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What to Include in a Wedding Officiant Contract, According to the Pros

Published Thursday, Jan. 12th, 2023

How to write a simple wedding officiant contract that outlines your terms of service to cultivate great business practices and relationships!


If you’re a professional wedding officiant, you need a business contract. It’s as simple as that! 


Whether you officiate one wedding a month, or a wedding every day of the week, it’s important to provide your couples with a simple contract that describes what you’ll do, when you’ll do it, and what they can expect if you don’t do it. 



A solid contract also protects you, any time a couple chooses not to uphold their side of the agreement – like when a couple refuses to pay you for your services. Officiant contracts are one of the best ways to avoid conflict and make sure everyone is on the same page for the wedding day. 



When to give a copy of your contract to your clients:  
Meet with the couple to make sure you’re a good fit for their ceremony. Once they’ve asked you to officiate, send them a copy of your contract to review and sign. You might want to meet with them in person to go over the contract, or schedule a phone call or video chat to go over the details. And don’t forget to give your couple a deadline for completing the contract – about 5 to 10 days after receiving it, or as soon as possible for last minute weddings.


Writing your own wedding officiant contract from scratch? Here’s what to include: 



1. Who the agreement is between 


In this section, include each party’s full name, and note how they’ll be identified in the body of the contract. For example, you’ll be the ‘Officiant’ or ‘Minister,’ and your couple will be the ‘Marriers,’ 'Partners,' ‘Couple,’ or ‘Client/s.’

If someone other than the couple will be paying for your services, you'll probably want to include them in this contract as well. This way, everyone involved in hiring you can agree to the terms of your agreement upfront. 


2. Statement of qualifications 


In this section, include a sentence or two confirming that you’re legally authorized to solemnize a marriage where the wedding will take place. You might state that you’re a legally ordained minister, or that you’ve completed the minister licensing requirements in your state (the state where the wedding will take place). These details let your clients know that you take your role, and the local marriage laws, seriously. 


Not sure if you’re authorized? Read this: How to Tell if Your Officiant Can Perform a Legal Wedding


3. Who obtains the marriage license 


Many couples don’t know it’s their responsibility to apply for their marriage license, and this misunderstanding can create a lot of headaches down the road if it’s not corrected early on. 


In this section, state that the couple is responsible for obtaining their marriage license before the wedding ceremony. This is also a good place to mention that you can’t perform the ceremony without a license present… even if they promise it’s sitting on the kitchen counter back at home.  


Related: Can you get married without a marriage license? What if you lost it? Or forgot it?



Up close image of newlywed groom signing the marriage license while the bride stands next to him

A contract that clearly states who will obtain and return the marriage license reduces the chance of a misunderstanding or disappointment on the wedding day. 


4. Who will return the marriage license, and when and where it will be returned


Include a statement about who’s responsible for returning the completed license following the ceremony, and when and where it should be returned. 


Every state has its own guidelines for who returns the marriage license, where it should be returned, and how long you have to return it (this is called the Return Period). A license must be signed and returned on time for the couple’s marriage to be legal, so be sure to address these details in your contract. 


If you don’t know who’s responsible for returning the license in your county, call the clerk’s office. This information will also be included when the couple is issued their license.


Related: Officiant Training: Completing The Marriage License


5. Date, location, and start-time of service


In this section, include the date, time, and location of the wedding ceremony. This will be your couple’s wedding date, the wedding venue, and the time their ceremony is scheduled to start.


Remind the couple that this is a firm start time, and that a late start (more than 30 minutes or so) will be considered a change to the agreement.


You might also want to ask for guests' expected arrival time, and the phone number or email of the venue or day-of staff coordinator, although these details don't necessarily need to be written in your contact.


6. Describe the service or services you’ll provide  


First, state your primary service, such as “Perform wedding ceremony and sign marriage license,” or “Officiate Vow Renewal.” Then, get specific about what that service includes. This lets your couple know exactly what they can expect from you, and will remind you which parts of their day you’re responsible for, too. 


For example, your services may include: Arrive at the venue 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the ceremony; perform wedding ceremony at the agreed-upon date, time, and location specified; write a custom wedding script and wedding vows; attend a rehearsal ceremony at the agreed-upon date, time, and location; provide 1 rewrite of the ceremony script at no extra cost, etc. 


We recommend you specify when you’re available to talk (and the best ways for a couple to reach you); what you’ll wear to officiate (ex: all black, professional attire, Jedi robes, etc.), how long you’re available for photographs before or after the ceremony (without requiring an additional fee), and any special circumstances. 



Happy newlyweds walk down the aisle together after their outdoor wedding ceremony


What are your responsibilities? What are the couple's responsibilities? Writing these into your contract can help everyone get on the same page before the wedding day. Photo by Carsten Vollrath / Pexels


7. The couple’s responsibilities


In addition to obtaining a marriage license, showing up on the wedding day, and paying you, there may be a few things your couple should do to meet their end of the agreement. If so, you can include those in this section.


For example, the couple might be responsible for purchasing materials for a unity ceremony, providing you with a meal, bringing a witness or two to sign the license, or ensuring that someone is at the ceremony to handle any pets involved in the ceremony. They may also be responsible for parking permits or other materials you’ll need when arriving at the venue. 



8. Cost of services & required deposit 


In this section, include the total price for all services. This will include any add-ons or ‘extras’ you’ve agreed on, and any estimated costs for travel expenses or lodging. Some officiants choose to list each individual cost, item by item. 


For help setting your rates: Going Pro: How Much Should I Charge as a Wedding Officiant?


Then, describe your deposit / retainer policy clearly. This is very important! A ‘deposit’ is the amount of money a couple must pay up-front to reserve your services. Decide how much you’ll charge and whether or not this deposit is refundable. 


Some officiants charge a percentage of the total cost upfront, for example a deposit equal to 30% or 50% of the officiant fee. Others charge a flat rate, for example a $100 retainer fee.


Be sure to include details about how much (if any) of this deposit is refundable in the case that you or the couple cancel the services. And if you agree to refund all or some of the deposit, include how long the couple has to request their refund. 


For example: A full refund if canceled at least 3 months before the wedding date; 20% refund if canceled at least 1 month in advance; no refund of deposit if services are canceled less than 1 month before the ceremony date.


Related: How Much Does a Wedding Officiant Cost? (& Should You Tip Them?)


9. When to pay, how to pay, & penalty for failure to pay


Include details about when the couple is expected to pay you, and what happens if they miss this deadline or don't pay you at all. Be specific, and write down the date/s that all payments are due. 


For example, some officiants require a deposit before they’ll reserve the wedding date (no services are guaranteed until this initial payment is received), and the remaining balance before the day of the ceremony (balance due in full 3 weeks before the ceremony). 


Other officiants allow couples to make partial payments on a set interval (every 2 weeks, or once a month) or to pay the day of the ceremony. If this is the case, write down these dates. Describe any penalties for late payment, such as ending the agreement (not officiating their ceremony), or charging a late fee. 


Then, specify the forms of payment you accept. Some officiants prefer electronic payments (CashApp, Venmo, PayPal, Square, etc.), and others prefer cash or check. Let couples know how to pay you!


Related: The Pros and Cons of Popular Payment Methods for Wedding Officiants



Close up image of a wedding ring, ink pen, and cash money

Include details about the cost of your services, how and when the couple is expected to pay you, and what happens if payment is late (or the couple doesn't pay you at all).  



10. Cancellation and change policies 


A cancellation or change policy describes what each party can expect if another party changes or cancels the services. Some of this will be outlined in the financial portion of the contract, but it’s important to create a section that deals with this topic thoroughly. 


Related: Ask your Best Man to serve as backup officiant to ward off wedding day disasters


In this section, describe what happens if a couple requests a change to the agreement, such as changing the date or time of their ceremony, or chooses to cancel the wedding. Can they reschedule? Is there an added cost to reschedule? Will they lose the deposit if you can’t accommodate the change? Spell this out clearly to avoid conflicts later on.
Then, describe what they can expect if you can’t perform the ceremony for any reason. Will they get a refund? Will you guarantee a backup officiant to take your place? Will they receive a copy of any materials you’ve created for them, such as a custom script or vows? Be specific!


Need help writing this section? Read: How Wedding Officiants Can Cancel Last-Minute Without Ruining the Ceremony


11. Contract date & signatures


Ask both partners to sign and date the contract. Include spaces for them to write their phone numbers, physical addresses, and email addresses, to ensure you have multiple ways to contact them. If your couple has a wedding website, write that down too so it's easy to reference later. 


Some officiants also require couples to sign their initials next to important sections (like who obtains the marriage license) to ensure they understand these responsibilities.



_________ ♡ _________




Want to add a few other details? 


Consider these other great suggestions from experienced professionals: 



  •  Images and Video from the Ceremony


In this great article from the Unboring Officiant, Officiant Mark Allan Groleau in Ontario suggests asking your couple for permission to use images, video, and ceremony scripts from their wedding in your promotional materials, on social media, and on your business website. He adds, “Some couples aren’t crazy about this, and they ask me to ask them first before I post anything from their wedding. Fair enough! Mission accomplished – now we’re on the same page in terms of expectations around what I can publish from their wedding. That’s the beauty of a contract.”


Related: How to Start a Website for Your Wedding Officiant Business



  • Use an online form to keep things simple


Officiant Eric, based in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, uses a convenient online form to make the contract process incredibly easy for his couples. We love that his online ‘Contract of Services’ form is linked directly to his professional website, for couples who want to review the packages he offers before selecting one from the multiple-choice options on the contract. There are also multiple-choice selections for travel time, a PA system, and the rehearsal ceremony, making this contract wonderfully accessible and simple to navigate.  



  •  Bringing witnesses and valid ID 


The Wedding B, aka professional officiant Dr. Annie Brust, PhD, addresses two very important points in her contract: The couple must bring valid ID and any necessary witnesses to their ceremony. (See item 2 under the section ‘Marriage License.') We love this! By addressing these requirements upfront, Dr. Brust ensures that she’s performing a ceremony for the people listed on the license (this helps protect her from future legal disputes), and that the couple knows it’s their responsibility to provide their own witnesses (this protects everyone from wedding day disappointment!). 


Related: Witness Requirements on Marriage License



  • Holiday wedding considerations


The officiants at Married by Evan, a wedding service based in Newport News and Virginia Beach, include a special clause in their contract for holiday weddings. This helpful clause explains that couples can expect an additional "convenience fee" of $50 when they book a wedding on any of the listed holidays (New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, July 04, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve). We really appreciate transparency of this added detail, and we’re sure that the couples married by Officiant Evan Poe and his associate officiants do too! 


_________ ♡ _________


General Disclaimer: The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials presented in this article, and on this site are for general informational purposes only. Please consult our General Disclaimer for more details on the information published on AMM’s website. 



Read next: 




Illustration by Jessica Levey, a wedding officiant stands next to the ghostly outline of a couple against a blue background

Not sure what to do when a couple suddenly stops communicating before signing a contract? Read the full article here. 




Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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