Officiant Fee Quote

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“Love makes the world go round, but money greases the wheels”, I’m not sure who said it, but I bet they planned a wedding.Scroll money over white

“What is your fee?” Important question! This is not about a quick, last-minute elopement, where I stop what I’m doing, toss my minister robe over my yoga clothes, and perform the ten-word ceremony…

Do you? I do!
Do you? I do!
You are!

Okay, maybe more than ten words, but you get the idea… The choice of whether to have a Couple Only Elopement or a ceremony that rivals The Royal Wedding, is yours, with most ceremonies landing somewhere in-between, depending upon your budget. Fees are not listed on my site as they are individually quoted based on our discussion.

There are several considerations when providing a quote. For a more detailed service, the cost of the dress, the venue, the flowers, the invitations, DJ, photographers, and caterers leave little in the budget for the officiant. And while the officiant fee is usually one of the smallest parts of your budget, the officiant is the only ‘detail’ you must have in order to get married! It is baffling when a couple spends a year planning every little detail of their beautiful event, only to discover two weeks before their big day they have no officiant, and the frantic phone calls begin. Makes me think of discovering on Thanksgiving morning – you have no turkey! Yes, I’m the turkey…

Sometimes this is because the couple simply overlooked that one ‘minor’ detail in planning, but occasionally it is because the person they had secured is either ‘no longer available’ or the well-meaning friend or relative who went online is not legally approved to perform the ceremony and may have no idea how to begin planning your ceremony or conduct it. I often say that no matter what happens, at the end of the day, you’re married, but I guess that doesn’t hold true if you have no officiant.

If you were simply price shopping for the lowest possible officiant fee, my suggestion would be to elope and use that money towards a celebration or honeymoon. However, if you want someone to help you with the flow of your service, if you want the wording of your ceremony to reflect who you are as a couple, and how you want to begin your life together, there are some points beyond just asking the fee. The ‘short ceremony of 20 minutes’ actually takes much more time on my part.

There is usually an initial exchange of information through email and phone calls, with more as time continues. Next is a scheduled meeting to discuss your ceremony and exchange of ideas. With my experience of over 750 ceremonies, I may have something of interest to share with you and I can certainly tell you a few pitfalls. There’s the time spent writing your ceremony. Time spent traveling to our meeting and the ceremony itself. Are there tolls and parking charges? Is a rehearsal required with more travel? Paperwork. On the day of the ceremony, I usually arrive half an hour before the ceremony to coordinate with your venue, planner, music, and photographer, to check setup of any special unity or family ceremonies we’ve agreed on, and confirm that the Best Man has the rings. Since weddings frequently do not start promptly, I allow an hour after the start time to accommodate the lateness of guests, bridal party, wardrobe mishaps, etc. It is common for me to have a minimum of ten hours, or more, invested in your ceremony.

About the person who was ‘no longer available’… our agreement may be months or even a year in advance so if an opportunity for a wonderful vacation, family visit, or personal event were to arise, I am unable to participate because I have committed to you, to officiate your wedding. My schedule is completely blocked for your time on your date. I must also decline other couples that are interested in my services if their times conflict with yours.

While I have received the frantic phone calls mentioned above, one of the biggest considerations for me in quoting a fee as your officiant, is this: It is an honored responsibility, an obligation that I take seriously. I’m neither the least nor the most expensive, but I assure you, when I commit to officiate your wedding, I take that promise to heart.

Shopping Sights

Posted by & filed under Meditation.

I intensely dislike grocery shopping, feels like a battle has been fought every time I go. Armed with a sense of irritation, I went to Walmart somewhat early this morning to beat the after church crowd and lunch crunch. Seems that food is so expensive now, especially what’s considered healthy food. Reading all the labels with the teeny-tiny print takes time and effort… and I’m too lazy to walk around with glasses. It’s one of those chores in life I could do without.
 
Making my way to the dairy case I found a cart was parked in front of the cooler door that I needed to get in – of course! Little battles, stumbling blocks in my way to keep me from quickly completing this dreaded chore. Then I saw a white cane with a red tip in cart. At the back of the cart was a large man holding the handle of the cart. He was calmly standing there, seemingly unaware that he was blocking anything. While I debated in my head whether to help him move or wait, a store attendant appeared, proudly stating that he had found the coffee creamer, steering the man and his cart away. Crisis averted on several fronts. He had coffee creamer, the attendant was closer to finishing his job, and I could move on, feeling fortunate to be able to do my own grocery shopping.
 
parking lot with carts

A few aisles later, I had a similar experience with the blind man yet again. Just chalk it up to the type of day I’m having… And once more as I tried to get out of the store, I was slowed down by his presence in front of me. Third time’s a charm, and I wondered what was I not seeing about this situation that it keeps being put in front of me. A bit more irritated now because I wanted out of this store, time was moving on and the store was filling up; I was also aware that this man had no control over the situation. Lose this battle, win the war, was going through my head. Get the groceries, go home. As we exited to the storefront area, the man was ‘parked’ with his cart to await his ride. Now we were in front of a very busy Walmart. It’s blazing hot outside, traffic has picked up and the parking lot is a hot mess of people coming and going. The charities are setting up outside the main doors to grab your attention and hopefully your money. It’s just a madhouse. Must be everyone knows everybody, and they’re all here, stopping in the middle of aisles and parking lanes, blocking the flow of everything except their conversations.
 
This blind man was left at the mercy of the kindness of the strangers around him. There he stood, with a peaceful look on his face. The store attendant had done his job and was gone, his ride was… on the way? And my mind began to push me. Remembering in grade school, we would be blindfolded and have to find our way around a room. Looking ahead, I saw a fairly cleared area. Closing my eyes, I pushed my cart toward the parking lot. With my eyes shut, I could hear the locusts much more distinctly and loudly. The sun beamed downed on me; it somehow felt different on my skin, as though I were more aware of the sensation. There was no breeze and I could sense the stillness. The store and people appeared to have fallen away. It was an eye opening event, with my eye closed! It was just me, the sun, and the locusts as I blindly continued toward my car.
 
Then suddenly remembering that once, with my eyes wide open, a car had hit me in this chaotic parking lot, I decided it best to open my eyes. As I put the spoils of my victorious shopping battle in my trunk, I felt thanks that I can see, glasses or not, thanks that I can afford food, and thanks for the experience I had today. And then I felt a sense of shame and sadness that I do not take more time to be aware of what is around me, not just what I see, but more to the point, what I do not see. I give thanks to the blind man who helped me see today.

You’re planning an outdoor wedding! What fun!

Posted by & filed under Weddings.

Rain WeddingThe Cowsills sang:

“I saw her sitting in the rain

raindrops falling on her

she didn’t seem to care,

she sat there and smiled at me

Then I knew (I knew, I knew, I knew, I knew)

she could make me happy

(happy, happy…she could make me very happy)

Flowers in her hair, Flowers everywhere…”

Couples in love… rain… laughter… it all seems so romantic… in the movies or at least in your mind.

Things I have experienced:

Everyone’s hair is frizzy or plastered depending on how heavy the rain is. Makeup is streaming black from the eyes to the chin, and it’s not a Halloween-theme wedding. Flowers are drooping. Guests, if they decide to come out, are huddling under the few umbrellas available in their ‘dry clean only’ clothing, and wondering how long they need to stay to appear polite before running for shelter. Photographers struggle to keep expensive equipment dry.

Forecast was 100 degrees. A young bridesmaid was taken away by ambulance at a beach wedding when she suffered heat exhaustion. This was despite the lovely sandalwood fans everyone, except the bridal party, was supplied with beforehand. The wedding on a freshly watered golf course, in 105-degree heat that July, eight grandparents there. The couple asked me to cut all ‘unessential’ parts of the ceremony. And in a park, high nineties, direct sunlight on us, the groom in full tux, swaying and sweating, looking like he would pass out any second… The father-in-law later told me that he had warned his new son-in-law against that last beer the evening before. Oh yes, sweat stains on satin are unforgiving, but maybe Photoshop can remove them?

Then there’s the other side of the extreme. Everyone, all twenty of us, stood sniffling in the 29 degree December weather – next to the ocean, subjected to the bitter winter breeze from the water. I had on a full-length wool coat under my black officiant’s robe, with black gloves on frozen hands. The hood of my coat was up protecting me from frostbitten ears. I remember thinking that if anyone passed us, they would think it was some sort of dark-magic ritual because everyone else was in black hooded attire in hopes of a hint of warmth. I’ll always remember the beautiful bride with the drip of ‘stuff’ suspended on the end of her sniffling nose. Photoshop again, please?

During a hurricane week, one couple insisted the wedding would go ahead as planned despite the dire warnings. Watching the weather all week, I kept in touch asking that we consider alternate arrangements to no avail, as this groom was steadfast on the date. Long story short, they closed the bridges and tunnels. They ended up going on their reserved honeymoon first and getting married after they returned.

Ticks, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, oh my! I now carry Off® bug repellant in my car. I have to laugh at, and congratulate, myself for the time a gnat flew right up my nose as I spoke. I barely missed a beat but had to stifle a sneeze. Or the wedding when the groom later told me about the spider on my hand and the one that was crawling on my leg, the bride’s daughter also saw them. I felt an unidentified tickle on my shin during the ceremony. Thinking it was a mosquito, I skillfully removed it with my other foot. Had I known it was a spider, I’d have run screaming. But the bigger point here for me is: What is wrong with these people that they didn’t help me!? We were standing under a tree full of them…

Please understand, that I also love a wedding in nature. When it all works right, it can be stunning with beautiful sunsets, fall foliage, spring blossoms, and gentle breezes creating magical pictures. But in this area of bipolar weather with tropical storms, hurricanes, nor’easters, frigid cold, and blazing heat and humidity, etc., I humbly suggest somewhere in the back of your mind, you may want to consider a backup plan, just in case the weather makes it necessary…

Are there very young or very mature guests to consider? What are your bridesmaids wearing? Are the groomsmen in full tuxedo? Do you need tents, heaters, fans, and such for shelter and comfort?

This is your wedding and I will always respect your choice. I will adapt to and respect your vision for your wedding. After all, life is not about avoiding the storms, but learning how to dance in the rain. It is always about the love first.

A Piece of Paper Does Not a Marriage Make

Posted by & filed under Weddings.

hands

Recently I had the pleasure of officiating the commitment ceremony of an older couple. Legalities made it less than advantageous for them to legally wed, but they still wanted to publicly profess their love and promises before their families and friends. Rings as symbols of promises were ready, guests were gathered, and we eagerly took our places.

At the appropriate time in our ceremony he pulled out a piece of paper to read his personal vows to his love. Barely glancing at the paper, he seemed to know just what he wanted to say. He openly admitted to not knowing the color of her eyes when she once asked him… I felt myself become a bit anxious about what he might say next… Without missing a beat, she quickly and humorously let us know that event had happened after they had been dating for a year! Everyone chuckled, including him, and it became obvious they shared a deep connection.

Then he offered his clarification. He said that he didn’t really ever see her eyes when he looked at her! Now he had everyone’s full attention as we wondered how he would get out of this. He continued… although she is an attractive woman, he saw nothing of her physically! Instead, he saw the ‘real’ her, the person inside her eyes, the person he first met and fell in love with. The one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, piece of paper or not.

No wonder he won her heart… He certainly won mine!

Father-Daughter Moments

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BouquetsHaving lost my father at too early of an age, there is always a special place in my heart for father–daughter moments. When I see a father escorting his daughter to her groom my heart always swells with love and happiness for them, and with a touch of sorrow for those of us who missed that moment in life.

Weddings are celebrations! Keeping the emotions in check and the mood upbeat is often tough to accomplish when remembering those we hold dear in our hearts.

A recent bride also lost her father at an early age. As we were waiting in the house for the signal to begin the ceremony, I noticed that in addition to her lovely blue bouquet, there was another bouquet of white flowers on the table. I thought perhaps she couldn’t decide between the two. But she knew exactly what she wanted, and her idea was both great and simple. She had two bouquets for a reason.

The bride explained that the white flowers were to be used for the ‘toss’ at the reception. She would carry the blue flowers while escorted by her mother. This bouquet would be used immediately after the ceremony. They would be leaving the ceremony and stopping by the cemetery on the way to the reception. The blue bouquet she carried would be placed on her father’s grave to honor his memory and allow him to be included in her special day.

This stunningly tender and beautifully moving gesture will remain one of my favorite father–daughter moments.

My Mother and I

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MomsThe ceremony showed promise of celebration when I saw the mothers of the bride and groom sitting on the same side of the room – the bride’s side. I thought this was a great sentiment showing love, support, and unity for their children. Respect from the mothers.

Next the nervous groom joined me, looked eagerly at his 70 or so guests, casually said hello, and immediately pronounced himself a ‘sympathetic crier’ requesting that no one cry. He didn’t want to have to join them. Immediately the mood of the room was elevated and the guests relaxed along with the groom!

The bridal party processed to the front, followed by the father of the bride who was dutifully escorting his beautiful daughter to be presented to her groom.

I asked: Who comes with Bride in support of her marriage to Groom? Surprising himself (and I imagine his wife) he answered: My Mother and I…

As everyone laughed, Dad tried to figure out what had happened and he struggled to answer correctly. We agreed his mother probably was with us in spirit. I looked over at the guests, who were laughing and having a great time, especially the mothers. It further set the tone for a very fun ceremony. The bride and groom were laughing and continued having fun throughout the ceremony. The groom, having momentary memory lapses in repeating five word phrases for his vows announced: This is hard! And I respectfully, but teasingly, told him this was the easy part of marriage.

After the ceremony, in congratulating the families, I told Dad he wasn’t the only one who had done this. One father answered me: My Mother and I… I mean her wife and I… I mean… and with a very confused look on his face, gave up, just ‘handed her over’. Let the love be foremost in your ceremonies and have fun!

Public Speaking

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wedding_02It’s only words, you’re still married.

I’ve heard that many people would literally rather die than speak in public. Frequently, a bride or groom is concerned that she or he will ‘mess up’ the words or say the wrong thing at their ceremony. And they have. It usually gets a laugh from their guests. Weddings are celebrations and should be fun. But me, the officiant, that’s another matter. I’m the professional. It’s okay to stammer a bit on a word, I’ve seen newscasters, politicians, teachers, and other professionals do it. One of my early weddings taught me to remain humble.

The rather large wedding was to be held outside in the backyard next to the home. Outdoor weddings should always have a backup plan for inclement weather. It was a cold, rainy, and just plain nasty evening. The kind of weather that just somehow gets to your core. The couple rented a huge, enclosed tent, which was bigger than the modest house. Inside the tent were a few very noisy forced-air heaters that completely drowned out nearly all sound. The music was barely audible. I think probably the only people who could hear the ceremony over the noise were the couple and maybe their best man and maid of honor, for which I am forever grateful!

The ceremony was uneventfully moving along. With wet feet (mine, not theirs) I’m explaining to the eager couple ‘what marriage is’. The line to be read was:

A husband and wife are each other’s friend, teacher, critic, and lover.

Can’t exactly say whether I was distracted by the surroundings, or my tongue and brain got out of sync, but it came out:

A husband and wife are each other’s friend, teacher, CRITTER, and… and… I realized what I had said!

As the couple began laughing, I barely had enough composure to shrug my shoulder and say, ‘Well, that too I guess’, which made them laugh even harder… and I kept thinking: Do not look at them, because I was desperately trying to stifle my own urge to crack up. I knew if I started laughing, it would be all over. Struggling against hilarity rising up in my chest, I kept my head down toward the page and sneaked a glance at the couple. The groom was snorting and the bride had tears running down her cheeks from their laughter. They were holding hands and their shoulders were shaking wildly as they tried to gain composure. We managed to continue and they were blissfully wed.

They were standing outside of the tent as I was leaving. Guests were asking what we had been laughing about because they hadn’t heard it. We enjoyed another good laugh about the memorable moment. And I vowed to never say that line again. So I say to anxious couples, it’s only words, you’re still married by the end of the ceremony.