Most couples price shop for the services they want to hire for their wedding. This is a
great idea, weddings can become very expensive very quickly!
The Marriage Ceremony itself is the heart of the wedding ceremony. It is the main
purpose your friends and family have traveled, some great distances, and are present.
Surprisingly, one of the most important services provided for the wedding - the Officiant
who assures that the couple are legally married, while presenting a beautiful ceremony
for the couple and their guests - is the specific service most couples would like to pay
the least (or nothing) for.
Most Officiants charge between $175.00 and $400.00. This often depends on the size
of the wedding, travel time and distance to your venue, additions such as rehearsals,
extent of time required for repeated meetings with the couple to go over a proposed
ceremony, etc. This is most likely the smallest sum requested by any of the vendors
involved in your wedding.
I'd like to say here, that if money is truly an obstacle, and you must have your marriage
ceremony done for free, your best bet is to call and make an appointment at your local
courthouse with a Judge. They will perform their 3minute ceremony. It won't be
romantic, personalized, customized, or in any way unique, you must go to their
chambers during specific hours they have set for weddings during any given week, and
you can only have a few friends or family present as the chambers are rather small, but
it is free and having a Judge sign your marriage certificate does assure that you are
That said, if you plan to have a wedding on the weekend, in the venue of your choice,
and/or with more then 6 or 7 people present, please read on. Compared to the costs of
the other wedding services you will hire, your Officiant is the smallest expense in the
Many couples mistakenly believe that the officiant only spends the small amount of time
doing the actual wedding ceremony itself, as some soon to be brides have said ‘Why
should I pay an officiant to stand in front of people for a few minutes to pronounce us
husband and wife?’ Many people seem to be clueless in regards to the actual amount
of time the officiant spends on their wedding ceremony before the big day. While there
are some Officiants who use a short set script in which they simply pencil in the names
of the Brides and Grooms, most of us spend a great deal more time on your ceremony
Remember, while price shopping for all your wedding services, this old saying often
holds true - you get what you pay for.
Some Officiants may quote you a cheap fee, and you think that fits your budget. Just be
aware that you will, most likely, not get a beautiful, quality ceremony. What you will get
is the same canned, generic, ceremony that everyone else gets, your name is simply
penciled in on the appropriate blank. There are no real options for personalization, no
real choices (and I don't mean the 2 or 3 ceremonies they let you choose from), no real
input. Frequently they are not able to speak confidently and loudly enough before a
crowd of your favorite family and friends so that, in the end, no one will have heard
anything said in your ceremony, including you. No one wants to hear ‘I couldn't hear a
word of your ceremony, but I'm sure it was lovely.’
I thought it might be helpful to look at some of the things most officiants do, and the
work involved, to explain why we charge what we do. Most people only a generation ago
belonged to a church they regularly paid a tithe to, thus helping to support their
religious official regularly. They usually had their wedding officiated by this same
pastor, who had one set ceremony allowed by the church. There was no
personalization or customizing allowed. The church still charged a fee for the use of the
These days many couples choose to marry someone of a different faith or culture.
They might ask the pastor of a church to perform their ceremony but if they're not
members, or haven't attended for a while, they're likely to get turned down. More
couples want more control and influence on the ceremony itself these days as well.
Many couples want their weddings outdoors, in their own homes, or some other venue
that is not the church. Many ministers are uncomfortable with these ideas, and non-
traditional ceremonies, and they will not travel to the venue of choice for the couple. An
even larger number of people no longer attend churches, and many don't have
religious beliefs at all. Independent clergy, such as myself, with interfaith beliefs that are
open and accepting are a great alternative for couples that can't, or won't, for various
reasons, have their wedding in a church.
A few simple examples of the average costs for an average wedding: Often the Bride's
gown will cost as much as $1,000 to $3,000 for that memorable gown for that one
perfect day. There are several discount bridal wear shops that you should look into to
help you save money, the gowns often cost between $100.00 and $500.00 in these
places. A huge savings for a beautiful gown!
Then there are the photos. Most couples want professional photos or video. Expect to
pay $1,000 or more for a good photographer. And what about a wedding cake? If they
want a fantastic one, beautifully decorated, they are looking at an average cost of
$400.00 dollars. Often the couple does not bat an eye at the prices for wedding cakes.
The invitations are pricey as well, often costing several hundred dollars for less than
100 invitations. Flowers are another ‘must have’ for most couples. Cost depends on
what they are willing to settle for. Fresh flowers are not cheap no matter what the
season. Artificial flowers are often less expensive if one makes the bouquets
themselves, but they are by no means cheap, especially when you make not only your
own but the maid of honor, bridesmaids and flower girl, too. Don't forget all the men's
boutonniere (Groom, Best man, Groomsmen, Father's and Grandfathers) as well as the
Mother's and Grandmother's flowers.
Lets not forget the music. A CD player with special music can be a money saver, but if a
violinist, string quartet, vocalist, pianist or DJ, is a ‘must have’ that's another pricey
addition, often $1,000 or more. Then there is the reception. The venue, caterer, and
decorations all add up to a very large percentage of your budget, the average cost for
this is $10,000.00.The average couple can easily spend several thousand dollars to
have their dream wedding and never think twice about it. According to the Wedding
Report quoted by Perfect Wedding Guide, the average wedding cost (nationwide) is
approximately $19,219.00 and couples choosing to marry via the JP (Justice of the
Peace or Judge) increased by 60%. - this is a reflection of the poor economic situation
we are all struggling with.
Cutting back on the number of guests and combining your ceremony and reception
venue are good places to start cutting your costs. Hunting for the ‘cheapest’ officiant
could cause more problems for you than it solves, from getting a poorly done generic
ceremony to having the Officiant suddenly cancel on you with little to no time left to find
a replacement. These are questions you should ask every potential officiant you call -
‘How many times have you canceled on performing a wedding? What were your
reasons for cancelling on a couple who depended on you to be there and provide the
service you agreed to provide?’
Often when it comes to hiring an Officiant to make that dream come true - remember
that the ceremony is not only the heart of your perfect wedding, it is the part that makes
you legally married - there is almost always a pause followed by something like this: ‘$$
dollars? We only need you for 20 minutes, just to pronounce us husband and wife.’ Or
‘We're spending so much on the wedding already we want someone who'll give us a
really big discount or be free!’ Of course, these same couples expect consultations,
and meetings, and attendance at the rehearsal, in addition to performing the actual
wedding ceremony. If the main wish is to have a fancy party, not to share the joy and
celebration with family and friends as the couple becomes legally married, why not
simply have the fancy party? There is no need to use the excuse of a wedding to justify
a fancy party.
What a couple should consider is that an Officiant gives the couple personal
consultations, at least once, but more often many times to assist them in planning the
ceremony. E-mails and phone calls often add up to several hours, just in the planning
stages. Then there is the actual ceremony itself. Some ministers, spend hours writing
each wedding ceremony specifically for each couple we are hired by. Other ministers
have a large portfolio of many different ceremonies for couples to choose from, and
even the standard traditional ceremonies have different versions to pick from. The
couple may want to write their own vows but that is only a small part of the ceremony.
The Officiant still has to write a great deal for it and put it all together in a meaningful
way. He/She has to compose and prepare the ceremony which consists of: Writing a
greeting to your family and guests at the beginning of your ceremony, writing prayers if
they are requested, a formal bridal giveaway if that is desired, addressing marriage as
is required by both law and custom, writing vows that are meaningful to the couple and
asking for the vows to be said publicly, discussing the meaning of the wedding rings,
blessing the rings and writing a beautiful exchange of the rings with more vows, more
prayers if desired by the couple, readings by friends or family, music insertions (all
orchestrated and timed correctly by the Officiant within the ceremony so the flow is
smooth and seamless), and of course there is the final pronouncement of being
Husband and Wife. This takes several hours to write, re-write, and proofread.
Frequently the ceremony is then sent to the couple to look at, and there may be
revisions to make before a final approval is given. If the couple receives a keepsake
copy of the ceremony, that has to be created, typed, printed and put together. Those of
us who do give you a keepsake copy of your ceremony do this with special papers
(pretty designs and acid free for long life), at no additional fees regardless of the cost
of paper and printing. We are often asked to rehearse the wedding the night before the
actual ceremony, especially if the Bridal Party is a large one. All of this has probably
already taken up 10 -15 hours (or more) just creating the ceremony itself, putting
everything together and meeting with everyone. And remember, the actual ceremony
has not yet taken place.
Many officiants have their own family and often have young children they must arrange
care for while they are busy meeting with the couple, creating the ceremony, and then
performing the ceremony itself. Often we work far into the night on your ceremony.
There is travel time to and from the rehearsal and/or wedding, which has to be
considered. While we are doing these things for you we cannot work anywhere else,
and we are taking time from our own families. Many of us are willing to go beyond our
city to assist a bride and do her ceremony but we may ask for extra fees depending on
the distance requested by the bridal couple. Most of us show up at the ceremony venue
early to answer any last minute questions and speak to those who were not at the
rehearsal but are in the wedding party.
Often we wait beyond the stated ceremony start times for the Bridal Party to be ready,
or for Great Aunt Jane or Uncle Joe to arrive. We calm those who are nervous, and are
diplomatic and work with all the other wedding professionals during this time as well. We
are ready to help with an emergency - from a bride or bridesmaid accidentally tearing
her gown, to a hairdo falling apart, a photographer, caterer or florist who is late arriving,
and even an unexpected rainstorm. The ceremony itself can be touchy - from a ring
bearer becoming frightened and running in the opposite direction, or a small flower girl
falling down, to parental ex-spouses being a bit twitchy with each other.
So when you look at the prices an officiant charges, consider this: You are getting an
important Legal, Professional, service at very reasonable (even cheap) rates. Your
wedding will not produce a legal marriage without this one person, it will simply be a
very expensive party.
If you broke it down into hourly fees, much like any hourly wage employee, it would
shock you to learn that the work your Officiant puts into your ceremony could be worth
$2,000 or more for their services but you are paying far, far, less than that! In fact, if
you look at a spreadsheet of the costs you have already paid, or have budgeted for
your wedding, you will see that the price your officiant asks is the smallest of all the
services you will pay for.
Please remember this: You can get married without the fancy gown, fancy engraved
invitations, photos, flowers, cake, reception . . . But you cannot become legally married
without an Officiant, whether it is a Judge or a Minister.
Isn't that the real point of the wedding? To become beautifully, romantically, and legally