Wedding Officiant Fee 101
WHAT DOES 'WEDDING OFFICIANT' ACTUALLY MEAN?
Here's my two decades as a full time wedding officiant/ minister -definition:
For most jurisdictions, the word "officiant" is a catch-all wedding marriage industry word for anyone legally-able to officiate a wedding marriage ceremony. This includes any marriage clergy, any wedding minister, all wedding pastors, officiates, officials, reverends, any civil non-religious ceremony officiant including minister officiants, i.e, no wedding officiants or wedding ministers who can "legally" officiate a wedding marriage would be excluded from this definition.
WHAT DOES AN OFFICIANT COST? WHAT'S THE OFFICIANT FEE?
Many professional officiants, like Weddingofficiants.com officiants, are independent ministers or civil officiants who runs their own affairs entirely. This includes setting their fee amounts and what's included and what's not included in their fee. It is important that you effectively interview prospective officiants ministers so you can not only know how much they cost but exactly what is included in their fee. This is the only way to know the 'true value' you are getting. The fact that one fee is higher or lower means nothing if you don't know what's included.
U.S. OFFICIANT FEE RANGE
Throught the U.S. the officiant fee range is probably between $35 to $1500 and higher. The actual fee a prospective officiant will quote you will depend upon the area (largest metros and unique locations have higher ranges), the day of the week (weekend and prime time higher), the season (some officiants charge less for off season ceremonies), and most importantly the officiant's experience and fee inclusions (what's included and what's not included).)
While I have never tracked this, my experience in having associates in 25 U.S. wedding markets is that the larger metros have a median fee of $200-$250 for the ceremony without rehearsal. Again though, it depends on what's included and the 'true value' for you (some fees include travel, some don't; some include rehearsal, some don't; some include unlimited in-person meetings to work on the script, some will charge extra and this goes on and on because each independent officiant has their own way of doing this).
A professional officiant minister will gladly go over all such details with you. A true professional will want you to have complete information so your final choice will be an informed one and the best one for you. If you need assistance with preparing your interview questions, we offer a page to support this, here.
FEE MYTH #1: ALL OFFICIANTS PRETTY MUCH OFFER THE SAME VALUE
That there is not that much of a real difference between officiants. Not true.
Officiants vary in their handling of basic tasks. While there are basic tasks which all officiants provide (hopefully including knowing the license requirement details; making sure it's filled out properly and on time to the governmental body responsible to record it; having a basic friendliness towards family and guests; being on time and dressed appropriately for your needs; being prepared and being easy to understand when presenting the ceremony), not all officiants follow through with the same degree of care.
Officiating is no different than any job in that there is average, above average and way above average. For some, the minimal works, for others, nothing short of giving their all works.There is no judgment here. If you are couple needing something 'short and sweet' as they say, someone to satisfy the legal requirement, there are many officiants who do this perfectly just like there are basic cars that will perfectly get you to where you need to go, in this case, a marriage ceremony that gets done and is legal. For couples wanting more than the basic vehicle, there are officiants with added features who offer a different 'ride' and experience. There is no better or worse here, just a difference between officiants.
Officiants vary in what they include and don't include. An example of this would be creative options, aka personalizing options. Some officiants have these options, some prefer to stick with a basic ceremony. Of those with options, some have developed them extensively and some not. That not to say that an officiant who doesn't offer options wouldn't support you if you wanted one. What's important to you? When you are interviewing, make sure you ask questions so that you have the answers relating to what you need.
Officiants vary in their attitude and perspective. Some wedding ministers and civil officiants see officiating as a job-job, no different than any other job-job. Some see it as a fun on-going learning and enriching opportunity to give loving and exellence to others. Some go to work. Some can't wait to get to their office epress their passion to do more. Some wedding ministers and civil officiants believe that there is a right and wrong way regarding ceremony and couple in the context of their background, church and religion. Others believe that it's only about the couple, not them, not their background or even their religion and church, i.e., it's just a wedding.
And couples vary in what their needs are. How do the above ideas play into your needs and what you envision for your wedding ceremony? What officiating values are most important to you? Least important to you? Which ones really matter and which ones really don't? How clear is it to you as to what type of officiant you need? Do you need more information?
FEE MYTH #2: LOWER-PRICED OFFICIANTS ALWAYS COST LESS
If you're like me, all other things being equal, you want to save money (who doesn't?). And you like knowing that you made the financial choice that met your needs at the lowest possible price. And you prefer not to make a mistake-waste money- or at least tyou are clear that you know what to do differently next time so the mistake not to do next time so it doesn't happen again.is not repeated.
I've had lessons along the way when all other things were not equal and I missed itor resisted it. I am much better now in remembering that if saving money means exposing myself to more risk than I'm uncomfortable with, it's not worth it. I remember that not only could it end up costing me more in the long run but, worse, it could cost me more in the long run without my getting what I needed. And so, now in my life, if cheaper means less quality and more risk, I will drop cheaper like a burning hot potato. I wanted to share this with you because I think this is relevant when considering that you're only getting married once and you deserve to have what you want the way you want it. Is this accureate about you? Comments, questions?
FEE MYTH #3: HIGHER-PRICED OFFICIANTS ALWAYS COST MORE
Depends on whether you're looking at the initial fee amount alone or the overall total (or potential total) cost amount. The fee amount number, of course, will always be higher for a higher priced officiant and vice versa. And the fee amount will be fixed (stay the same). The final cost, the resulting end-cost, though, will vary; depending on many factors.
1. Did you get what you substantially (no professional officiant is perfect) wanted?
2. Did the results end up costing you another fee (was the officiant a no-show or a very-late show and you had to hire someone else? While not common, please know that it does happen--I know because I've been called in to finish the job more than a few times and I hear this from other officiants too)?
3. Was the officiant not very present, monotone, mechanical and you didn't feel much interest or energy?
These questions are NOT about what we should be afraid of (there's no shortage of things to be afraid of and fear is not where we want to be). These questions are to point out that the amount of money that a lower priced officiant saves you initially could be, but not necessarily will be, a savings after all.
These questions are being asked so that you don't just jump into hiring someone you're really not clear about just to be able to check it off on your Wedding Planning To Do List or that you had a success today, you saved money. Is it really about the money? I don't believe it is. I believe it's about doing excellence (your best) to make the best choice for you to maximize the best results for you. I hope you will walk away from this class remembering that a higher fee doesn't guarantee you'll get more and a lower fee doesn't guarantee you will end up saving money.
Okay you say, so what do we do now? Well, as with any investment, it's about the risk involved. How much risk you are comfortable with. Factor into this the old saying: "You get what you pay for", which applies to wedding vendors too.
I suggest as a next step to use what you just learned in developing your interview questions. Rest assured this all will come together and you will have the perfect officiant for you at the best price (and with ease). How do I know this? I've seen it year and year after year. I've seen the anxiety and fears giving way to the most beautiful ceremony and wedding day. And you've been reading this far and you're just about to graduate from Officiant Fee 101. There's one remaining thing. . .
Q: HOW DO WE BALANCE GETTING WHAT WE WANT WITH WHAT WE HAVE TO SPEND? "Our love deserves the best but our wallet doesn't have that much."
When love's involved, there will ever be enough money for anyone. And too, I am sure you will agree that because you have limits on what you can spend on your wedding, it can be quite challenging to make certain choices and know what corners to cut. So what to do? Which corner do we cut? Which item do we spend more on? Less on? Enters an exercise for you to try.
TEST DRIVE THIS COS-TO-VALUE EXERCISE (you might save money and feel very reassured from the experience):
1. Take out a pencil and paper and draw 4 verticle columns on the paper entitling them at the top, as you see below. Then, together, brainstorm and write down in the first vertical column (on the left side of the paper) a list of categories of costs . These categories will reflect your plans for wedding day; from cakes and flowers and venue to the ceremony and music provider, etc.
2.Then, in the next vertical column (2nd from the left side--Categories Rated), and corresponding to the categories you just wrote down, using a number range from 1-5 (go higher if you have more categories), rate each category from least important to you (lowest number) to the most important to you (highest number). This may not be easy to do this because your love together deserves it all without any limitations, but nonetheless, make choices.
3. Now, in the next column (Category Budgets), keeping in the same row as the categories of the prior columns, write down the approximate dollar amount you've budgeted for each category.
4. Then, in the last vertical column (along the right side of the paper--Budgets Scored) put a number from 1-5 that corresponds to the size of the amounts you've budgeted for each category (5= the most amount of money budgeted, 1=the least amount of money budgeted). Your worksheet will look something like this:
5. Now look the 4 columns in the example and then in your example. Observe the relationship of the items to each other in each column.Does the #1 of the each category match the #1 of dollars budgeted? How about the others? The lowest? What else do you see? Of course some items just cost more and need to cost more. Does the couple who did the above example chart have the higher dollar amounts budgeted matching their priority ratings? Or is there a higher priority item that is getting a lower budget allowance? How about your chart? The same? or? Any insights so far? When you look at your own chart, are you seeing any clues about cutting corners?
6. Now, apply what you learn from observing this to reflect on which corners to cut for your wedding day. Ask yourself: Am I willing to trim the budget for a lower rated item in order to have more available for a higher rated item? If not, reflect on this a bit so you can understand this more. Consider this idea: that the results of the exercise provide you the opportunity to see clearly what is important to you and to be able to best honor it.
It has been my hope, in writing this page, that, perhaps, your planning will be enriched and more quality will be added to your wedding day. Thanks for reading it.
Abundant Prosperous Financial Wishes (and all that good jazz),
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