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Ask an Officiant: Do I Need A Contract For My Wedding Officiant Business?

Published Wednesday, Feb. 8th, 2023

Officiant Sherri Crawford with two (very) happy newlyweds at their ceremony at Lumina resort, on Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

Should professional wedding officiants provide a contract for their services? Yes!


Officiant Sherri Crawford answers common questions about contracts, and explains how putting things down on paper can keep everyone on the same page for the wedding day.



There are a lot of moving parts involved in running a successful wedding officiant business. Besides the basics, such as getting ordained online and registering as an officiant in your state, it’s important to consider things like building a brand, marketing your services to new couples, and protecting your business from legal disputes and other misunderstandings.


And while this last consideration is certainly the least glamorous of the bunch, it’s also one of the most important. Legal disputes and misunderstandings can occur when we least expect them, and knowing how to avoid and resolve them is an important part of running a thriving wedding business.


You may be wondering, “Should wedding officiants provide a contract for their services?” 


Is there really a need for additional paperwork to perform someone’s wedding or elopement ceremony? Should you and your couples sign an agreement before you start preparing for their ceremony? 


To answer this question and more, we reached out to AMM Minister Sherri Crawford.


Sherri is a professional wedding officiant, event emcee, and entertainment and lifestyle writer based along the North Carolina coast. She owns and operates Officiant Sherri, a wedding business serving North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond, and specializes in creating custom wedding ceremonies of all sizes and styles. She's ordained through American Marriage Ministries and the Universal Brotherhood Movement, is a member of the International Association of Professional Wedding Officiants (IAPWO), and has been officiating since 2018. 


Photo of Wedding Officiant Sherri Crawford

Officiant Sherri Crawford



7 frequently asked questions about Wedding Officiant Contracts


- Answered by Officiant Sherri Crawford


1. Do you always use a contract when working with couples? 


"Yes….contracts are your friend. 

Think of a contract as a tool to ensure everyone’s on the same page. Contracts aren’t about asking a couple to sign their life away, they’re about setting and managing expectations. In a nutshell, when you outline your responsibilities as the officiant – and those of the couple - misunderstandings are less likely to arise. When everyone’s on the same page - and not just the same chapter –– the stage is set for a happier, less stressful wedding day. "



2. What are a few ‘must-have’ items that every officiant should include in their contract? 


"‘Must-haves’ include the wedding ceremony date, time, and location. Fee(s) and payment dates should be included, too. Your contract doubles as a reference point for “where and when” everyone’s expected to be. From there, you can outline your terms of service."


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


3. Do you require your couples to sign the contract within a set time or before you’ll reserve their wedding date?


"Yes, it’s a good practice to set a return-by date.


I’d say, 5 to 10 days from issuing the contract, or whatever works best for an officiant in their booking process. Think of that timeframe as a “hold” on that particular wedding date for that couple, in your officiant schedule. If the due date passes, then a simple follow-up is a good idea – life gets hectic, it happens! 


But once the signed contract is returned, you have official confirmation that you’re hired to officiate. Happy dance afterward is optional but, hey, it's a reason to celebrate!"


Related: Officiant Training: How to Maintain Communication with Your Couple



Two young women meet with a wedding officiant to sign a contract for services, photo taken from behind the officiant shows her hair, and the women watching and listening as she speaks

Answer any questions the couple might have about your contract, and set a 'return-by' date so that they know when they need to sign and return it to you. 


4. Do you ever modify your contract to accommodate specific couples? 


"It’s a rare request but it does happen. 

For example, you may have a clause that gives you permission to post a couple’s photo from the wedding, or grants the ability to add it to your website. If they prefer that doesn’t happen, I’ll change that section in the contract. It’s typically minor modifications, if anything."



5. Do you include your cancellation policy on your contract? 


"Yes, a cancellation policy protects both the officiant and the couple.

Spelling it out in the contract lets the couple know what to expect, if they have to do that thing no one likes to think about - cancel. Since we’re prone to hurricanes in my area, I include a hurricane addendum, too. The couple then knows what to anticipate if one hits us and they have to reschedule. 

See, contracts really are your friend!"


Related: How Wedding Officiants Can Cancel Last-Minute Without Ruining the Ceremony



7. Has your contract ever been used to resolve a conflict or dispute? 


"While I haven’t been in this situation, that’s another benefit – and purpose – of having a contract. If a misunderstanding arises, you have this nifty document to refer back to. The one that says, for example, what happens if the wedding still hasn’t started thirty minutes after the ceremony time, or if the groom forgets to bring the marriage license. 

Having a contract lessens the chance that a conflict will arise. It also gives you and your couple peace of mind." 



More advice from Officiant Sherri: 



Need a sample wedding ceremony script? 





A happy groom wipes a tear of joy from his eye while watching his bride at the wedding altar

Contracts help ensure everyone is on the same page on the wedding day, so that the only tears you'll see are tears of joy! 




Read Next: 

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

Learn how to write a wedding officiant contract & terms of service document for your business and what to include, such as your fees/ rates, payment schedule and deposit, who the agreement is between, who obtains and returns the marriage license, a summary of your services and cancellation policy, and more.

Read the full article here. 

Two happy brides exchange wedding rings at the altar while the officiant watches, behind them are friends and family watching from their seats.

Take your officiant business to the next level with a great contract!




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Illustration of wedding officiant delivering a speech during the ceremony

Illustration by Jessica Levey

Every wedding ceremony starts with a bad first draft… then it gets good. Read the full article here. 




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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