I am so very proud to say that I run a full-time business as a wedding officiant. I started from zero and expanded by reinvesting my earnings. I’ve learned what I really have to pay for and what doesn’t really matter. That leaves me money to buy the thing things I really want!
So, how much does it cost to become a wedding officiant? If you do not currently meet your state’s requirements to officiate a wedding you can do so by becoming an ordained minister online for free. Officially, ordination can be free but you need to pay for a certified copy to prove it. The cost is generally less than $20. There may be additional fees depending on your local marriage laws.
I was already ordained online when I decided to become a wedding officiant so it wasn’t an additional expense at the time. I had paid $19.99 for my ordination several years earlier. I live and officiate weddings in Indiana and they have no additional requirements for me to be able to legally perform a wedding. I have never had to prove to the state that I’m ordained. I have however had to prove to couples seeking my services that I’m officially ordained so it’s always a good idea to pay for the official copy. If you are the person performing the marriage or the couple being married it never hurts to ask extra questions to be sure everything is legal.
Is getting ordained online to perform marriages really free?
Clicking a button and getting ordained online and being able to do something as important as performing a marriage and declaring a couple legally married can seem a little crazy. Being able to do it for free, with absolutely no training somehow does not seem quite right. My parents are in their 80’s and I’m still not quite sure they get it. I’ve had more than one couple really look at me skeptically (I mean, really looking at me funny) until they sat with me for a few minutes and listened to me explain the whole process or ordination and Indiana marriage laws.
Is a free online ordination really free?
Stop and think about it for a moment. Is anything really free? If people creating online churches for the sole purpose of ordaining ministers just so the can marry people and selling them things to help them do it isn’t a great business idea I don’t know what is.
You might be ordained for free, but then they charge you for a certified copy of your ordination certificate so you can prove it. They might also charge you for postage and handling. If your state requires you to provide a certified Letter of Good Standing, you pay extra for that too. They will sell you entire packages of things you might need when officiating a wedding. Decorative marriage certificates, robes, books, book covers etc…
Some online ordination operations charge you for ordination but then include the certificate in the fee. Some will ordain you for life and others will require you to pay a yearly fee. That’s all really part of a marketing plan. You can research it yourself and decide what you want and what you need. You can shop around for the things you want to buy or you can just purchase everything in one place and be done with it. It’s completely up to you.
Is getting ordained online to be a wedding officiant a scam?
No, getting ordained online is not a scam. It’s completely legitimate. The Universal Life Church is actually a big believer in the freedom of religion and provides ordination to anyone so they can legally practice any religion they choose (even if they make it up themselves) and they continue to fight for the freedom of religion in accordance with the US constitution. I think that’s an important cause. They’ll also certify you as a Jedi Knight if you want. They refer to it as one of Earth’s newest religions and admit it would make a fun gift for a fan. While being ordained as a minister so easily may seem a joke in comparison to a person who has spent years in seminary and studying their religion, for the sake of legally performing a wedding. We’re all even.
In most states, all you need it to be ordained and it’s totally worth the extra $20 to prove it. Honestly, that’s probably all you will need to pay for. I don’t know why anyone would choose not to get ordained for life instead of paying a yearly fee.
What are some of the possible fees and costs associated with becoming a wedding officiant?
I really love to marry people. I enjoy performing weddings and I really like my job. I’m extremely proud of the business that I’ve built. But let’s face it, I work to make money to pay my bills. If I don’t have to pay for something I don’t really want or need, I’d really rather not.
Some states require you to register as a wedding officiant and that might involve a fee.
I’ve spoken to people who have gotten ordained to marry friends and their friends paid the fee for them. If you are charging for your services, this would definitely be a fee you could recoup when you decide how much you are going to charge for your services. It’s generally a one time fee. Once you are registered, you are registered.
Some counties in California allow you to become Deputy for a Day to perform a wedding once.
There is a fee involved as well as paperwork and a short course you need to attend. There is a fee to be a deputy but you could do the same thing for free by going online and getting ordained for life. The one advantage I could see by becoming a Deputy for a Day is they require you to attend a course. That could be very helpful to learn what you legally need to do. I know it would have given me peace of mind when I started officiating weddings. Here is more information directly from the source.
What are some of the possible fees and costs associated with officiating a wedding?
You will need a wedding ceremony script to perform
You can pay for books but really, you can find everything you need online for free. There are plenty of wedding ceremony scripts online you can just print out and either use as they are or re-write them to suit the particular couple you are marrying.
You might want a nice cover for the ceremony so it looks neat and clean.
You will need to get to the ceremony
The cost of gas and wear and tear on your car as well as parking is a real expense. If you aren’t charging for your services and your expenses you will need to cover those costs out of your own pocket.
What will you wear to officiate the wedding?
You might already have a nice suit or dress. If not, you will have to find something suitable to wear. You may want to consider how you will look in the couple’s wedding pictures and videos. Honestly, unless you are officiating an expensive, formal wedding, as long as you look nice, most people don’t really care what you are wearing. You do want to be respectful, so do your best.
How much can I charge to officiate a wedding? You can charge as much as someone will pay you to officiate their wedding. If you are just starting out, you will probably want to charge less. This will help you to book weddings so you can gain experience and establish a reputation. The more experience you have, the more you can charge for your services. Just make sure what you charge is definitely going to cover your expenses. The national average is around $350. If you are marrying someone in their backyard at a family BBQ you might only charge $100-$150.
Once I’m ordained can I marry couples in any state? That depends on the state. Once you are an ordained minister you are an ordained minister. What rights and privileges your ordination gives you depends on where you are. Some states require every minister to register before they can perform a wedding in that state. Some states require the minister to actually reside in the state. Always make sure to ask to be sure.
Victoria Meyer, founder of Marry Me In Indy! LLC has been a wedding officiant in Indiana for over 9 years and married over 3000 couples. She shares her experiences and is happy to be your "Wedding Officiant Insider"