
    – Expectation to be at the rehearsal dinner.
    – Assist in writing vows for the ” nervous groom”
    – Expectation to be at the reception.
    – Pictures.. pictures… pictures… before, during and after the ceremony.

    As they say “Priceless” !

    1. Messenger says:

      Nothing they’ll bless you whats on heir heart’s.

      1. Jeanie says:

        Please. Being an Officiant is a job. An honor and a pleasure. But unless it’s friend or family member, it’s a job we deserve to get a fair wage for. I spend time writing a ceremony, traveling, and assisting with their vows. That’s my job. Priests and Rabbi’s and others charge, Officiants charge less and do an excellent job.

        1. teddavid says:

          You seem to forget that you are a mail order minister. You have no real credentials. None of us do. I did this so I could legally officiate at a gay couple’s wedding, not so I could earn a living. Let’s not get delusions of grandeur over who or what we are. Unless you have a DD after your name, this is hardly a legit way to “get a fair wage.”

          1. Richard Hudson says:

            Who are you to say or judge who and what we are? Some people take this very seriously and do have religious aspirations, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Jesus didn’t have DD after his name. And yes marrying people can be a business regardless of what aspirations people have. But thank you for being so judgmental as to who and what I am.

          2. lin sa says:

            And somehow the mail order part diminishes the service one will perform as officiant? I’ve worked for priests who have YEARS of religious training and I wouldn’t let them officiate a ceremony to consecrate my toilet!! Some were downright NASTY people! I find that some people who are caring, helpful and have a desire to make others happy are more “credentialed” than folks who have studied religion and philosophy for years. I remind you that it’s in the practice that makes one who they are, not the “theory”. You don’t need years of study to be able to do that. Plus, life teaches us soooo much that many officiants have a wealth of knowledge, information and human service already without having to wear religious vestments. You are being judgmental and elitist.

      2. Greg says:

        I have not charged either for officiating weddings, however, with the weddings I officiated out of state, the couple did pick up my expenses.

    2. Jeanie says:

      Officiants should gracefully and kindly opt out of the reception. Unless your a friend or family member. It’s awkward. People don’t know you. It’s time consuming and unnecessary.

      1. jpmcdunn says:

        I agree. If they want to to say Grace and then leave, I will, but it is incredibly akward to sit through dinner.

      2. lin sa says:

        My wedding offciant stayed for the reception.She was not family or someone I knew as a friend. She was a delightful woman and mixed in well with my family. Made great conversation. She deserved to stay for dinner!

  3. Rt Rev Dr N says:

    The right price should be as little as possible if you are doing the work of The Lord. He doesn’t charge anything. We, should have enough to cover travel expenses.

    1. Jeanie says:

      Religious institutions charge more than secular Officiants. Free is unacceptable.

    2. Amjit says:

      The Lord doesn’t charge?! He takes 10% of my income, don’t know about you. The Lord is expensive

      1. Rt Rev Dr N says:

        Um, not sure I understand, I mean, do you pay in to a bank of Heaven or something? Amjit?

        1. Amjit says:

          I mean God requires tithing

    3. Laura Stevenson Compton says:

      Don’t muzzle the ox while it’s treading the mill. If this is one’s life work and he/she still needs to put food on the table, then the right price should be fair to the minister and his/her family.

  4. John Smithkey says:

    I agree with Rt. Rev. Dr.N. We are doing the work of the Lord! I simply charge a “Free Will Offering”. This is whatever the couple choose to pay! Have a blessed day. John Smithkey III RN BSN

  5. Mark Allan Groleau says:

    Great article! “Officiating a ceremony is a tremendous honor and it can be a ton of fun, but it’s also hard work. Given all the preparation and practice involved, you should absolutely be compensated for your time.” I absolutely agree with this.

    Fellow ULC minister, do you struggle with feeling guilty about asking for a fee?

    I did. Until I didn’t.

    When I started officiating as a minister in Toronto, I started at about $250.

    But in the last few years, I started officiating as a professional, serving couples who have no clergy or minister whatsoever in their lives. I asked these couples when I’d meet them for a consult, “What are you looking for in your ceremony?” Their answer? “Please, just not a boring ceremony!”

    I started my own full-time officiating practice, and I call it Unboring!Wedding. And I’m booked full-time.

    How do I make it unboring? ONE component. Sure, I mean, I’m charismatic, and fun, and I use good voice inflection at the front, but really, there’s ONE thing I do that makes it unboring and brings in more couples than I can book.

    The one thing? I tell their love story in the ceremony.

    Millennial couples are bonkers for this. You can add any other rituals, prayers, readings, etc. So it doesn’t negatively affect the gravity of the ceremony. But when their story is ALSO a part of the ceremony? Everyone in the room is enthralled.

    Fellow ULC officiants, I encourage you to to 2 things: 1) tell your couples’ stories, and 2) charge accordingly. My fee in Toronto is $797 and I’m starting to book out the entire year 6 months in advance.

    Do you want to by busy? Do you want to get well-compensated because of the perceived VALUE of your officiating service? Do you want your ceremonies to be thrilling to everyone there?

    Tell their story. It’s literally changed my life.

    1. Laura says:

      Thank you for your suggestion. I love it and it makes so much sense and lends a personal aspect of showing the Divinity within. Thanks for sharing!

    2. lin sa says:

      You, sir, are a very smart man as well as one who knows how to serve his community. Kudos!

    3. Alicia Croshal says:

      Wow! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this with us. Great info! Bless you! – Hippieyaya

    4. Carol A siebert says:

      I will try this. Thanks for sharing.

    5. Michelle Swetra says:

      I must be a natural, the first wedding I did I told the story of how the bride and groom got together and even joked about them being nerds who met on the internet. Of course the jokes were with the permission of the bride and groom. Everyone loved the ceremony.

    6. Belladonna says:

      Good advice! I also tell their story. The ceremony is about them. I did one in Reno for a friend who didn’t want the traditional wedding. For fun, I asked a few of the grooms old Navy buddies to give me a call and response. When I said “can I get a whiteness or do I hear an Amen” they didn’t fail me. The rest of the attendees caught on and it was a hoot. This balanced the serous. And the Divine always shows up. It’s an honor to officiate. Blessings and enjoy.

  6. Martha Knight says:

    The statement that ministers charge for officiating marriages is not accurate as an across-the-board statement. Some do, some do not. Some deominations forbid charging! Free Methodist pastors are not permitted to charge for marriage ceremonies, nor to marry couples who have not completed at a comprehensive marriage preparation course (often ten weeks of sessions) AND being considered to have a sound basis for an enduring marriage. Also, the use of the church building for marriage has similar provisos.

  7. Karen Ann Cavender says:

    I live in Wichita Falls, Texas, but 165.00 seems a little low to me to charge for officiating at a wedding. Am I being too greedy?

    1. john hilley says:

      John of Wichita Falls,
      Karen….I`m surprised that anyone left a comment from our little city. If you ever need to talk
      to somebody…..I live here. Will meet you at Lowe’s—Sutherlands—where ever.
      Jesus is Lord—————————————-John

  8. Angela Rose says:

    These are all good pieces of advice. I had no idea weddings could be so much for the preacher or officiant as I prefer to be called. I did my son’s wedding for free but would love to do another wedding. That’s the part of being an officiant I love, helping others have a beautiful experience, even if I’m working through my own issues of being a divorced for many years person. But I love working with others to make their day perfect. It is a joy to see their happiness since there is so little of it in the world, so I look for it in whatever I can.

  9. Danny carroll says:

    Consider the event and your costs against what you should charge .

  10. quantumburp says:

    I married my wonderful “adopted” daughter and her fine man in Kiev, Ukraine. Airfare, hotel, translator (even though I did the ceremony in Russian). Would I have charged them for any of it! Heck no! Especially since I gave them the money to pay for it…:)) That, of course, is a special case.

    Since I’m only a part-timer at this, and have enough money to buy the holy water, as a practice, I don’t charge. If they want to pay, I ask them for an equivalent donation to their favorite charity. The charity needs it more than I do.

  11. Dan Bodamer says:

    Thumbtack is dishonorable. “Cheap Officiants” is what our local ad said. Thumbtack also misleads by saying “0 response” In reference to how many Officiants have bid, but once you bid you see three to four others were already entered. I also find Thumbtack couples do not value our time in the slightest and Thumbtacks bid fee to high to justify poor response. Wedding Wire, Mywedding & The Knot are top quality lead generators.

    Daniel Bodamer
    Amazing Day Weddings

  12. David says:

    I normally don’t charge members of our church. However, don’t refuse whatever they offer either. For the general public in my area (rural southern Louisiana) I charge $75-$100 depending on how many rehearsals etc. This covers my travel back and forth to each rehearsal, travel day of wedding, travel to court house for filing of license and mailing of certified copies to clients. I don’t do it as a business, but do make sure my expenses are covered.

  13. Joe Bill Schirtzinger says:

    I don’t charge to marry people. I will, however, accept donations for the service.

  14. Joe says:

    Thumbtack is not the best resource for typical pricing. My experience is that Thumbtack inquiries usually come from folks looking for the lowest available price. The more experienced and professional officiants near me (Cleveland/Northeast Ohio) don’t use Thumbtack and earn better fees.

    The numbers an graph above also don’t distinguish between an elopement and full-blown ceremonies.

  15. Malcom Lyons says:

    I didn’t do this to make money. I think it fair if you have expenses that the couple pay. I think it also fair if you wish to donate your time and pay all expenses. I feel comfortable suggesting the couple give money to their charity if they feel compelled to pay. I think everyone should do what they feel comfortable with . I’m glad there are no rules and I can do what I feel comfortable with.

  16. Heidi Merrigan says:

    I was first ordained through ULC in 2000 for a friend’s wedding. I didn’t use it again until two years ago. I did wedding planning for years. My husband is an internationally award winning wedding photographer. I’ve been acting, doing voice overs and professional speaking for 40 years. I’m a published writer and the person everyone comes to for advice.

    My first 6 months, I charged very little. Around $100 and I did so much for my couples. They were pretty shocked at what they got for $100! It was wonderful for me because I got so many 5 star reviews.

    My mentor is one of the top wedding officiants in California, she’s in the $700 and up range. She had been doing Wedgewood venues(they’re an all inclusive venue) and they only pay $250 but they fill up your schedule! She introduced me and I’m now doing three locations and I have 30 weddings with them so far this year. I had to raise my prices though! Wedgewood was sending couples to my website and they wanted my cheaper prices. I raised my wedding packages to start at $375. I have 60 weddings booked this year, so far. Most people are booking me 6-12 months ahead of time.

    I absolutely love what I do!!! I am also worth what I charge! People treat you better when you respect your time and asked to be paid for your time. I personalize every ceremony, I’m a text or email away for any and all advice for weddings. I’ve been married to the love of my life for almost 18 years, I weave advice from our marriage into the ceremony. I specialize in unique weddings, filled with fun and different types of unity ceremonies. I love interfaith or combined traditions for weddings.

    I don’t have a DD after my name but at 55, I realize that this is my calling, my passion. This is what I can do better than anything else. I have mentors, I belong to professional organizations, I go to training seminars and I learn as much as I can to make each ceremony absolutely awesome for my couples! I’m proud of how hard I work and what I do for my couples. This is not a part time thing I do for friends, this is someone’s wedding ceremony and it should be amazing!

    Heidi
    LoveStoryvows.com

    1. Brother Michael Goldman says:

      When booking in advance I ask for a non-refundable deposit. This is usually a nominal fee $50. Even though I am a retiree, I value my time and take pride in my ability to make the couple happy. When I have an initial meeting, I am often meeting at a restaurant, and never have been ask to share the tab. Having myself been married for 43 years, I feel qualified to answer questions the couple may have. I also decline to go to the reception.

  17. Gail Fugle says:

    I believe that if someone is in the ministry business to make money, their focus is in the wrong place. They will come across as greedy and self centered. Ministers who are focused on God and truly care about the honor of uniting a couple in marriage will accept any token of appreciation for their services.

  18. Heidi Merrigan says:

    After being involved in over 500 weddings, I have seen the most amazing ceremonies done by average people ordained online. I have also seen so many weddings done by grouchy mean clergy that sounded like they had done the same boring service forever with “insert name here”.

    I marry gay couples, interfaith couples, I marry couples that the churches turn away because the couples work on Sunday’s and aren’t considered devout enough to use the church. I do religious ceremonies for Catholics that don’t have the time or money to jump through all the hoops of the local priest. I marry the couples that want to be married in a gorgeous outdoor location but their minister will only marry them in the church. I’ve done 75 weddings in the last year and I’ve stayed in touch with my couples! I’m now Auntie Heidi and a part of their family. I continue to offer advice when they ask for it.

    You don’t need to be part of the clergy to be a good person and to help a couple with their needs.

    I’m not greedy, I still charge less than most couples pay for the cheese platter at their wedding.

    1. DaveJ says:

      I would love an Aunt Heidi (although I suspect it would have to Cousin Heidi, since I’m old. Maybe Niece Heidi.) My comment came in just below yours.

  19. DaveJ says:

    Interesting perspectives. I have been ordained for just under 12 years. I am also an atheist. That gives me a different view of things. I will perform the ceremony just for expenses. And if it’s a friend of my children or their friends, I don’t even charge that. They are just starting out in life. I’m not rich, but this has made me rich in memories and additional friends.
    I haven’t done that many (less than 20) but have enjoyed each and every one. Some need help with vows. None have wanted traditional vows. Some were in chapels, most were outdoors. Some were casual (Jeans and western shirts. I still wore a suit.) Some very dressy. (I have a tux.) All were filled with love. (OK, except one.)
    A couple have asked for premarital counseling. When I said I didn’t have any credentials, they responded with, “We’ve seen you while we were growing up, and you’ve been married 40 years. You must know something.” So we talked, both my wife and I, to them. They send us a thank you on their anniversary every year. You can’t charge for that. 🙂
    I love performing. I can see that for some it is a job, and I don’t begrudge them that. I hope you don’t begrudge my doing it for love.

  20. Carol A siebert says:

    My price in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts is $175.00 it’s my service and the Writing of their Vows. Add on Rehearsal time and a Certified of Marriage Keepsake I feel it’s a fair price. Not to mention my time answering questions and concerns. If the Venue is over one hour travel I have to charge for travel at a reasonable rate. I thank the Lord every day that I am able to service couples in marriage. It balances my life so I can give back.

  21. Carol A siebert says:

    I have used Thumbtack and I am not a fan. It costs more to have a couple respond to you than you can service. Not worth it. I stay away from it. Wedding Wire is my favorite!

  22. Martha Knight says:

    Someone posted that you need DD after your name. Nope. (Reminds me of the D.D. who never put the degree on his letterhead. His name was Fiddle. . .)
    These days the degree is D. Min.

  23. DaveJ says:

    Hmm. I will have to think about that tomorrow.

  24. Joanne McCaughan says:

    Well, I have only done a couple of ceremonies locally. In each case I asked that the couple make a donation to a mutually agreeable local charity. The amount of the donation is up to them, according to what they can afford. I consider the time I put into the preparations and the event to be an in-kind donation as well.

  25. Carol A siebert says:

    I only charge what I need too. I also check with the state to make sure it is legit to Officiate a marriage in their state. I also send along with the Marriage license to be filed a copy of my Officiate Certificate so that there is no questions. It is acceptable and you know you are working with the Lord. I have asked for donations to their favorite Charity as well. Also, purchase spirituals to help the church. So, how you handle it is up to yourself. To be greedy is not the answer. To Officiate because you enjoy bringing couples together is on the right road. Only charge what you need $50 is usually a good start.

  26. Priestess Christina Maher. says:

    I don’t charge unless I have to drive over 10 miles then it’s only to replace the gas I’ve used. I do ask if the couple make a donation to one of the charities I support, like a batterd women’s shelter of the food Bank. Which I think is a win, win.

  27. Reverend Wayne E Butler says:

    For me, this quote suffices: “A man (woman) is worthy of his (or her) hire.” I do believe pastors, ministers, priests, etc. are paid, either via room and board with a stipend or salary plus R&B.

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