I've read quite a few posts on wedding forums where people are agast at what officiants charge for "just a 20 minute ceremony." I realize that these people probably don't fully understand what goes into planning that ceremony so I want to help educate them and maybe you, too.
There may be some officiants out there who you hire and then have zero communication with until the wedding, they show up 5 minutes before the ceremony and leave immediately after. And if they're charging $900 then, yes, you are getting ripped off. But what's more likely are officiants like me. I spend anywhere between 10-15 hours on each wedding, which doesn't include the time working on my business that's not directly related to a particular wedding; stuff like bookkeeping, paying bills, researching new ceremony ideas, networking with wedding vendors, visiting venues, writing my blog, keeing up with twitter, facebook, instagram, and pinterest, filing, ordering supplies, brainstorming marketing ideas, following up on leads...the list goes on.
So how do I spend so those 10-15 hours for your wedding? It usually starts with a 45 minute meet-n-greet inquiry video call (and that's before you even hire me!). Then we communicate for months by email going over the details of just the spoken words of the ceremony. You get unlimited email contact, which is important since crafting the ceremony so that it really represents you as a couple is paramount to having the wedding of your dreams. I also spend a few hours writing your original ceremony. I never use the same ceremony twice so it's a completely unique ceremony each time. And don't forget, without a ceremony there is no wedding, so you want to spend the time to have it really reflect you. We do that together and to do it right it takes time.
About a month before the wedding we have a pre-wedding consultation where we go over the final draft of the ceremony and start working on the details of the day itself. We carefully plan the processional making sure to include all the family members who it's appropriate to include. We decide which attendants will walk together, where everyone will start, sit, and stand. We'll talk about music and timing. We'll go over the responsibilities of the witnesses. And I'll reach out to your planner or site coordinator to ensure a seamless production.
I require a rehearsal because it's crucial that everyone know where they're supposed to be and what their cue is to move. Most rehearsals take about an hour but some last 90 minutes depending on the complexity of the processional and ceremony space. I facilitate the rehearsal based on an outline and agenda that I've created just for your wedding. I walk everyone through their parts. I help make sure the music is timed just right for the length of the processional. I make sure people know where to gather and when. I make sure even the youngest members know what to do and have a good time doing it. I do all of this with humor, warmth and authority. You will know that you're in good hands; that you don't have to worry about the details of the ceremony because you've paid a professional to do that. We are those professionals. This is our job. And we LOVE it!
I show up at least an hour before the ceremony on your wedding day to make sure everything is in place and to practice the ceremony quietly on my own one last time (I've already spent time practicing your ceremony on my own leading up to your wedding). I check in with all the vendors who have something to do with the ceremony like the musicians, DJ, photographers, wedding planner, venue coordinator, etc. I then perform your ceremony with calm, grounded energy and love. It's my job to make sure everyone of your guests feels welcome and that you and your sweetie feel carefree, happy and able to savor the moment. After the ceremony I make sure all the paperwork is filled out correctly and is filed appropriately. I also send your marriage license express mail with tracking so I can make sure the most important document of your marriage gets to the town office.
The last thing I'll say on behalf of all of us small business owners is that our prices also reflect our costs: insurance, gas, cell phone bills, internet access, office supplies, clothing, shoes, emergency kit supplies, business cards, graphic designer fees, association fees, wedding certificate printing costs, website hosting fees, advertising costs, officiant journals, postage, taxes, etc. So you see, a professional wedding officiant does so much more than show up the day of the wedding and read a 20 minute script. SO much more. I hope i've been able to open you up to understanding what it takes to do this work.
Please let me know if you have any questions about any of this. and please, please share this information. Thank you!