Larry James' CelebrateIntimateWeddings BLOG

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Much Do You Charge to Perform a Wedding Ceremony?

Filed under: $$$ Tips,Fees,Vendor Fees,Wedding Tips — Larry James @ 7:00 am

I often receive e-mail or a phone call with this request: “We are interested in your availability and pricing for our wedding ceremony. How much do you charge?” I’m always curious about why the first question is usually, “How much?”

I know. . . money does not grow on trees, however you should pay as much as you can afford to obtain the services of a professional wedding officiant – one who can make the wedding ceremony interesting, enjoyable and entertaining for you and your guests. A little “light” humor can’t hurt either.

HowMuch$$1Choosing your wedding officiant should be your #1 priority. The presentation of the wedding ceremony sets the tone for the reception. When guests enjoy the ceremony, they have more fun at the wedding. Your officiant can make your ceremony beautiful or cause it to be a disaster! Regardless if your officiant is on the high or low end of the fee schedule, it should be their quality of work that you pay for.

Your officiant should design a ceremony – that you approve in advance – so you know what your officiant is going to say. Your officiant should speak up and speak clearly with a pleasant voice. There is nothing worse than an officiant who is long winded, drawn out, monotone and boring to put your guests to sleep.

The fee for a wedding ceremony has many variables. Pricing and availability are certainly two very important factors to consider, however because of the many details involved in planning, preparing and customizing my romantic wedding ceremony, a fee quote from me is available ONLY after a no pressure, no obligation telephone consultation and after I have spoken with the bride and groom about the numerous details of the wedding that may affect the fee.

Of course, price is only one consideration – value and whether your wedding ceremony is memorable are others. Reputation should always be another consideration.

Just as there is no standard rate for a car — old wrecks cost $500; new Ferrari is a lot more — so wedding officiants with lots of experience, awards and big name recognition will be able to charge above average rates, while new wedding officiants with no reputation, an empty schedule and no marketing budget will be willing to accept lower amounts.

Caution: You may be in for a disappointing wedding ceremony if you rely on someone in your family who has never performed a wedding ceremony before or someone who has obtained an ordination online just to do one wedding and is without any experience in the wedding business. I cannot stress this enough. Be very careful to hire someone who can give you excellent references. If they cannot provide references. . . find someone else.

Amateurs do not have the experience to be able to handle any unexpected or embarrassing moments that could develop during the wedding ceremony. A professionally-trained wedding officiant will be poised and calm no matter what happens and be able to quickly and efficiently handle any situation with dignity and respect.

mcneilA bride’s “friend” who is not trained has no business performing any wedding ceremony. The hard part is finding a “qualified” wedding officiant with an ordination who has the experience in performing ceremonies that will keep you from experiencing all the things that go wrong with an amateur. You will be much better off avoiding “weekend warriors.”

Having your “mother” or “father” perform the ceremony cheats them out of enjoying and celebrating the event.

This is your very special day. It will only happen once. It is the most important day of your life and the wedding ceremony is the moment of the most profound change in your life. I would never recommend that you make your decision on price alone. On a “tight budget?” There are numerous other areas that you can cut back on when the $$s are tight. Always allocate a sufficient amount of money in your wedding budget for a wedding officiant. The ideal officiant is not only someone who is important to the bride and groom, but is articulate and capable of handling such an important event.

Some wedding ministers/wedding officiants may charge more if they customize the ceremony. Not I. I customize every ceremony to the bride and grooms complete satisfaction for the same fee.

Some wedding ministers/wedding officiants may charge more if you expect them to be at the rehearsal. Not I. The rehearsal is included in the fee. I want to be there to make sure that everything flows smoothly. I attend all rehearsals unless you schedule your rehearsal on the day that I have a wedding scheduled. I also recommend that you schedule your rehearsal 2 days before the wedding to give you a day of rest between two stressful days – the rehearsal and the wedding. About a week before the rehearsal I will send you several “rehearsal reminders” that will be sure that you have all my latest tips for rehearsals.


Signing the Marriage License

If you are a member of a church or synagogue, the pastor/rabbi will sometimes perform the ceremony for free, however it is customary to make a donation of at least $500 to the church or synagogue.

I spend a lot of time helping each couple plan their wedding ceremony. A “good” or “great” wedding does not happen by accident. It takes a lot of planning and coordination. It usually takes me about 10 to 15 hours to prepare for a full-service wedding.

Typically, you can expect to pay between $400.00 to $750.00 for a professional wedding officiant. Anything less may require lots of questions from you as to their experience, etc. The variables will be their experience and travel time/expenses. They must be qualified to run a rehearsal if there is no venue wedding coordinator.

Always remember: There is a big difference between “price” and “cost.” Quality of service is more important than the price. If the ceremony gets messed up by an amateur, the “cost” will be much greater than whatever “price” you paid an experienced wedding officiant. It will always cost you less to have a first-class professional, someone you can count on to perform it properly. If something is good, it is usually not cheap, and if something is cheap, it’s probably not very good.

My philosophy is this: “Under promise and over deliver.” In other words, I always give more than is expected. I give what I promise and then some!


Having fun with the “Blending of the Sand” Ceremony.

LoveNote. . . “Larry James went above and beyond our expectation of an officiant. Tailoring the ceremony to fit our needs exactly. Larry James took the necessary amount of time needed to truly understand us and our personalities to accommodate what we were looking for in a ceremony. This was the last thing we expected during our first interview (an unrushed meaningful interview with depth), we are very impressed and his reputation holds true!

Larry James didn’t just show up to rehearsal, he participated, offering feedback based on his experience. Larry James took time to understand us which resulted in the personal touch that a wedding should have. We like to work with people who “want” to do their profession, show passion and care about their service or product. Larry James does just that and played a significant role on the biggest day of our lives. We are confident that nobody could have done it better.” – Holly & Tyler O’Neal – Married @ 4:30 p.m., Saturday, January 8, 2011 – Regale at DC Ranch, Scottsdale, AZ

Cheap is seldom ever memorable! There are NO do-overs!

BONUS Articles: No Thanks! A Family Friend Will Perform Our Wedding Ceremony
Interviewing a Wedding Officiant? – Bring Lots of Questions!
How Much Will Your Wedding Cost? + Ways to Save!

Copyright © 2011 – Larry James. This idea is adapted from Larry’s “romantic” Wedding Ceremony. Larry James is an award winning, non-denominational wedding officiant and performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! Every wedding ceremony is customized to your complete satisfaction. Call to check availability: 480-998-9411 or 800-725-9223. Pre-maritial relationship coaching is available and not required. You will find more than 460 pages of Wedding ideas, tips (90 tips and growing), ceremonies, and more at: Something NEW about weddings is posted every 4th day on this Wedding BLOG. Check Larry’s availability.

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  2. There are some pretty harsh comments here about newly ordained or ordained online ministers performing weddings. Everyone, including you had to start somewhere. I am newly ordained. I am a fun and poised individual with decades of experience working with differnt individuals and different situations. I look forward ro performing my first ceremony and i know i will do very well…despite your judgmental opinion.


    Comment by Dlynn — Sunday, August 2, 2015 @ 9:06 am | Reply

    • Dlynn ~ Thank you for your comments.

      Opps! Try not to take everything you read that it’s all about you. There are exceptions to every situation.

      You said, “I am a fun and poised individual with decades of experience working with different individuals and different situations.” There are some of us who have had years of experience standing in front of an audience and speaking… for me, nearly 30 years as a professional speaker. For me it was an easy transition, however, even with all that experience, I had to learn the ins and outs of the wedding business and more specifically the accepted format of a ceremony before I performed my first ceremony. With someone like you, it may be different. My quarrel is not with you but with an uncle or family member who – for the first time – performs a wedding ceremony (usually for free – sounds like a good deal) without knowing the least bit about wedding ceremonies and who has no intention of performing ceremonies as part of their business. Seldom ever does it work out good, and there are exceptions to that. It’s the bride and groom who suffer the embarrassment of a lingering not-so-good memory.

      For you, my friend, I wish you well. …AND if I can assist you in any way, please give me a call: 480-205-3694. I am always ready and willing to help a new wedding officiant get started so they can be the best they can be for the bride and groom, their family and friends.


      Comment by Larry James — Sunday, August 2, 2015 @ 3:37 pm | Reply

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  4. My niece would like me to do her wedding so I did go on line to become ordained. how can I do a good job with her wedding if I don’t try, and how I can get experience if I don’t?


    Comment by Stella — Friday, July 17, 2015 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

    • Stella ~ If you feel comfortable performing the ceremony, meet all the legal requirements of the state the ceremony will be in, and your niece is okay with what you will say… Do it!

      I don’t recommend getting your ceremony performing skills from performing the ceremony. That’s trial and error. That may come later. I recommend that, if you intend to do more weddings, you start by finding a mentor who will allow you to see him/her in action and will teach you the basics. My problem is with – good intentioned – people who perform ceremonies and forget to tell the guests to be seated, who forget to announce the kiss, and many more “little mistakes” that a full-time professional Wedding Officiant would not make. While those may be petty things, those are the things that the guests walk away with.

      I want the buzz at the reception to be about how professionally the ceremony was presented and about the words – quite different – in the ceremony. Too many times, aunts, uncles, etc., who have never performed a ceremony, and whose nerves are a wreck just thinking about it, back out at the last minute and leave the bride and groom scrambling at the last minute, trying to book “whoever” happens to be available.

      While it is an honor to be asked to perform someones wedding ceremony, sometimes it just might be better to tell the bride how good it feels to be asked and then decline. Tell her to hire a professional Wedding Officiant and that you would rather go to the wedding and sit with other guests that you know and enjoy this great celebration of love. Just maybe. 😉

      Thanks, Stella for your comment. Have questions? Give me a call and I will be happy to get you started. 480-205-3694.


      Comment by Larry James — Friday, July 17, 2015 @ 9:47 pm | Reply

      • Thank you sir for your reply. It is very helpful and it is making me think more about this.I will look into this and take it more seriously. I will look into a mentor and see how it should be done correctly and making it a nice memory and not a train wreck. I would never make a mockery of a beautiful and sentimental ceremony. How did you become a professional wedding officiant? Thank you


        Comment by Stella — Saturday, July 18, 2015 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

        • Stella ~ It’s an interesting story. I’ve been a professional speaker since 1987. My topics are personal relationships and business relationships. A minister friend from Los Angeles was writing a book about family values and hired me as his book coach since I’ve written 5 books. During out time together he noted that my work in the relationship arena has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Red Book, In Touch and many more national and local magazines; The Wedding Chronicle, Arizona Weddings, etc. I’ve written nearly 3,000 articles and he suggested that since I write about relationships that I consider changing the words to the traditional ceremony – bring the wedding ceremony more up-to-date and fun (with a little mild humor) – and perform wedding ceremonies. He arranged my ordination and the rest is history. Since 2002 I perform an average of 70 wedding and various other ceremonies (LGBT included) each year and travel over the state of Arizona performing ceremonies. The “call me” offer is still open. 😉


          Comment by Larry James — Sunday, July 19, 2015 @ 12:40 am | Reply

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  6. Your method of describing the whole thing in this post is really fastidious, every one can
    effortlessly know it, Thanks a lot.


    Comment by monavie — Saturday, March 9, 2013 @ 9:55 pm | Reply

  7. While I agree that it is important to be cautious of people that have never officiated weddings before, it is completely awful to brush them off. How can a person gain experience officiating weddings if nobody ever gives them the opportunity?


    Comment by firebirds4ever — Thursday, September 15, 2011 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

    • Opportunity is everywhere! There will always be someone who wants to save money and hire an uncle to perform their ceremony.

      As a writer and experienced wedding officiant I feel it is my duty to at least issue a caution. This week I received a call from a couple who hired me to preform their ceremony because the bride’s brother (who got ordained online specifically for his sister’s wedding and had never performed a ceremony) became so nervous that he backed out 8 days before the wedding and was so embarrassed that he will not be attending his sister’s wedding. Fortunately I was available. I receive at least 8 to 10 calls a year similar to this. I didn’t intend to “brush them off,” I feel I have an obligation to brides and grooms to let them know that last minute cancellations and poorly performed ceremonies are always a possibility and can cause a lot of unneeded stress.

      Thank you for your comment.


      Comment by Larry James — Thursday, September 15, 2011 @ 9:45 pm | Reply

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