Whatever number your potential officiant has uttered, it probably seems to fall somewhere between, “Oh Really?” and “That’s insane”. Many people don’t budget enough for an officiant simply because they don’t know the range of pricing. (This applies to a lot of wedding services; I had no idea what makeup cost until I asked a colleague what she charges. I was a little shocked but when she explained why, I got it….) It’s even a bigger shock if they were planning to have a family member step in for free or assumed that their parish minister would officiate for a small donation.
So why DOES it cost that much?
A good, independent officiant will spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 hours between your initial phone call until they email you a confirmation that your license has been filed. My first consultation call or skype or meeting with a couple is usually over an hour (even if they don’t book me..). I walk through the entire ceremony, part by part, to give the couple an idea of what elements they might want to include (remembrances, unity rituals, readings, poems, dogs)….(cont) and explain what will happen from the time I arrive (an hour before, so I can make sure the photographer, musicians or DJ and venue coordinator have their cues). We talk about different rituals the couple is interested in; sand, chocolate sharings, etc) and how their family dynamics will impact what they want to do. Is everyone divorced? Antagonistic? Estranged? Just plain nuts? That all has an effect on how we write the ceremony together. Are you religious? Differently religious? Not religious at all? That needs to be right too.
When I start to write, that usually takes 2-6 hours and then we revise that script until it’s right
My couples are welcome to pick my brain about other vendors, venues, etiquette and anything else that comes up. They can send me anything they want to include and anything they want to avoid; after all, I am writing their love story, not just reciting a canned ceremony that could belong to anyone. I want the first part of the celebration to be completely remarkable and so unique that their guests start the day feeling NOT like they sat through something, but that they learned about the couple, laughed and cried, and came away knowing more. I want them to be as wowed as they will be when they see the bride walking down the aisle or discover the fabulous tablescapes that grace the reception table.
Now, that being said, that isn’t what everyone wants. Many of my couples want the ceremony to be short, sweet and over; I understand that and I respect that. But even the most standard, short ceremony process is still going to require conversations between you and your officiant, time on site, and followup. That is all time, and time is money. The ceremony, like limos and dresses, is a thing that can’t be defined as a specific percentage of your budget. It’s a stand alone item that costs what it does, based on where it falls on your priority list. Only you can decide that.