Often in wedding groups we see the question “Why do an officiants charge so much – it’s only a few minutes right?”. Total facepalm moment right? Except that…most people have NO idea what an Officiant does and what their worth is.
That few minutes is the reason we are there in the first place. It also sets the tone for the rest of the day. If your first question when looking for an officiant is “How much do you charge?” then you will only get what you pay for.
The average price for a full service ceremony runs between $350 and $500 ($800 to $1500 for Officiants based in the city), plus travel if your Officiant needs get to another city or town for your wedding. Parking and taxi/ferry fees will also be added if your Officiant needs to pay for those tickets to get to your ceremony. For example, I was asked to perform a marriage ceremony on Toronto Island and included in the total was the custom ceremony, the travel fee, parking downtown, and the water taxi fee.
As an Officiant, I don’t just arrive at your wedding and wing it. A LOT of work goes into preparing for the most important ceremony of your life. I spend hours researching and choosing readings to suit each couple…and that’s just the beginning!
The first part is the initial contact from my couple. They usually have a some questions and I explain the whole process if they are wondering how we will work together. This happens on Facebook, Instagram, my website, or through email. I check my book, fit them into my schedule for the date they want, get the retainer, and then we get to work!
I send my Intake form to be filled in and sent back to me. This form gathers all of your contact information, and helps me learn what you want your ceremony to sound and feel like. I have put a lot of thought and work into this form to make sure it is easy for you to complete, and also get me the information I need to create the perfect ceremony for you. This is where I find out all of your dreams for your ceremony (and it’s ok if you have never thought about it before!) and all the things you would like included such as a sand ceremony, or rose ceremony, prayers, land acknowledgment, moment of silence, and specific readings. Don’t be shy to share readings with me you LOVE…they can be poems, passages from books, song lyrics…I am here for all of it!
I also ask you to tell me about yourselves so I can get a feel for who you are and what is important to you. This is where I get ideas for your readings. Recently a bride told me she is an elementary school teacher so of course I went with All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten as one of their readings and she loved it! I look for thee kinds of clues about you and choose readings and fit your life and personalities.
Once all of the admin paperwork is done I send you a ceremony template so you can see how your ceremony will flow and make some choices for your vows, what you want to be called, and how you would like your ceremony to end.
Usually about 4-6 weeks before your ceremony I send you your ceremony filled with all the readings, prayers, poems, family traditions, and extra elements for you to go over. This can take some time—usually quite a few hours of advanced preparation – setting up files, preparing ceremony in a way that flows nicely, and looking at suggestions for readings and scripts for the elements I have no performed before. Someone recently asked me for a Red String of Fate ceremony and I spent an entire evening reading about it, finding ceremony examples and videos, and creating the script for them that will fit into their modern ceremony. I also get your vows ahead of time (if you tell me you are writing your own vows) to make sure they meet the legal requirements and polish them up if they need a little something – I am always happy to assist with vow writing as most people don’t realize how hard it actually is to put your heart on paper.
We will likely go back and forth a few times to make sure your ceremony is perfect, and yes I will add edits the night before your wedding if you should find a reading you just can’t get married without. I have been up until 3am working on a last minute ceremony because the original officiant flaked and left the couple stranded. I don’t keep traditional office hours and work for you any time you need me.
I’m sure you see already, a good portion of what you are paying for is a true professional creating a ceremony just for you. All of my couples get their very own ceremony if they are choosing the full ceremony option. I never repeat a full ceremony – I might repeat a reading here and there but never a full ceremony. Elopement ceremonies are always the same but they also cost less and don’t require any readings or edits.
Travel and Event Time
This is probably the most obvious part—you are paying for your Officiant’s travel, presence, and services on your actual wedding day. I always arrive early – at least 30 minutes before your ceremony begins to set up and prepare, meet all the key players, make sure everything is ready to go, and prep the mothers, groomsmen, and the groom. If I don’t have a ceremony after yours I might stick around to help the photographer round up stray wedding party member and make sure dresses and sleeves look perfect. I also have a trick to get you the best smile you’ve ever smiled for the camera!
There are lots of costs associated with running a business—and these costs aren’t just for your officiant’s benefit, but for yours, too. Internet and phone service, printer, car and gas, clothing and accessories (hello, I like to look good because I’m going to be a lot of your photos!), laptop, website, social media, and don’t forget the messages and emails I get at 11pm at night from frantic brides! All of my time answering questions, talking people off the ledge, solving problems – if I added up my time spent on each couple times my hourly rate…you don’t want to know what I should be charging! Let’s not even get into what pantyhose costs!
You’ll also want to make sure that your officiant is licensed to perform weddings in your area —that license costs money, too. I pay licencing fees every year and every Officiant in Ontario pays a fee to the religious organization they are licenced through.
I don’t normally attend rehearsals unless I am specifically asked to so there is an extra fee (plus travel) for that service, and my attendance is based on availability 2 weeks in advance maximum.
Expertise and Education
When you hire me, an experienced wedding officiant, you are paying for my expertise to ensure that your wedding ceremony will run perfectly, sound and feel exactly the way you want it to, and you and your spouse will be actually, legally married by the time I leave you to your cake and champagne.
When I arrive I connect with the DJ (if there is one) to make sure I sound good, and chat with the photographer to make sure we will work together to get you the best pictures. I scan the ceremony area looking for anything that might block views or be a tripping hazard, and make sure the signing table isn’t to far away. I also make sure phone ringers are off, and tech is out of the aisle so you photographer doesn’t need to waste time editing ipads out of your picures.
I am always working to stay fresh and improve my writing and speaking skills. I attend lots of workshops, have a media coach who helps me keep my tiny Scottish lilt under control, and I am constantly in personal development masterclasses so I can help YOU even more. Need help managing a difficult family member? I take courses on tactful mediation. Need a bartender because yours cancelled at the last minute…I’ve taken workshops and am Smart Serve certified. The guys have no clue how to pin their boutonnieres on? Don’t worry, I spent time learning exactly how to do that. See where I’m going? I don’t just stand there and read the script for you, I bring a lot to the table. One of my brides calls me a Wedding Fairy Godmother. I love it!
Marketing and Advertising
Officiants need to market themselves and potentially advertise in order to have couples like you find them. How did you find me? Hosting a website can be expensive and I invest a lot in courses to learn SEO and marketing to make sure you can find me when you are looking for the perfect Officiant for your big day. I also pay fees to be at wedding shows and advertise in magazines and brochures so you can find me.
Without a marriage license, you and your partner will not be actually married—and that will be a bit of a problem if you went into this thinking you would be legally married in the end. PLEASE – make sure the Officiant you choose is licenced and registered with the province or state you are in! If you can’t find them in the registered officiants’ database, ask them to show you where they are listed before you book them. I am listed under Avril Ging (my legal name) on the Ontario Government website.
You are responsible for actually obtaining your marriage license (it’s in our contract), and I am the one who makes sure it is properly filled in, completed, signed, and mailed to the Office of the Registrar General. My licence number is needed on it to ensure your married is registered and your marriage certificate prepared for you. The Marriage Act of Ontario demands that this be done within 2 business days of your ceremony. I also keep a record of your marriage in my Marriage Register book – that’s the blue book we all sign at your ceremony – and this is property of the Government of Ontario and becomes part of the public record. Should you have any issues applying for your marriage certificate, I am the one who can get it sorted out because I have all of your wedding data including your licence number in that book. I have to know where that book is at all time, and make sure it is never lost, stolen, or damaged.
This is a big deal. I handle one of the most important legal documents you will ever acquire. Make sure your Officiant is experienced and knows what they are doing and keep in mind, not all Officiant companies operate the same way! I have to send all of each couple’s data to the Bishop I report to so they can make sure I am following the laws and doing my job properly. The licence is no joke and that alone is worth the Officiant fee.
But I Just Want a Short Ceremony!
Most Officiant’s have a quickie ceremony rate and attend those events on specific days, and specific times. You cannot book me between May 1 and October 31 for a quickie, less expensive ceremony on a Saturday between 1pm and 6pm. Those slots cost full price, so I am happy to perform a tiny ceremony for you, but you will still be paying the top rate for it if you choose a Saturday in June at 4pm.
And don’t forget, without your Officiant, your wedding is just a really expensive party!
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