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!