Great question. A bit thoughtless and sometimes harsh, but valid nonetheless.
And the answer? I don’t. Let’s put it in to more simple terms.
I have noticed a growing trend amongst couples who are being understandably budget concious. And that is to try and undercut the officiant on their charges. I am [along with my colleagues] constantly asked to justify our fees and this can be a little frustrating.
Bear in mind that the average wedding officiant currently gets about 350 dollars. This is an average guesstimate, because the fees vary from officiant to officiant , types of wedding, work involved, travel time and setup time. Location and market also play a part in the fees. For instance; some officiants that I am connected with professionally, charge double the fees that I charge because they are in a wedding ‘hotspot’ beach location and vacation destination. They often have to turn away bookings due to their workload.
It’s a strange trend. Brides will pay thousands for the ideal room, the perfect flowers and the right cake. I had a bride who paid 600 for petals to strew, and offered me 50 dollars for my services! Um, will the roses make you legally married? No? Will they custom write your ceremony for you several times and rewrite it the night before the wedding when you call in a panic? No? Will they spend hours researching the perfect reading for you? Listen to your needs patiently about how your stepfather and father both want to walk you down the aisle, and you don’t know what to do? Will they travel 100 miles in any weather, through holiday traffic and then stand patiently in rain or 90 degree heat while your mother yells at the flower girl? No? Then let’s try reversing that priority.
I spend an average of 10 hours work per wedding. all the contact time, writing, legal paperwork, planning the ceremony, rewriting, phone calls, emails, rehearsals, travel, waiting, more waiting, and then the ceremony, the photos, the handshakes, the waiting while everyone gets settled. Sometimes being required to stay for the reception. If I charged you 350 dollars, that works out at $35 an hour. What other professional service can you get for that?
The ceremony is the most important part of the wedding. It is what makes it a wedding and not a family party. It is the legal part, the spiritual part, the binding part. Is this really the cheap part? So, before you haggle with your officiant, think it over. Will buying one less table decoration cover the cost of this professional? Invariably you will say yes. You are not going to say to the florist, ‘that centrepiece is 400 dollars, I want to give you 50, and I’d like 8 please’. You would end up with 8 daisies in 8 eggcups on 8 tables.
The moral of the story? Minister, Officiant, JP, their fees are their fees. Don’t book them if you don’t like the fees. Don’t start off your relationship with an insult. And remember, you get what you pay for.