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Finding an officiant for your wedding often falls to the bottom of your ‘to-do” list behind the more exciting decisions like the venue, flowers, guest list, wedding party, menu, photographer, and the music. But if you think about it, the wedding officiant is indispensable. It's essential to find someone that you like to set the tone for your celebration—and the sooner you can cross it off your list, the better.
A wedding officiant leads your wedding ceremony and follows through with the legalities of signing the license and sending it to the marriage bureau on time. You can have a friend or family member become ordained online to perform your ceremony or hire a professional officiant who may be a non-denominational minister or a secular officiant. Some clergy are allowed to perform weddings even if you are not of their specific faith.
Read on for the cost of a wedding officiant, plus tips and advice to help you make the right choice for you and your partner.
How Much Does an Officiant Cost?
In the larger cities, any wedding vendor will cost more. The good news is that there are many wedding officiants and it’s a competitive market. Figure a low of $200-$250 for a basic “just show up and read” wedding. A comprehensive officiating program of a free initial “meet and greet” meeting, phone availability, optional rehearsal, custom-written ceremony with three re-writes, performing the wedding, mileage, drive time, and waiting expenses will run $500-$800.
Ministers and religiously affiliated clergy may have structured fees or a "suggested honorarium." The contact person at your church will tell you what to expect to tuck into the envelope for them.
How to Find a Wedding Officiant
Recommendations from people you trust are always best. Ask your planner, venue, recently married friends and co-workers, photographer, musicians, and your D.J. The vendors have worked with many officiants and know how they conduct themselves and how they sound when speaking.
Once you have a shortlist of officiants, call to see if they have your date open and will travel to your ceremony venue. Then schedule a phone conference, video chat, or arrange to meet for coffee. Discuss with your partner what type of wedding you both envision. If it’s formal, look for an officiant who can be authoritative but kind. If you’re laid-back, a friendly officiant with a sense of humor will put you at ease during the ceremony.
Questions to Ask Potential Officiants
Most officiants offer an initial complimentary meeting. Begin by asking where they were ordained, their officiating experience, and where they have performed weddings.
They should ask what you have in mind for your ceremony. They should want to know how you met, your belief system, and your plans for the future. If they don’t show interest in you by a reasonable amount of time, politely thank them and close the conversation.
So far, so good? Proceed with these questions:
- Have they performed a wedding at your venue before?
- How early will they arrive before the ceremony?
- Do they run the rehearsal and is there an extra charge for the rehearsal?
- Do they require a contract?
- Is there a back-up officiant available?
- How are payments broken down?
- Do they have a video available of a ceremony?
- What will they wear?
Tips for Hiring a Wedding Officiant
Here are some things to keep in mind when making your final decision:
Not all officiants are equal.
You want an experienced professional who is detail-oriented and can gracefully adjust to situations on the spot. To get an idea of their suitability, ask them how they handled a tricky situation at a ceremony.
There are ways to save money.
Ask if the rehearsal can be run by the venue coordinator (who will also be there on the wedding day), to save paying the officiant for their rehearsal time. Many celebrants offer ceremony discounts to first responders, firefighters, police, military, doctors, and nurses.
Inform your officiant of special requests.
Seating adjustments for argumentative divorced parents or space needed in the first row for grandpa’s wheelchair can be easily handled. If you don’t have a planner, the officiant should take care of situations that affect the ceremony proceedings.
Great officiants put you first.
They reserve your day for you. Consequently, any family gatherings in their lives take a backseat until after your wedding is complete. Remember to respond promptly to their requests for info regarding your processional line-up, vows, and readings.
Don’t hire one who has multiple weddings on your day.
So many things can happen when they book back-to-back weddings. Traffic or a previous wedding that runs late will affect yours.
Trust your gut.
The ceremony is where most couples say they stress out. You should have confidence that the officiant can guide you effortlessly through the service so you can relax and enjoy the precious moments.