While it can cost $50-$100 or so to hire an intern minister or retired judge, or have a civil ceremony by the justice of the peace at the courthouse, expect to pay $200–$500 for an experienced officiant. Get free estimates from wedding officiants near you.
It can be easy to get so caught up in the details of the big day that you forget to make the most important part the most special one—the wedding ceremony. Hiring a good wedding officiant will take care of this, and you’ll get far more than just someone standing in front of you announcing you as a married couple.
You’ll get the experience and guidance of someone with hundreds of weddings under the belt, bringing calm to your chaos and a meaningful and memorable ceremony that will be talked about for its excellence for many years after. This is your one day to say how you feel about each other in front of people you love and who love you.
While it can cost $50-$100 or so to hire an intern minister or retired judge, or have a civil ceremony by the justice of the peace at the courthouse, expect to pay $200–$500 for an experienced wedding officiant.
This is a great price, because he/she will spend approx. five to ten hours on each wedding. The price will be higher if you also want your officiant at the wedding rehearsal.
Before you book your officiant, it will help you not waste time by first deciding what type of wedding you want to have and setting that decision in stone. Decide on:
The officiants with the best reviews tend to book up quickly, so once you have the date down, pick your top three and see if they are available to officiate on your day.
Some officiants have more experience with certain sizes of wedding than others, so, especially if you have a large wedding planned, pick someone with plenty of experience engaging large crowds. On the other hand, if you’re eloping and it’s just you two and your puppy, choose someone who exudes warmth and happiness for you to make it all the more special.
Weather during an outdoor ceremony can be unpredictable, and having an officiant who knows how to work a mic is important. Get his/her advice in advance on speaker setup to make sure everyone will be able to hear your vows being read to each other over gusts of winds and rain on the canopy.
We all have different upbringings and life experiences that have led us to the place we are today regarding matters of culture, faith, sexuality, and what’s important. Pick a minister or officiant who welcomes all of that about you both and is able to help you put together a ceremony that embraces all those vital parts of your world.
Most officiants will list the types of ceremonies they feel they can offer the most to, to include the following:
For a fun/party style wedding, look for someone who is fully on board with your plans.
Never underestimate the power of humor in an officiant. It relaxes everyone on the day and can make the ceremony noteworthy, thanks to the laughter and smiles rendered.
A good officiant will meet you either in person or via online video chat to listen to your love story and get to know you both a little—your personality styles, hopes and expectations for the wedding ceremony, how you want the ceremony to feel, and preferences and ideas.
From that, the officiant will be able to put together a customized, personalized ceremony that is uniquely you. Most officiants will either have a flat fee for this part or they won’t charge, while others will have a consultation rate but will roll it into the final cost.
Before, during, and right after this consultation is when you’ll know if you’ve found your officiant based on:
You can also get a good idea of officiants’ personalities by looking at their social media accounts. For example, Southern California Wedding Officiant owner in Long Beach, CA, Jeremy Schultheiss, lists his social media links on his Fash profile so you can learn more about him. His advice is to, “think through where your event is and what your hopes are for the big day,” and “look for someone you can trust and that is responsive to your communication.”
You can also assess their love of their job by the words they use in their profiles, likes those of Rev Sara Henderson of Ceremonies from the Heart in Kent, CT, who says, “I love everything about my work! ... I love helping them create a personalized ceremony that captures the magic of their unique relationship and love.”
Once you’ve hired your officiant, he/she will be one of your key players. You’ll go over each aspect of the ceremony and choose your preference for how you want it to be. The officiant will provide several guides and helpful information for this part, guiding you through the welcome, your couple story, the vows, readings, exchange of rings, and closing.
Talk through all the smaller details such as who enters when, who stands where, when would you like this particular song clip to be played, when the officiant should announce the surprise guest—your fiancé’s brother from Australia, and so on.
This decision process sets the tone for the day and will put your mind at ease, as you’ll know what to expect and be prepared.
The officiant will also give you many sample readings, vows, and couple stories to help you write your own, and from past experience can recommend the best length for all these before you begin to lose your audience. Many couples have said, after the wedding, that the officiant helped them craft their couple story and vows to a perfect length and with words that emphasized the love, caring, and humor they wanted the guests to feel as they were shared.
In addition, the officiant can suggest some delightfully unique and memorable touches to the typical wedding ceremony, such as handfasting, a wine ceremony, or a guest rope knotting.
It’s highly recommended that you also have your officiant at the wedding rehearsal. It will help the wedding party know where they should be and when, and will calm any frayed nerves the night before the big day.
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Great officiants are prepared for anything—from having a hairdryer and hairspray in the car for last-minute hair problems to having an extra copy of your vows in case you forgot yours. They remain calm and focused no matter what unexpected things happen, such as traffic delays or rainstorms. They even have such a large network of professional wedding services that they can call on someone straightaway if someone lets you down at the eleventh hour.
They will usually talk with you before the ceremony begins, give one more quick rundown of how it will go, and then it’s time. As soon as your officiant begins, he/she will have already read the mood of the room and set the tone to the one you want, thus ensuring everyone’s attention and keeping the focus on you and the whole reason why you’re all gathered together—to celebrate your love for each other.
Before hiring, make sure your officiant will take care of filing your marriage license with the state and mailing you a copy. One couple had a Disney wedding, but because they didn’t ask their officiant about this part, they never got their copy to prove it. You want an officiant that will take care of all these details so that you don’t have to.
Tipping your officiant is optional, but a standard tip is $50–$100. Your officiant will let you know if you need to pay for his/her service before or after the wedding. Most will ask for at least half upfront.
You many want a family member or friend to officiate at your wedding, in which case you’ll need to know the licensing requirements for doing so in order to get your marriage certificate after the wedding. Know, however, that many couples have been disappointed with this choice due to the person’s lack of experience, while others have raved about how much better having an officiant was compared to what could have been.
U.S. Marriage Laws states, “Usually the state laws licensing provide any recognized member of the clergy (such as a Priest, Minister, Rabbi, Imam, Cantor, Ethical Culture Leader, etc.), or a judge, a court clerk, and justices of the peace have authority to perform a marriage.
However in some states even the clergy must be first certified or licensed. Some states have laws that permit other persons to apply for authority to perform marriage ceremonies.” Read more about the licensing requirement for officiants for your state here. Ask your officiant for a copy of his/her state licensing certificate.
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