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Should Pastors Receive Honorarium for Weddings?

If you’re a member of the church in good standing, by which I mean you’re actually a member of the church — not just attending regularly, but also volunteering significantly and tithing your fair share — many pastors will see their work at your wedding as part of their pastoral duties.

If that’s the case (and find out from your pastor if it is), then a card and a tasteful gift would be sufficient tokens of thanks.

This, I suggest, is the world of the etiquette books and wedding planning guides, a world long gone in most parts of North America. For in many churches, pastors already easily earn what they’re being paid long before any weddings get added to their schedules. So we should not assume that pastors are automatically on call for any congregational wedding that comes along.

This question ought to be sorted out with the church board as a term of employment so that everyone is clear about expectations.

And if you’re not in fact helping to pay his or her salary, then you certainly need to pay properly for services rendered.

What is “properly”?

Well, is the pastor doing work that is either less important or less skilled than anyone else in the wedding? The photographer? The caterer? The florist? The dressmaker? I would say … no. If you’re serious about a Christian ceremony, be serious about the quality of pastoral leadership. That means paying what it’s worth.

Fifty bucks an hour would be a good minimum, it seems to me. A hundred would be better. (That’s still much less than a qualified counselor charges per hour-long session.) So a payment of $750-1500 for a wedding would be a good range to consider when you’re trying to treat your pastor right.

And aren’t you? “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Do you really think it’s a good idea to start your married life by going cheap on the spiritual honorarium and spending the rest on decorations and food?

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John G. Stackhouse, Jr., draws on history, sociology, theology, and philosophy to explore the intersection of Christian faith and contemporary culture in North America and beyond. A graduate of Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, Wheaton College Graduate School, Illinois and The University of Chicago, he is the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College.