How Much Do Wedding Officiants Cost?

wedding officiant cost
Photo by Forte Photography

Q: We’re pricing wedding officiants in New York where we live and they’re much more than I thought they would be! What’s the average rate for a wedding officiant?- Julie

A: When planning your wedding budget it can sometimes feel like almost everything causes sticker shock…and an officiant is definitely one of them! The average cost of a wedding officiant can vary depending on the TYPE you have, so let’s look at your options:

Religious Official

A priest, rabbi, minister, etc.

Estimated Cost: If you’re getting married in a house of worship, this will most likely be included in your ceremony fee and may or may not include an organist and/or vocalist. They amount can range from $250-$1,000, and may be given as a “suggested donation.” It may also be more expensive if you are not already a member.

If you are not getting married in a house of worship, the cost of hiring an outside priest, rabbi, or minister will often cost between $350-$800+. It is also considered polite to tip your officiant, which is seen as a donation to their organization (more on Wedding Vendor Tips here) as well as invite them your reception (they don’t always come). You may also need to pay for any travel expenses they incur that might not be included in their fee (such as hotel if they are traveling from out of town).

Important Note: If your church requires pre-marital counseling sessions these may or may not be included in your fee (they can often range from $80-$150 for the program, and sometimes over $200 for non-members.)

Civil Official

Notary, Justice of the Peace, retired Judge.

Estimated Cost: Assuming you’re not getting married at City Hall (in which a civil ceremony can often average $75, not including the cost of a marriage license), you can expect to pay around $250-$500 for the wedding ceremony, and often an additional $25-$50 or more for an initial meeting as well as the rehearsal.

Friend or Family Member

Estimated Cost: Anybody can become ordained and officiate your wedding, but there are some costs involved. First, you need to make sure they are ordained by an organization your Secretary of State office views as legitimate. Two of the most recognized ones include the Universal Life Church and American Fellowship Church. Packages at the latter range from $45 for 1-year to $200 for a Lifetime Minister License. The Universal Life Church is free, but they do accept donations.

It is also customary, of course, to not only invite your friend/family member who officiates your wedding to the reception, but to give them a gift as well, such as a $200 gift card to their favorite restaurant.

Important Note: You and your wedding officiant must be familiar with the marriage laws in the state you are getting hitched in, so be sure to check on those at least several months in advance. Also remember that any officiant you use must sign the marriage license and the official marriage certificate and submit the license to the State for your wedding to be official! You’ll receive a copy of yours in the mail.

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  1. says: Emily

    The fee for a wedding officiant should be much higher than you have listed here. The ceremony should be the most important part of the wedding and therefore those who officiate at the ceremony should be properly compensated. Many ordained officiants not only help to plan the wedding ceremony but also offer pre-marital counseling and much, much more. If you belong/attend a church or synagogue the pastor or rabbi will officiate as part of your being a member, so there should be no (or only minimal) extra cost. Yes, a gift would be appropriate in that case.
    If you do not belong to a house of worship and are hiring a member of the clergy to officiate at your wedding, the cost should be somewhere between $600-$3000 to be respectful of the clergy, their time and their vocation. If you think this is too much, consider what you are spending on flowers, the dress, the photographer- all that should be secondary to the ceremony- the reason for even gathering on that day!