I’m seeing this question more and more. there is no hard and fast answer either.
In general a basic elopement or intimate wedding will cost around$75.00, bear in mind that all the figures I am giving will be estimated for New Hampshire, and other states and areas may differ. An elopement is just the two of you with maybe two witnesses if required and you will be handed a selection of vows, you pick some, and it takes about 10 minutes. Often at the officiant’s office. You don’t get to meet first, no consultation and no custom vows. Emails are encouraged to plan and of course phone calls to alleviate any nerves. I personally will travel within 3 miles to a local park or venue and still honour that fee. BUT, you get 15 minutes. There is no time for any frills. That is why it is so reasonably priced.
Officiants vary in pricing according to their experience, expertise and knowledge. It is best to contact several in your wedding area and see who you like the best. As with all business transactions, cheaper is not always a bargain. Most officiants charge mileage whether it in included in the overall price or calculated as an additional fee, it is necessary to be aware that they do have to drive to your location, often in heavy traffic and have to arrive early for your event. Often my drive time to a wedding is an hour or more, and of course the journey home. This takes the overall travel and ceremony time to about 4 hours for an average wedding. The mileage fee covers both the cost of getting to your event and the time spent.
Custom ceremonies always cost more. And there are all the add ons, rose ceremonies, sand ceremonies etc. My top level wedding fee is currently $350.00 plus mileage. It sounds like a vast sum until you consider that more than 10 hours of my time will go into this event. That changes my fee to a more reasonable sounding $35.00 per hour for a professional service. Probably the cheapest vendor at the wedding, and the only one you truly need to have!
So, who pays? Well, who is paying for the wedding? If you are paying for your own wedding it’s simple, you do. Most officiants like myself require a retainer. I use PayPal and send an invoice for 50% of the total fee as a retainer. The balance is due at least 7 days prior to the event. I used to accept cash at the wedding, and of course elopements are nearly all this way. But, it’s not very dignified trying to track down the Groom for your money on his wedding day.
If it’s a traditional wedding the Groom and his family pay. If it’s all in together, then it’s just another bill to be paid. I don’t encourage personal cheques for obvious reasons. I use a contract and the fee is stated up front. If you pay for a small simple wedding and then add on bits and extras, be prepared for the fee to go up. It often happens. I book a small wedding, charge the lower fee. Then the couple says that they have had to change the venue, and oh, there are now 200 people instead of 4. Okay, now you need to upgrade the package you bought from me, and pay the extra mileage. Why are people shocked at this?
If you think it’s just standing up and saying a few words and the amount of people who are there doesn’t count. You are very mistaken. The whole logistics of the event change, often you have to rewrite to accommodate bigger wedding party and more family references. Instead of 10 minutes it’s now an hour. And that’s when you actually get to the altar. Getting there takes 10 minutes with all the seating and walking and music. It’s reasonable to expect to pay more for an elaborate ceremony than for a simple one. It makes sense. The bigger the dress, the longer it takes the Bride to be happy with it. I have waited for 30 minutes at the altar in 90 degree heat for a Bride to be happy enough with her veil. I am dressed in a black robe, and boy, those mosquitoes love the English.
In my case, as I am a Minister it is often traditional for couples to invite myself and my husband to the wedding reception. I don’t often take the invitation. On the few occasions that I have accepted. It has been at long distance weddings where I have to travel more than 2 hours to the event. Overnight hotel stays are at the cost of the couple also. Usually the couple will ask me to travel to the venue and spend two days working with their event, have a rehearsal and then of course the ceremony. The provide a room for 2. I’m very fond of Best Western for their businesslike atmosphere and the better ones have a great breakfast. I like to keep it simple and cost effective for the couple. But if you want to invite me to Vegas for a wedding weekend, I’ll take it! I have only had one three day event, and the Groom picked up the tab for everything for my husband and myself to be there.
At my weddings the Brides are so pleased that I am often handed a small envelope. I am very strict about not opening this in public. To me, manners are all. In most cases the thank you card inside is accompanied by a gift of money. One Bride had included 50% of the wedding fee all over again! Still she insisted that I should have charged them twice as much for the wedding they enjoyed, and went on to say as much on several review sites. I have to say I was touched that I managed to make her day that special.
I don’t want to sound like it’s all about the money. It isn’t – I have donated my services many times to families who simply had no funds, and I go the extra mile by loaning ring pillows, candles, an archway and everything. Yes, I do have it all, just in case. One couple had a wedding planned and the Groom was laid off. They wanted to cancel. So I turned down their fee, asked them to get their family to arrange a BBQ, and turned up with everything and set it all up myself, with hubby for the tall stuff, she had her wedding, and my archway was in every photo. Her mom said ‘Now it looks like a REAL wedding’ once I had set it all up. Bride said nothing but sniffled a lot.
My advice; choose the officiant you like, pay what they ask. Be nice. In the end it’s down to you, your beloved, and the officiant. Front and center making your dream come true. Get it right!