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When it comes to pay the officiant, people get puzzled. Paying the preacher for officiating your wedding is not just a part of tradition to be fulfilled but it is also a sign of showing respect towards him as he has committed himself in making your day special! Whether the preacher is from your parish or not you must budget money for his services.
Although it is the groom and his family’s responsibility to pay officiant for his services but it is not a hard and fast rule, as many traditions have changed these days. While paying minister you must consider what you are expecting from him. For example, did he give enough time to your wedding services and was it personalized or not? Moreover, were your vows mixed in with your preferences and did the officiant participate in any rehearsals? Were there any premarital counseling sessions or not? If yes, was it a single session or more?
Bearing these in mind, here are some guidelines on how much to pay minister at a wedding:
Usually premarital counseling is required when you are getting married in a church. If a couple receives many sessions on counseling then they should pay at least $300 and if they didn’t get any counseling sessions then $100 to $150 is usually good enough to pay ($150 for a wedding with a little preparation without pre-marital counseling and $100 for small wedding with little or no preparation). According to the Bridal Association of America, the average cost for officiating wedding by a pastor or priest is $263.
Usually it’s like, higher the rank and more will be the cost of minister’s services. Therefore, how much to pay minister at wedding also depends upon the level or grade of the wedding officiant. A simple civil ceremony by justice of peace is paid around $50 to $100 while an intern minister or a retired judge might charge $100 to $200. On the other hand, an experienced church minister and a professional celebrant will charge at least $200 to $400. If we go toward higher clergy such as, rabbis and priest then be prepared to pay as much as $1000.
Despite the estimated typical costs of the officiants, the charges may vary according to the region and your relation with the minister (if you know him personally). In Washington DC, pastor usually charges around $100 to $300. Charges at places like New York where the starting price is usually from $600 plus will be definitely higher as compared to places like North Dakota.
It is also observed that if the couple is member of church then the officiant believes that they are already owned to that couple and the decision for paying is completely up to that couple while if the couple is not member of preacher’s congregation then churches have fees for them.
Even though preachers are not pushy about getting paid immediately but as a matter of courtesy it is better to pay them on the wedding day and if the officiant has to travel to give his services on your wedding then you must cover all of his expenses as he came just to make your day special! You may directly pay the preacher or make a donations to the parish and deliver to the administration of the church. If you are not sure about it then it is better to ask the church administration or the preacher, directly. Along with church donation you can also pay the officiant separately as a small gesture of being thankful to him and appreciating his services. These gestures of being thankful can also be in the form of giving gifts instead of money.
A lady from Santa Barbara tells, “Our pastor was from our home church so he did it for free. However, we gave a $30 gift certificate to him and his wife and also made $100 donation to the church”.
Another lady while sharing her experience tells, “I was also inviting my pastor for dinner so I decided to pay him around $50 to $75 because there is food too, which is a gift for him”.
A lady from New Jersey also shares her experience, “We paid our pastor $790 because his services included pre-wedding counseling and rehearsals too!”
On the other hand, a couple from Iowa was asked to pay whatever they liked or felt was appropriate. Places like Los Angeles doesn’t have any set amount but it is expected to gift the preacher generously with high amounts such as $300 minimum.
Since there is so much variation in charges according to the location and services provided, it’s hard to make definite statement about how much to pay minister at wedding? It’s better to ask the church administration directly about the appropriate amount to be paid in order to avoid confusions and embarrassing situations in the future.
It is a wise decision to look for officiant months before the wedding, especially if you want pre-wedding rehearsals to be included in services. Besides nearby churches, you can also look for officiants online on websites like weddingofficiants.com where they charge around $550 on average.