How Much to Pay a Pastor for a Wedding

wedding

Many of you who plan to get married in the future can think right away of the pastor you would want to do your wedding.  Even if you don’t, nearly every state requires a member of the clergy to officiate a legally recognized wedding.  Since this is the case and because budgeting is such a key component of planning a successful wedding, how much should you pay a pastor for a wedding?  What are other key factors should you keep in mind when you contact your pastor?

What is the typical compensation range for a pastor who does your wedding?

Total compensation can vary based on the amount of time and effort you receive from your pastor.  For example, some pastors require as many as four to six pre-marital counseling sessions prior to that special day. If you are receiving that counseling from another source, then it will obviously require less time, although the officiating pastor will want input from those sessions.  Regardless, most pastors won’t simply “show up” for that special day without some preparation involved.  Here is a suggested pay scale for pastors depending on the circumstances:

  • Greater than $300 – A generous gift
  • $300 – A wedding with advance preparation and pre-marital counseling
  • $150 – A wedding with some advance preparation but no pre-marital counseling
  • $100 – A small wedding with little preparation

I can speak from personal experience of the value of pre-marital counseling.  God used that time to confirm many things about our decision but also revealed areas we needed to be better equipped and prepared for as a couple.  One pastor that has conducted numerous weddings states:

Couples come to the pastor thinking that they know everything when they are ignorant of what they don’t know.  Here is a “Questions for Better Communication” sheet that I use to send couples out on a date to simply talk about those questions that they haven’t asked each other yet.  I have yet to have a couple come back that says, “We have already talked about all of these before.”

(Still not sure how much to give? Here are some giving quotes for inspiration.)

How much notice is recommended?

Every pastor I spoke with stated, “The sooner the better”, but all indicated that the ideal amount of lead time to officiate a wedding is six to nine months.  Most pastors have a very busy schedule and anything less will make it difficult to work into their ministry plans for the year.  Also, a six to nine month notice provides the necessary time to schedule and complete any pre-marital counseling.  Notices two to three months or less will most like find the pastor’s schedule already filled.

What questions should I be prepared to answer when I call the pastor?

As I surveyed pastors, four common questions surfaced:

  • When do you want to get married (date and time)?
  • Where do you want to get married?
  • Do you have someone doing pre-marital counseling with you?  If not, are you willing to go through that together?
  • When can we meet together to do some initial talking and planning?

What are other important considerations will a pastor take into consideration?

  • Plan early and often – Most pastors will want the couple to think through what they want and not look to the pastor as a sort of pseudo-wedding coordinator.
  • Similar spiritual convictions – Pastors will want to determine if both the husband and wife recognize that the basis of authority for their marriage is the Bible.  In addition, he will dig deeper to determine if both view marriage as a partnership and are on the same page.  For example, are future plans, mutual plans?  Are both sensitive to each other’s needs and desires, and how they will do life together, etc.?
  • Be honest and forthright – The officiating pastor will need this to know where they stand and to serve you effectively.  Important questions need to be addressed, such as are you marrying in opposition to your parents’ will? Are you pregnant and trying to hurry things along?  Have you been married before?  Some of this will come out in your pre-marital discussions but you should not allow for any surprises. Get the whole story out there and allow the pastor to make an informed decision about participating with you in your blessed day.
  • Follow-through – Determine up front if you are willing to follow through with the recommendations of the pastor, such as timing, issues that arise in pre-marital counseling, and other observations that may surface from an outside person looking in at your relationship.
  • Enjoy the journey  - It is far too easy for couples to get caught up in trying to please numerous people, manage budgets, etc., and miss out on the joy that can be experienced leading up to the big day.  Purpose up front to not become overwhelmed and to enjoy each moment together.

If you’re married, share your experience with the readers.  How much did you pay your pastor for your wedding?  Leave a comment below!

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17 Comments
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  1. I remember not knowing how much to give when my wife and I got married 5 years ago. I think my wife and I gave our presiding pastor either $150, or $250 (I honestly don’t remember, but I know it was in that range). We had one premarital counseling session, which lasted about an hour, and several months lead time for preparation. We also got married at my in-law’s church, which was several hours drive from our home (as most of my wife’s family lived in another state, so that was most convenient for everyone). I wish I had this article to read back then. I probably would have given a little more than we gave. :)

  2. Our pastor charged $200 for our wedding and we sent him a thank-you gift as well. I think we gave him about 4 months notice because our engagement was only 5 months and it took some time to pin down the date. In our church premarital counseling is separate from officiant preparation for the wedding – there is a whole 6-month program with lectures, a retreat, meetings with a mentor couple, etc. I don’t think we paid anything for the counseling other than perhaps buying a book. We met with our pastor once for a sort of premarital meeting – he asked both of us for our testimonies (even though we had already been vetted in that way to join the church) but not many of the other sensitive questions as I think those were left up to the mentor couple to plumb. We also met a few times specifically to plan the ceremony. Our pastor did an EXCELLENT job and we got many compliments at and after the wedding on his mini-sermon and jokes!

  3. Overall, good thoughts. I would say you are a little light across the board. If it is your pastor and weddings is part of his responsibilities, you are pretty close. If you don’t go to his church and he is bivocational or part time or even not the senior pastor, you are at least $100 short for all categories.

    Also remember to include travel expenses if it is somewhere out of town (30 minute drive for him or longer).

    Most pastors are taking time away from their family to do this, so please make them know you appreciate it. People spend loads of money on decorations and a venue and want the pastor for next to nothing. He is really the only element needed for a wedding.

  4. I think we were on the low end with $100 ish. We were poor grad school students on a budget, so didn’t have much to offer. We were also married in O.K. and received a discount by going through pre-marital counseling (which we did for free from Prepare/Enrich).

  5. I think this depends partly on what part of the country you are in. After speaking to a few pastors I learned that $300 is a minimum in our area and usually it is more like $500. And that is not considered generous but reasonable.

  6. Courtney

    We were engaged for 6 months, and my father actually walked me down the aisle and then turned around and married us. We didn’t pay him anything, he wouldn’t accept it.

  7. Chris, Good article. I am a pastor and I have done over 300 weddings. I have gotten no pay to $500. I always leave it up the the couple as to what they can afford. I do four sessions of pre-counseling. I know some pastors need the extra income so this is important to them. I think a couple should take this into account when they pay him. Side note there is some kind of a banner that comes up blocking what I read or write. Is there a way to get rid of it?

    • Thanks Terry for sharing from a Pastor’s perspective. I think it’s important to be generous and to give cheerfully to your officiating pastor because it communicates value. We will drop thousands on dresses, food, location, etc. but oftentimes overlook one of the most important aspects…who will marry the couple! Also, regarding the banner, email me at chrism@deltaministries.com with your specific issue and I will forward it to the tech folks for resolution.

  8. This is great advice. When we got married I struggled with what to pay our pastor too. He was very modest and told us we didn’t owe him anything and he was (is) also a good friend of ours. We did some pre-marriage counseling as well, so not paying him would have felt goofy. We eventually opted for about $300 too.

  9. Everyone has shared great insights here! I’ve been a pastor for 14 years in a city with a metro population of 600,000. I never received more than $250 for a wedding (just the wedding & rehearsal, not any counseling). I’m sure it varies from location to location. And I do think it is a great idea for pastors to offer package deals that include pre-marital counseling, the wedding, and post-wedding follow-up.

  10. Thanks for writing this. When I got married 2 years ago I didn’t know what to give. I decided to be extremely generous and went with $300. Looking after reading this article I’m glad I did knowing that anything less would have probably been disappointing given the area I live in.

  11. This is a great article and very informational as well. My husband and I pastored for many years
    in the midwest and now are relocated to California. Through the years he rarely has received anything and has married quite a few couples. I don’t think people realize how much time a
    pastor spends in prayer, preparation and counseling before a couple’s wedding day. I am just happy to see articles like these.

  12. Well I paid my pastor $10,000. He was so happy. Can you imagine what he told me, He said we are the best couple ever made on this planet. hehehe

    Money Talks

  13. I am an ordained pastor and this year have done two weddings where they didn’t even do a monetary gift….let alone give a thank you card. Guess they didn’t have anything budgeted after the private country club wedding. I am okay though. I guess times have changed. I thanked my pastor when I got married and also got him a monetary gift. Guess things change in 11 years.

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