Officiating weddings is most definitely a labor of love, but if you want to do it professionally it also needs to put a little food on the table and pay the bills. Which means, of course, you’ll have to decide how much money to charge for your services.
Our previous article, Going Pro: How Much Should I Charge as a Wedding Officiant?, is an excellent resource for practical considerations while you’re just getting started. It talks extensively about how to price yourself competitively in your area, and using online searches to see what other officiants are charging for a variety of services. It also discusses variables like travel costs, equipment needs, time requirements, and how to charge for “extras” like attending rehearsals and creating customized ceremony scripts.
(We recommend that you read it, and keep it earmarked for future reference as you grow your business and expand your portfolio.)
But what about other, less tangible considerations... like the joy, enthusiasm, creative freedom, and personal fulfillment that officiating ceremonies brings you?
Should a new officiant ever consider working for free, or at a drastically reduced rate, if a dream wedding opportunity presents itself? Is there ever a good time to give a couple a discount, or alternatively, is it ok for an officiant to raise their rates under specific circumstances?
For these questions, a graph created by children’s book illustrator Will Terry might come in handy… we’ve recreated it below.
If you’re not sure what an illustrator’s pricing guide has to do with figuring out your rates for weddings, consider that all creative freelancers contend with many of the same issues facing independent wedding officiants… Charge too little, in order to stay competitive in a saturated market, and you’ll quickly find yourself unable to make ends meet - or worse yet, come across looking like a less-qualified officiant to potential couples. Charge too much too soon in your career, and you might miss out on fun jobs and great opportunities to expand your portfolio.
Terry suggests that when new freelancers are deciding how much to charge for a job (in our case, a ceremony), your level of desire should be directly tied to your level of compensation.
As desire goes up, the price can go down. As desire decreases, that price better go up!
Terry goes on to say that your desire or motivation is usually tied to a couple of factors, and that you can consider these when working out a rate. He suggests you ask yourself how much Fun the job will be, how much Money you definitely need to make (your bottom line), what Experience you’ll gain from this particular job and what valuable skills you’ll learn by doing it, and whether the Service you’re providing sparks something in your own personal values, making the work feel especially worthwhile.
For example, is the wedding at a venue you’d really like to build connections with, with other vendors you’ve been excited to meet? Will you be able to practice a certain unity ritual for the first time? Will you gain insight into traditions, religions, lifestyles, or relationship types that will help you market yourself better in the future? Is this a couple that represents something you hold close to your heart on a personal level? Will it be fun? All of these things have value.
And if you understand the value each of these things holds for you personally, going into each new custom ceremony, it’ll be easier for you to arrive at the right number.
For even more insight on deciding on rates, read Professional Advice: IAPWO President Rev. Laura C. Cannon on Performing Ceremonies for Hire.
To be clear: Most established officiants have a flat fee or rate that they use for most ceremonies that come their way, one that adequately compensates them for their level of experience and expertise. (And as they gain experience, their value goes up, and they have the ability to charge more.)
This is a great idea, and will save you a lot of headaches down the road. Professional officiants also generally offer an assortment of add-ons and extras that couples can choose from, each with a fixed predetermined price, which makes it easier to estimate the costs of customized ceremonies.
But for new officiants just getting started, or those looking to recreate or expand their portfolios, it might be worth it to keep some flexibility in your rates. Joy, learning opportunities, and fulfillment also offer valuable compensation.
(Just so long as you’re still able to make ends meet.)
Whatever you do, don’t undervalue yourself at your own expense. If you’re doing good work, don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth, especially if it’s a job that will demand a lot of your time, travel, or creativity!
From our FAQ:
Your tax status will not change or be affected in any way because you are an ordained minister with American Marriage Ministries. Any income you receive from officiating wedding ceremonies is income that you are required to declare.
American Marriage Ministries is an IRS Certified 501(c)3 charity and you can make tax-deductible donations that you can deduct from your taxable income when filing your taxes. The IRS provides guidelines on making such contributions.
However if you are officiating wedding ceremonies for a fee, that income is not tax-exempt.
If you have any concerns about how your services performing marriage may affect your income and taxes, you will want to seek advice from a certified accountant.