While soon-to-be-married couples need to secure a venue, hire a caterer, book a photographer (and the list goes on), one of the often overlooked early wedding planning tasks is hiring a wedding officiant — the person who’s going to take you through the “I dos” and make your marriage official.
And really, securing a wedding officiant should be at the top of your list. If you’re set on a particular minister or a longtime family friend, you need to make sure that person is available for your desired wedding date. We recommend reaching out to get your wedding on your officiant’s calendar right after securing a venue for your ceremony and reception.
As you can expect, wedding officiants are rarely free — it’s a common cost of a wedding. Even if the person performing your marriage ceremony is family or an extremely close family friend, there’s typically some kind of cost, be it a tip or a generous gift, you need to add into your wedding budget.
How Much Do Officiants Cost on Average for a Wedding Ceremony?
Most couples can expect to pay between $200 and $500 for a wedding officiant to perform their marriage ceremony but, because there are so many variables around this line item, the final amount can vary greatly. If you go into your wedding planning process, though, with about $300 in mind for an officiant, you should be in good shape.
How Do Wedding Officiants Charge for Their Services?
Part of the reason why it’s so hard to pinpoint a price for a wedding officiant is because every person who performs a wedding ceremony handles payment a little differently. Here are a few examples:
Members of the clergy vary the most when it comes to the cost of wedding officiants. Your family’s priest, minister or rabbi may insist on performing the ceremony for free, while others have a set price. Others simply ask for a donation to their place of worship in return for their services.
There are a few things to expect when hiring a minister to perform your wedding ceremony:
- Set fee. This is the easiest, most straightforward way of paying a minister to be your wedding officiant, but it’s typically the most rare. Professional wedding officiants, like a minister, might simply charge you between $250 and $500 for their services, which includes a meeting with you and your partner, the wedding rehearsal and the actual wedding ceremony. When it’s all said and done, this person is likely putting in 10 hours of their time into your wedding, which makes a $300 fee feel very reasonable.
- Included with the ceremony venue. If you’re getting married in a place of worship, officiant fees are typically included in the venue’s overall fee. The place of worship typically won’t break down this cost, so you never really have an exact idea of the officiant cost, but it won’t be any more than the cost for a minister to marry you at a location outside of the church.
- Donation. Some ministers simply ask for you to make a donation to the church in exchange for officiating your wedding. If this is the case, plan on donating at least $200, and potentially more if the minister spends extra time with you to prepare for the ceremony.
If you’re getting married at a courthouse, your local city hall or elsewhere in your town, you may choose to have a local judge officiate the wedding.
The fee for officiants who are judges tends to be pretty nominal because that person is simply using their status as a civil leader to legally execute a marriage. They may take a little bit of time to get to know you and your future spouse to make the ceremony more personal, but that’s rare. Expect to pay $100 to $150 for this type of officiant.
A Friend or Family Member
The third most common type of wedding officiant is having a friend or family member perform the ceremony. This can make your wedding ceremony extra special and potentially save you money when it comes to a formal wedding officiant cost.
That being said, all types of officiants should be compensated. Here are a few ways you can thank them for their services:
- Thank you card and cash. Even if this person tells you that you don’t need to compensate them, sending them home with a thoughtful thank you card and some cash ($50 is a good amount) is a nice touch.
- Treat it like your gift. Wedding guests spend $50 to $350 on wedding gifts, so you can tell your wedding officiant he or she doesn’t need to buy you anything for the wedding in exchange for performing the ceremony.
- Buy them dinner. There’s a chance your officiant will want to meet with you before the ceremony to ask some questions in order to better prepare for the ceremony. Invite that person out for a nice dinner and pick up the tab as a sign of gratitude.
Wedding Officiant Cost: Do You Tip Wedding Officiants?
As you plan your wedding you likely understand that you need to tip several of your wedding vendors. But does that include your officiant?
Typically, you won’t have to tip your officiant, unless they do something above and beyond that makes the ceremony extra special. The officiant fee you pay them is typically adequate.
If there are travel costs involved for your officiant, you may want to consider giving the person a surprise tip in order to further help with those expenses.
Remember, officiants play an important role in your ceremony, so you want them to feel appreciated.
What Exactly Do Wedding Officiants Do?
Now that you understand wedding officiant cost and the price associated with this role, you may be wondering what exactly officiants are responsible for. We’re here to help!
Preparing for The Wedding
Your wedding officiant doesn’t just show up on your special day and run through a template wedding service. A good officiant knows to make the service personalized — and that requires practice and a little bit of research.
Often, the officiant will meet with you and your future spouse to get to know you better. Expect questions about how you met, your shared interests and how you knew he or she was the one for you. This part could be done over video chat or phone call if the couple and officiant aren’t in the same town.
The wedding officiant will then jot down this information and prepare his or her speech, in addition to the more traditional parts of the ceremony, like guiding you through the wedding vows. If your officiant has performed several marriage ceremonies in the past, he or she has likely developed a ceremony system.
The Wedding Rehearsal
Your officiant will also be on hand to rehearse the wedding ceremony, typically one night before the wedding. This is a big reason why wedding officiants are paid; because they need to be available two days in a row.
Make sure you invite your officiant to the rehearsal dinner afterward as a token of your appreciation. The rehearsal dinner is also a good time to give your officiant a thank you card with their payment inside.
Wedding Day Logistics
Especially if you have a member of the clergy as your wedding officiant, you can expect that person to make sure the day runs smoothly.
Typically, a minister will make sure people are seated in time, the music is ready to go, and the wedding party is standing in the right order. This is all in addition to their main duties as an officiant in charge.
The Wedding Ceremony
Your officiant will guide you through your wedding vows and legally pronounce you husband and wife, which is really the most important part of the day.
Signs the Marriage Certificate
You need an officiant to attest, in writing, that he or she officiated your marriage and witnessed your vows to each other in order to make the marriage legal.
Sometimes, the officiant will also file the marriage certificate with the local county clerk, which makes the cost all the more worth it, because that’s one less thing to remember as you start your lives as husband and wife.
Wedding Ceremonies Add Ons
All weddings are different and all couples want different things from their vendors, including their officiant. Whatever request you may have, simply ask your officiant if he or she can handle it. These people have likely performed many weddings and other ceremonies and have seen it all.
Understand Your Wedding Officiant Cost
The cost of a wedding isn’t cheap, but wedding officiant fees are something you can’t skip out on or even really expect to get at a bargain price.
A good officiant can make a ceremony extra memorable, while using a judge or city official can sometimes come across as more rigid and stale. Of course, all ceremonies are different and that’s not always the case.
Pick the option that works best for you and your partner and work the costs into your wedding budget.