If you are searching for a wedding officiant to perform your wedding ceremony or looking for information because you are starting your wedding officiant business, prices can be a significant factor. If you are getting married you are asking, how much am I going to have to pay to get what I want? If you are a wedding officiant, you are asking how much can I charge to make this a viable business? I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’m sharing my thought process based on the information I have. This is actually a very long story about my business and my prices. This is my experience based on my local market for wedding officiants.
First, when I decided how much to charge, the first questions was, how much will someone pay? The second question was, how much do I feel comfortable charging? When it comes to business, it is about supply and demand. But you also have to take into consideration how much people are actually able to pay. If I choose a price, will enough people hire me at that price so that I can pay my bills and make a profit?
“Paying my bills” involves paying to run the business. It is paying for my website and my advertising, paying for my computer and my printer and paper and ink, appropriate clothes, my car, gas to drive my car, a babysitter for my kids, and for my phone and internet. That’s just the cost of doing business. The other part of “paying my bills” is the mortgage, car payments, car insurance, health insurance, groceries, braces, dental work, dog food and all the things we all have to pay for just for our family to live.
I run my business with as little overhead as possible. I don’t have an office; I’m completely mobile. I’ve done the math, and if I were to pay for an office, I would have to do a lot of weddings at a higher price to pay the rent for an office and the mortgage on our house. I honestly don’t think it’s a reasonable goal, based on the current market for wedding officiants in Indianapolis considering business models already in place by other officiants. I do perform enough weddings at the right prices to pay all of our bills except for health insurance. It would be awesome to be able to pay for that too. So, realistically speaking, my wedding officiant business earns enough money for my family to survive, but not really thrive. (Or get sick or have an accident) It’s OK. I’m married, my husband and I, together, do just fine. But, it would be really nice to know I could do it alone if I had too.
If you are looking to hire a wedding officiant, you need to decide what you need from a wedding officiant and how much getting your needs met is worth to you. If you just need someone to perform a quick, legal, civil ceremony, you shouldn’t have to pay a lot of that. If you want someone to perform a fast, legal, civil ceremony in your home or office, you are going to have to pay more for the time and travel involved. If you are having a $50,000 wedding, you want to hire a wedding officiant experienced with that type of discerning customer and able to provide outstanding service. You are going to have to pay for that. You might get a good deal, here and there, but you will generally do get what you pay for.
I spoke with a man that charges $1000+ to perform a wedding ceremony. Being a wedding officiant is only one thing that he does and he generally only books those high priced weddings through luxury priced wedding planners. He doesn’t have a website or actively pursue marriages to officiate. The wedding planner calls him when they need him. There are only so many of those weddings each year. He said he might do 6 per year. He is able to charge that amount because he’s well connected and really, quite perfect for the job, he is a full-time performer, looks great in a suit and truly fits the part well. Obviously, I can’t list a price of $1000 for wedding officiant services and expect to have a steady business that pays the bills.
There are websites providing statistics about the wedding industry, including prices. Sound Vision, or The Wedding Report. This website, Cost of Weddings, gives the average cost of weddings in any area. I’m located in the Indianapolis area. They state the average price of an officiant is $176. 37-47% of couples actually hire an officiant, and they typically spend between $132-$220. They state more experienced officiants charge about $352 or more. They also break it down by the number of guests.
I have no idea where these data firms get their get this information. I’d have to assume they gather their information from published prices on websites. That’s the only thing that makes sense. The averages can only come from people who actually take their survey. There are public records available for how many marriage licenses are issued and to whom. Once you have the marriage license you complete it with a wedding officiant and then file it with the clerk’s office, and then you are legally married, and that creates a public record that can be used for accurate statistics.
A “Wedding Officiant” is a person that can legally marry you. That can be a judge, magistrate, county clerk, mayor or religious official. In Indiana, you can get ordained online and state your title as “reverend” or “minister” on a marriage license you sign and that’s it. You don’t have to pay anything to register as an officiant, and you indeed aren’t required to charge anything to officiate a wedding.
I know in 2017, I married 564 couples. The prices ranged from free to $550. My average sale was less than $100. I had one wedding for $550 because of the distance I traveled. Some people do have situations I didn’t feel it is appropriate for me to charge money. I also experimented with prices last year trying to figure out what worked for me and the current market of officiants from which couples have to choose. I perform a LOT of budget weddings.
In June 2018 after eight years of marrying couples - close to 3000 couples - I completely overhauled my website to create a business model that I’m comfortable with, and I also believe it makes me competitive in my local market. If you live in Indiana, my business model makes sense. If you live anywhere else, your market will be based on how couples can get legally married in your state and who can marry them.
First of all, I’m a full-time wedding officiant. That means I have regular business hours and am scheduling weddings every day. My aim is to earn a full-time income as a sole proprietorship that can comfortably support my family. This is not how I started my business. When I started, my services were primarily limited to weekends. As a wedding officiant, I perform ceremonies. If you are having a wedding ceremony and you are not getting married in a church, you hire a wedding officiant. I’d spend weekends going from wedding to wedding during the busy season, and they may go weeks or over a month with no weddings at all. I think this is probably typical. I may have had some weddings during the week, but they were more the exception than the rule.
The latest statistic I read said the average yearly income of a wedding officiant was around $20K and less than 10% of those officiants surveyed were full-time wedding officiants. If you perform one wedding a week over a year, based on a $20K yearly income, you would be charging $385 for a wedding. Those are still averages. Those statistics were put out by a company I advertise with, so I’m assuming that is based on their own data gathered from their own advertisers that chose to take the survey. I took the survey so my data could have skewed an average. If you look at the statistics through the mean, median and mode, I’m an outlier. That particular data states averages.
Indiana changed their marriage license process, pretty much across the board five years ago. The switched to online applications to streamline paperwork, and they also stopped performing marriages in the courthouse. So, you can’t just run down the courthouse and get married. You have to find a wedding Officiant to marry you. There are 92 counties in Indiana, and each county has their own policies about issuing marriage licenses. There are some small county clerk's and magistrates that do perform marriages, but that’s definitely the exception, not the rule. Overnight, an entirely new market was created, and I was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of it.
The reason I’ve performed so many weddings is that I offer super low-budget options. I didn’t know they were going to stop marrying couples in the courthouse. Some people did, and they set up businesses to take over where the county clerk left off. I received a call on a Tuesday afternoon five years ago from someone asking me to marry them. I thought that was so weird. Who asks me to marry them on a Tuesday? I was interested though. They asked if I could come downtown to marry them and I agreed. They asked how much it would cost and I didn’t know what to say. My regular price for a weekend wedding, at the time, was $150. So, I gave them that price. They asked if I could go lower, so I tried $100. They asked if I could go lower and I really couldn’t. I live 30 minutes away, in the suburbs, and I wasn’t familiar with the area of the courthouse at the time and, I had a preschooler at home so, I’d have to get a babysitter. Being the people pleaser I am, I said, “If you want to come to my house, I’ll marry you for $50.” An hour later, the $50 Quickie was born!
The people who had set up offices downtown near the courthouse to perform, quick weddings were charging $150 Monday through Thursday. On Friday, the price doubled to $300. Considering the average cost of a civil ceremony at the courthouse was (and in many places still is) $80, that’s a lot. But if you think about it, it’s not that much when you are running a viable business. The courthouse already exists. They don’t have any extra overhead. They only need people to perform the weddings. That’s included in the job description of people already working there, already on a salary. People with independent offices have overhead they need to pay for. Everyone already has the idea that you can go down to the courthouse and get married, the courthouses don’t need to advertise. If you are an independent business, you need to advertise for people to find you and that has a cost associated with it. Running a business costs money and those costs are part of what you charge the customer. If your office is going to be open Monday-Friday from 8-6, it’s your full-time job, and you need to make a full-time income.
When I started, I would go wherever someone was getting married, and we’d meet in my living room or in Starbucks for consultations. When I created the $50 Quickie Wedding, I was performing that in my home. No overhead. I didn’t need a babysitter, and I didn’t have to drive anywhere and pay for gas. All I needed to pay for was advertising. At the time, I figured if I was able to perform three weddings in my house every week, that would pay for groceries. When people ask why they stopped performing marriages at the courthouse, my quick response is usually “so I could pay off my VISA bill.” There is actually no official answer from the Clerk’s offices other then, and they aren’t required by law to do so. There is no question; I was indeed in the right place at the right time to make money and create a business that has forever changed my life.
It wasn’t long before I was decorating my home like a wedding chapel and planting flowers in my garden to make it a pretty spot to get married. I had a significant presence on Google and, based on the cost of the wedding, my living room became an incredibly popular place to get married. That first full year I offered the service, I performed more weddings in the area then everyone but one other officiant service downtown. 1000 of the 3000 weddings I’ve performed since I began happened in my home. It was a fantastic experience for me. I had all sorts of couples and their families in my home. For the most part, it was great. A lot of people say I’m crazy allowing strangers in my home like that, but I was never fearful. I was annoyed more than once by people taking advantage of me and my home, but for the most part, it was great. The pros far outweigh the cons.
I created the $50 Quickie Wedding. I know that small town pastors have been performing weddings in their homes for over 100 years, so it wasn’t as though I had created something new. I know that as an actual wedding officiant business, my $50 Quickie was the first in the area and there are several officiants in the area that have copied the idea. I stopped performing weddings in my home over a year ago, but there are still people who offer them.
I know that I had an effect on what officiants were able to charge for a wedding. Five years later, the average price to get married in an office in downtown Indy during regular business hours is $100. That’s down from $150. There are no more Friday surcharges. Now, I offer to meet couples and sign their marriage license next to the courthouse for $60. When I started that, more officiants did the same.
Couples had been traveling the 30 minutes to my home to get married because the cost of gas and the travel time and only paying me $50 was a lot cheaper than paying $150 or $300. It was worth it to them, and it was worth it to me. As more people starting offering budget options, it wasn’t always worth the drive and my numbers started to go down. Over the four years, I did it, by the end, more people were coming to the house for me to just sign their license, as opposed to the couples and families that had been coming to my home for an actual wedding ceremony experience.
After I’d been marrying couples in my home for a year or so, the competition started to get crazy, and it got a little vicious. One thing I didn’t know about were local city ordinances and the fact there are limits to the types of business you can run out of your house. You can run a business out of your home, but you can only have up to 4 people in your home at one time for the service. I really didn’t know, and I found out the hard way when I received a letter from the city. They were really nice about it. They’d received an anonymous complaint and just stated that, in that situation, most people really didn’t know about the ordinance and this was just a friendly letter explaining the codes. They’d driven past the house to observe and saw that I didn’t have anything on the outside of my home that marked it as a business or anything like that but because I was advertising as a wedding chapel and having so many people in my home at one time for business I was breaking the ordinance. I was totally freaked out by it. I didn’t want to do anything that could cost me my business. I also didn’t want to hurt or bother anyone with what I was doing.
I might have had seven weddings on a Saturday, and each couple might bring their family. Sometimes it would be up to 20 guests. I really don’t think my neighbors had a problem with it. They supported me and my business and seemed generally happy for me. I may have had all walks of life walking into my house, but everyone was really respectful. I don’t think any of my neighbors turned me in. Ultimately, I do have to admit that it was getting a little out of hand and I wanted to set more limits and part of me was happy that I now had a legal reason to explain it to people.
It wasn’t that easy suddenly limiting my services. I had been marrying families. There are some families where I have married several members. I was the wedding officiant some groups of families used. I had a really excellent reputation. People would tell someone where they work they were getting married, and there would be someone else in the office that recommended me, only to find out their appointment was already with me. People had gotten used to coming to my home with family and friends. It was a complicated situation. My income had really started to matter, and I didn’t want to lose it. I also felt like I was offering an affordable option people needed. That was a mistake. While yes, I was able to help a lot of people with very little money get married, there were people that took advantage of my kindness. It’s a business transaction, but it’s also a wedding. I wanted to be super-nice to everyone. Now, I have to be super-professional, or it becomes too stressful. It was a fundamental lesson I had to learn, and I’m faced with gray areas on a regular basis. Someone is always trying to bargain, and they can come up with great stories.
The money being generated by wedding officiants in Indianapolis at that time was substantial. There was this untapped market, and everyone wanted a piece of it. I believe the reason my $50 Quickie and other budget options are so popular is that there is only so much money some people can pay to get married. Some may have been trying to corner the market and price gouge, but that doesn’t mean people are going, to all of a sudden, have $300 to pay you.
After I received the letter from the city about my code violation, I received cease and desist letters from other wedding officiants. They didn’t come from actual lawyers because there weren’t any actual laws being broken. I had used an SEO tactic where I purchased a bunch of URL’s and had them point to my website. It’s not a very good SEO tactic anymore, and I’ve since discontinued the practice. I could see from the actual data that very few people were actually using those exact URL’s in their searches and finding my website. To even know those URLs were pointing to my site, someone had to do a lot of serious digging.
My business name is Marry Me In Indy! LLC. My website is www.marrymeinindy.com. I marry people in Indy. I’m a wedding officiant, and I’m in Indy. The URL’s I purchased had those words in them. Other businesses also had those words in their business names. You can’t copyright those words. That’s not the way copyright law works. Because I had those words on my website, they were saying that I was infringing on their businesses. One of the cease and desist letters came from a person that had copied my business, almost exactly. They had used a lawyer to send a cease and desist to others for other ridiculous things, but they spared me from dealing with a lawyer.
Eventually, someone said that there was one person in town that was the chief instigator and people were listening to them and acting on it. The only reason I can think of that they did it was because I was attracting a significant amount of the business due to my prices. If my $50 wedding didn’t exist, there would be more people looking for another person to marry them, and they could charge more. It doesn’t work that way though. All that really happened was more people were creating affordable wedding options. Everyone wants a piece of the market. Without me in the market, at that time, there would be hundreds of more couples other people could have the opportunity to marry.
There are now, in 2018, a very significant number of wedding officiants offering their services in Indianapolis and it’s more competitive than ever. Competition to be on the top of Google isn’t necessarily going to guarantee you paying a paying customer. It just ensures you exposure. People are going to look at more than one website and compare prices. A wedding is still a highly personal thing. While there are a number of people just looking for a qualified person to marry them, many people are looking for the right person to marry them at the right price.
This long, exciting story is what has made me decide on my prices and where I believe they will stay. I’ve outlined 14 different services I offer as a full-time wedding officiant. Many of those services are the same price, but you get different things for that price. My rates are almost entirely based on time. The time it takes me to get somewhere, when I have to get there, and the time it will reasonably take, based on experience, it will take me to perform the service.
In Indiana, you need a person to marry you. Every couple getting married needs a qualified wedding officiant to sign their marriage license. This is a legitimate business service. I still perform this simple service for $50. However, I don’t do it in my home. You can meet me at a coffee shop 2 miles from my house. You can make same-day appointments, or you can schedule online one week in advance for early morning and late evening hours, mainly before and after my regular business hours. You are doing all the traveling, and I’m not allowing you to make my schedule revolve around you. I used to have people schedule a $50 Quickie months in advance, and then I couldn’t book more expensive options in the meantime. This is a 15-minute appointment.
I will charge you $10 extra dollars and meet you downtown by the clerk’s office during regular clerk’s hours to just sign your marriage license. During the week, during the day, that’s worth it to me. It’s a 30-minute drive, I know where to park, and I can write the mileage off on my taxes. I can also run errands and do other things while I’m out on a Tuesday. I limit my availability outside of rush hour traffic. If you want me to meet you during rush hour, I charge more. This is a 15-minute appointment.
I offer elopements. That’s where you can have an actual ceremony, mainly informal, in public places downtown. They are charming, iconic Indy locations. I offer $80 M-F and $120 on the weekends. They are in set places, in the middle of the city and I know exactly how to get there quickly and where to park. It’s is a highly competitive price compared to other options published online. This option allows me to offer a wedding with little overhead other than advertising and mileage. The only drawback is the weather. I don’t have a backup plan. But if I did, I’d have to charge more. This is a 30-minute appointment. All of these are wedding options that probably wouldn’t have existed if you could still get married at the courthouse. Mostly, we, as wedding officiants in Indianapolis, created these services out of need and we market them as something to want. Honestly, I LOVE these!!
Everything else I offer is $150. I think this is a fair and reasonable price. It may be too high for some, but I’m OK with that because it’s a price I’m comfortable with. I’ll drive up to an hour in one direction, I’ll arrive 15 minutes early, and you will have a full hour to get married. I can meet you at your county clerk’s office during the week to save you time and a drive, I can come to your home or a park or any venue. These are your basic wedding ceremonies.
The average prices most people look at in statistics are for formal weddings. That’s that $352 average. The fee I settle on for that particular service is $450. What makes me different is I’ve broken it down into three parts, and you can purchase them separately. If you just want me to come to marry you, it’s $150. If you want me to be at your rehearsal, that’s $150. If you want a personalized wedding, that’s $150. A rehearsal takes just as much time as a wedding, so I charge the same. The rehearsal is actually more work than performing a ceremony.
Personalizing a ceremony takes more time than anything. Face to face meetings, emails, phone calls, time to sit and customize a ceremony takes a LOT of hours. Maybe because it’s the way I do it, but I’ve tried to use templates and cut and paste but, in the end, that’s only half of it. You still have to personalize what you cut and paste. If I count out all the hours, it takes to complete a full, personalized wedding package and compares it to what I can do to earn $50 I can multiply it by 9 and make more money for time spent just signing marriage licenses at Starbucks. But, it’s not really about that. Some ceremonies are amazing. Having the opportunity to perform certain weddings and being part of some incredibly special days is what it’s all about. When I just started out it was an experience. Being part of the experience was everything, and it still is. But it’s also a job, and I have to remember that, or my bills don’t get paid, and I get taken advantage of. $150 for a personalized ceremony, to me, is a bargain. However, I can see how a lot of people might not see it that way. The truth is, some people could care less, so I give them the option. If you only need someone to show and perform a basic ceremony before you can begin your party, I’m okay with that.
What I did to solve the personalized ceremony dilemma was to become more transparent in writing ceremonies, and I give couples more options to decide on their own ceremony. Over the years, I’ve realized very few couples genuinely personalize their ceremony, and if they do, they do it themselves. I give them a ceremony template with links to options on my website so they can choose different readings or vows or ring exchanges. After all the meetings and personalization I’ve done over the years, I’ve realized most couples choose the same weddings over and over again. So, I simplified it. I put those ceremonies on my website, with links to the different options and said, if you want to save money, you can design your ceremony yourself. Just pick one, and we’ll insert names or email me the personalized ceremony you want a week before your wedding, and I will come and perform it. Some people have actually hired me as their officiant because they wanted to write their own ceremonies and I’d allow it. The whole reason I became a wedding officiant is to enable couples to have the ceremony they want. Anything goes.
Over the years, thinking about the cost of my services I’ve tried to look at it in a lot of different ways. Some people might think that if you are a minister, your services should be free. But, that’s not true. If you belong to a congregation, you donate money as a member of the church. Some churches require you to be a member of the church for at least a year. That’s a tithing member. (You donate 10% of your income to the church) Sometimes couples get a pass on that if their parents are members of the church, but money is definitely changing hands. Hundreds of dollars are changing hands. I had one friend that said in the deep south, where her family lived, there were pastors of very poor congregations that do everything or free. But I’d have to assume those couples receiving legal marriage services for free aren’t spending $10k+ on their caterer either.
I’ve had couples declare my prices are too high for them, yet they have destination bachelor and bachelorette parties. How about those 12 people in your wedding party you are buying gifts for? While I totally understand that it’s their money and they are setting their own priorities, I found it difficult to offer my services at low budget prices where clearly there was a much higher budget for everything else. So, I decided to change the way I look at it. If I am charging everyone for my time, I can stand there, waiting for a wedding to start knowing that I clearly stated what services you are, and are not, receiving for the price and I’m happy with the deal.
So, if you look at my prices, I’m getting paid $50 an hour?!? Or $50 for 15 minutes just to sign a piece of paper?!? Well, yes and no. I’ve actually scheduled my whole day around your appointment. I’ve answered texts and emails and phone calls about your appointment and the services you are paying for. I’ve responded to texts and emails and phone calls giving out information I’ll never get paid for. Some people schedule meetings to get information and never book a service. They assume, as a business person, it’s my job to do that. Now, I clearly state, meetings are free after you have booked a $150 service and a brief meeting to meet me before booking a full $450 package is free. I offer a meeting to gather information without actually booking services for $50. I actually think that’s very fair. I can answer a lot of questions for you in an hour and save you time and money as you do it yourself.
Some officiants will say they are personalizing your ceremony when, in fact, they have three ceremonies they perform, and they give you the one that suits you best. Or they send you a document with options to pick and choose from. They have excellent sales skills, and you believe they have slaved away at your ceremony. And that’s OK. If everyone is happy, be happy!! My brain works the way my brain works.
Some officiants pay to be part of organizations. You can join a wedding officiant association that gives you some title to make you look good on paper. You can actually start your own wedding officiant association and make yourself the president of the association and collect that money for yourself. Things like that can help your SEO with backlinks or give you something to add to your resume. It doesn’t necessarily make you a better wedding officiant. You can pay to be part of the Better Business Bureau, but really only helps you pay your legal fees if run into trouble. You are also paying for the BBB seal of approval. I understand that it can be great for some businesses but for a small, sole proprietorship, that extra $500 can be spent in much better ways.
In the end. I’m a wedding officiant running a business. I only want to pay for things that I actually need to run my business, like pinpointed advertising and a good cell phone. The rest is profit, which is the point of having a business - to pay my bills. Hopefully, I can express myself in such a way that you know who I am and what I have to offer you and you can decide if I will or will not be a good fit for you. I know that if you hire me, I’m happy with the price you are paying me and I’m confident that I and the services I offer are worth that price. You, as always, can decide for yourself.
Victoria Meyer is the founder of Marry Me In Indy! LLC. She's been officiating weddings in the greater Indianapolis area for over 8 years and has married over 2500 couples.