Price check on aisle one....

scarlett2001October 11, 2006

I'm just wondering- how much are officiants being paid in different parts of the country? I just helped with a wedding and was surprised to see that the couple paid almost $300 for a "minister" who was ordained on the internet. She had legal authority to perform the wedding, but I know you can become "ordained" in about 30 seconds by this organization. And I am NOT knocking them, but I just wonder how that compares to other officiants.

So would you please say what general region, the cost and the status of the officiant, such as ordained minister, priest, rabbi, justice of the peace or whatever.

Thank you!

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All I can offer is what happens at our congregation, where my husband is a clergyman. There is no charge for a wedding for congregants or their children. That is considered part of what you get for your dues. Plus, the couple gets a complimentary one-year membership. For non-members (which isn't very common; they aren't really looking for "outside jobs"), they charge a few hundred dollars, and here's why. They don't really look at it like a retail operation; so much for a wedding, so much for holiday services, etc. -- these things are supposed to be for members of the congregation (with accommodation for people in special circumstances as they arise, of course; it's not like they turn people away, they just don't think of themselves primarily as a resource for the general public). So the charge is about $500 for one clergyman, maybe another $250 for both (and a facilities fee if they need to use the building, too, especially the kitchen and social hall) -- and then the couple gets the one-year membership, which costs about the same anyway. Get it?

When my husband has done the occasional wedding for a relative or close friend out of town, he doesn't charge anything.

Often, the family will give a little gift or, more often, make a contribution to the congregation. Cash gifts are turned over to the congregation.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 2:23PM
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I am a wedding coordinator in the Northwest. In my area the officiant is paid based on the amount of time they spend with the couple. If they provide several sessions of pre-marital counseling, they receive much more than a minister who attends only the rehearsal and wedding. The distance they have to travel is also a factor. A minister who does no counseling receives about $100. One who offers counseling receives $200 and up.

Many churches have a set fee that they charge for the minister's services and every judge has one fee for weddings performed in their chambers and a much higher fee for weddings on week-ends that they must travel to, and judges don't attend rehearsals, so their fee is for one day only. Their out of chambers fee usually ranges from $125 to $150 and they may ask for a travel fee as well.

I have a friend who was licensed over the internet. She meets with the couple two or three times before the wedding to work out a personalized ceremony for them. She charges $125. In my area we have a couple of people who advertise in the Yellow Pages and basically show up, do the ceremony and leave. They may do 4 or 5 weddings every Saturday. They charge $85.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 5:26PM
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So it seems there is quite a range...and a couple looking to cut costs could have a friend become an internet minister and save several hundred dollars, if they wanted to go that way.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 10:22PM
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My daughter's sister-in-law got married this summer. Her future brother-in-law registered for a one day license to be their officiant. The word is that he did a very nice job.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 3:07AM
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Not all states allow just anybody to officiate, but several do; the couple can ask at the county clerk's office.

And in many states--not all--there is such a thing as a "common law" marriage. In this, if the couple declares themselves to be married, in public and before witnesses, they are then legally married. I'm pretty sure this is true in Iowa, but it's not in Minnesota. My aunt married in her living room in Minneapolis, and the JP was late, but they wanted to feed people, so they stood in the living room and make promises to one another. My dad & I were joking that, if it had in Iowa, where we're from, it would be official. But it wasn't, so they ad to wait until the JP arrived to make it legal.

There are often requirements about the wording--you can't say "I'll love you forever," you have to say "I'll be your wife"--you have to use language that cannot be construed as any other thing--"marry," "wedding," "husband," "wife," etc. The clerk of court should know your state's requirements.

So, the couple could officiate at their own marriage. Then, their only cost would probably be for the license.

My church is similar to Gellchom's; if my pastor performs the wedding, he doesn't charge anything. There isn't even a facilities fee for members. (and there are no membership dues). Nonmembers are probably asked to pay something--probably $100 for the facility and something for the pastor.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 12:50PM
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Talley Sue, I'm so sorry to correct you, but you don't quite have the facts all straight on common-law marriage, and I don't want anyone to be misled. I am an attorney, and although I can't give out legal advice, I can clarify this a little.

Common-law marriage does not refer the formation of the marriage, but to legal status as married WITHOUT an official marriage. It comes up way, way later in probate, property, and custody matters, or where the couple turns out not to have been eligible to marry back then so that the marriage was technically void (like being first cousins, or someone underage -- or, in some places pre-1967, of different races. Yes, really!).

Few jurisdictions still recognize common-law marriage, but in those that do, the benchmark is NOT anything they do to marry. Rather, it is that a couple has held themselves out as married -- indicia include things like that they lived together, shared a surname, referred to themselves as married, jointly owned property, had kids etc. -- consistently for a long period of time -- so, the idea was, there's no point now in quibbling now about whether they had an official marriage way back when.

The point for this forum is that there is definitely NO such thing as an instant common-law marriage or a common-law marriage CEREMONY -- i.e., that you can just say some formula to each other and declare yourselves married without meeting any state requirements, and then you have a common-law marriage. Those requirements vary from state to state, but all states have them, so check and see what they are where you live. Your state might not require that there be any officiant; perhaps that was what you were thinking of, Talley Sue?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 3:50PM
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p.s. --

You can come pretty close, though. If you marry at City Hall or the County Clerk's office (or wherever they do it where you live) before your planned wedding, then you can do whatever you want, with whoever you want, or no one, "officiating" at your wedding.

You would be surprised how often this occurs. I'll bet we have all unknowingly been to several weddings where the bride and groom were already married for a few days, for one reason or another. When we married, Wisconsin required the couple to apply for the license in person, together, at least 3 weeks before the wedding, and we lived in Massachusetts. I was planning to come in 2 weeks before the wedding, and he was coming in 4-5 days before -- it sure didn't seem worth it to come in twice or weeks early, so we were just going to get married at some clerk's office in MA a few weeks before the wedding, until we found out that for $30 or something Wisconsin waived the 3-week advance time, so we did that. When my husband has performed out of state weddings, sometimes the couple has just gone to City Hall a few days earlier rather than pay the state the hundreds of dollars they charge for a one-time license to perform a marriage. Boring reasons like that, but there are many of them, and people just keep their mouths shut, so the guests don't know.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 3:57PM
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and in those circumstances, it would be very wise to keep it quiet, so the guests don't know. I'd feel like, "why am I bothering to come watch entertainment, when they're already married."

I understand why they do it, but as a guest, I'd think it was weird.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 6:22PM
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What gellchom mentions with a legal "pre-marriage" occurs often when a couple plans to marry in another country. For instance, if the bride is from another country, one that has a residency requirement, the couple will often marry in this country before they travel so that they don't have to meet the requirements of the other country. I have also had couples who were concerned that one party may not be able to return to the U.S. after they married in the other country, so they get married before going.

Interesting things can happen when couples are creative.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 5:52PM
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my son and his wife were married at the court house a week before they had the 'bells and whistles' for the family thing.they really enjoyed being all alone and then showing off that paper...everyone ,well most everyone,knew before hand that they were doing it that way. they wanted my son's paternal grandmother, who is a christian councilor to preform the ceremony for every one to witness.the ceremony was wonderful and no one was rude or upset if they found out they had married before hand,helped the bride and groom with the nerves and also they have that special thing for just the two of they enjoy 2 anniversaries each year!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2006 at 2:24PM
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