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Survey Shows the “Threat” to Professional Officiants is Courthouse Weddings & High Costs, Not Online Ordination

Published Friday, Jun. 16th, 2023

Photo: Stephen Leonardi / Unsplash

AMM Survey shows 26% of couples will ask a friend to officiate their wedding in 2023, 44% will hire a professional, and high cost and convenience drive a record number to the courthouse



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AMM Audio Articles · Survey: “Threat” to Professional Officiants is Courthouse Weddings & High Costs




AMM asked 150 people who are in the process of planning a wedding who they want to officiate their wedding this year – and the results might surprise you. Let’s take a look at the shift toward courthouse weddings, along with a few suggestions on how professional officiants can stay competitive in today’s changing wedding industry.


The Results…


26% of couples will ask a friend to officiate


Nearly 26% of respondents said they plan to ask a friend or family member to officiate. This isn’t surprising, considering the many advantages of ‘friend officiants,’ including a shared sense of humor, style, and personal values. During the first year of the pandemic (in 2020), an estimated 51% of couples asked a friend to officiate (Fox5 NY) – a spike that probably reflects quick changes in plan due to closed venues and travel restrictions.



44% of couples will hire a professional wedding officiant 


A note-worthy 44% of respondents said they’ll hire a professional wedding officiant. This number demonstrates the considerable demand for experienced officiants, and suggests great job prospects for wedding ministers around the country. 


It’s also an increase from recent years. One likely reason for this is that fewer couples are getting married at a local church, temple, or faith center even when planning a religious wedding, and want an officiant with experience leading a ceremony. And all couples – religious or nonreligious — want an officiant they feel confident in, someone they trust to deliver a great ceremony and complete their marriage license correctly.


Only 11% of couples will be married by clergy in a brick-and-mortar church 


In fact, only 11% of respondents said they planned to ask a clergy member from a local brick-and-mortar church to officiate – despite nearly 45% of couples saying they plan to marry in a religious wedding ceremony. This number should give professional officiants (and brick-and-mortar-churches) something to think about, as they decide how to better meet the changing needs of their more-spiritual couples.


A surprising 17% of couples will get married at the courthouse 


Perhaps the most surprising result is that over 17% of couples plan to get married at the courthouse – skipping a traditional wedding ceremony altogether. This is a steep increase from recent years, when only 3-5% of couples chose a courthouse wedding (Reuters, 2015).



Pie chart with the title 'Who Will Officiate Your Wedding?' that shows a percentage for each type of popular officiant, including a friend or relative who has been ordained online to officiate, a professional wedding officiant, clergy from a local brick and mortar church, or a clerk or judge in a courthouse wedding

Survey Results: Who Will Officiate Your Wedding? 

26% of Couples will ask a friend or relative to officiate ; 44% of Couples will ask a professional officiant to officiate, 17% of Couples will get married at the courthouse; 11% of Couples will ask Clergy at their local brick-and-mortar church to officiate


Two pie charts side by side. One of them is titled "was cost the primary factor in deciding how many guests to invite?" and the results show that 57% said yes. The second pie chart is titled "What type of ceremony will you have?" referring to religiosity, and the results show 45% will have a religious ceremony.

Survey Results: Was cost the primary factor in deciding how many guests to invite to your wedding? 

57% of respondents said cost was the primary factor; 43% of respondents said no. Survey Results: What type of ceremony will you have? (Religiosity) 45% of Couples will have a religious wedding ceremony; 30% of Couples want a spiritual but not religious wedding; 25% of Couples will have a non-religious / secular wedding 


What’s driving an increase in courthouse weddings in 2023? 


Why are more couples getting married at the courthouse in 2023? Most likely it's a combination of cost and convenience. 


One big cause behind the increase in courthouse ceremonies is likely the dramatic increase in wedding prices. The average cost of a traditional wedding ceremony these days is a staggering $29,000, a result of inflation and rising vendor pricing (CNBC). This theory is supported by the fact that a whopping 57% of respondents told us that cost was the primary variable when deciding how many guests to invite. 


Another likely factor is the simplicity of getting married at the courthouse. Couples who choose a courthouse marriage don’t need to worry about a venue, vendors, equipment, or a guest list. They just need to show up, say their vows, and sign their marriage license. It’s fairly easy and low-stress when compared with a large formal wedding.


So what do these results mean for AMM Ministers? 


We know that many of our ministers serve as professional wedding officiants, and that many are concerned that ‘friend officiants’ threaten the role of the professional officiant.


Our survey suggests this fear is unfounded, and that there will always be sufficient demand for both newly-ordained friends and family members, and experienced officiants in the wedding industry. Each type of officiant brings their own set of strengths to the altar, and couples know that! Professional wedding officiants offer valuable experience, creativity, and expertise writing and delivering custom ceremonies that appeals to many couples; while 'friend officiants' offer an intimate and personal touch and shared values. 


We recommend taking some time to think about lower-cost services and packages you might offer to couples as an alternative to courthouse weddings, and how to meet the needs of religious couples who don’t want to get married in a brick-and-mortar church. 


Here are a few ideas to help you get started: 


  • Offer marriage license signing ceremonies 


♡ Sign & Go Marriage License Signing Ceremony Script

How to Make a Marriage License Signing Ceremony Feel Special

♡ How to Officiate a Sign & Go Marriage Ceremony
Browse all Sign & Go Ceremony Articles


  • Offer same-day or walk-in wedding services (if possible)


♡ Last Minute Wedding: Officiating a Ceremony on Short Notice, or Same Day!
♡ Want to Start a Wedding Chapel? Advice From Professional Officiants


  • Design a package for couples who can’t afford ‘the works’


  • Have a selection of short civil wedding ceremony scripts or ‘courthouse’ style wedding scripts to choose from 


♡ A Courthouse Style Wedding Ceremony Script
♡ Quick & Simple Civil Wedding Ceremony Script


  • Have a selection of religious readings for couples to choose from 


♡ Browse Wedding Ceremony Scripts with Bible readings

♡ Catholic Wedding Readings for Your Ceremony (& How to Include Them)
♡ 10 Popular Bible Verses about Marriage, Love, & Commitment

♡ Muslim Wedding Vows Inspired by Quran Verses on Love & Marriage

  • Have a few religious wedding ceremonies scripts to choose from


♡ Browse Religious Wedding Ceremony Scripts


  • Have a few spiritual-but-not-religious wedding scripts to choose from


♡ Browse Spiritual Wedding Ceremony Scripts




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