How Much Does Hiring a Wedding Officiant Cost In Indiana?
Everybody wants to know prices! It’s a good question. It definitely matters. There is no actual set price. Each wedding officiant has to charge a fee they are comfortable with and what the market will bear. I've been officiating weddings in Indy for over 9 years. I've seen prices go way up and go way down. No two couples are alike and no two weddings are alike so there are services to meet just about every need with a price to match.
So, What is the cost of a wedding officiant in Indy? There are some statistics. The website Cost of Weddings states the average cost of a wedding officiant in Indiana is $176. Between 37-47% of couples hire a wedding officiant and they typically spend between $132-$220. They also state more experienced officiants charge about $352 or more.
So, I’m not sure where the get this data or who they ask. But I decided to use this information because it does look like someone just went online and averaged all the published prices. Those, I am intimately familiar with!
The actual answer is the price of wedding officiant services in Indiana start at $50 and go up from there. I know, because I have the cheapest wedding in Indy and it’s a basic civil ceremony. There may be others who also charge $50 but I don’t see published prices that go lower.
Since couples can no longer get married in most courthouses around Indiana, more couples are paying wedding officiants for basic services because they can’t just go to a judge for a quick, legal service. Some counties that do provide marriage services only ask for a donation so you aren’t required to pay anything at all. So when you look at prices, you have to look at what you are paying for. And you generally get what you pay for.
I charge $50 for a basic, civil ceremony. It fills the basic requirements. That’s it. I charge so little because I only drive 2 miles from my house to Starbucks to meet you to sign a paper and ask you a question. If you want me to come to you and perform any sort of ceremony it’s $150. The price is based on my time and travel. Once I’m there, it doesn’t matter how many guests you have or what type of ceremony you want. You provide the place to get married and I will come and marry you.
This ends my short answer.
You can read my much long explanation below and watch the video. It's a really good story that explains a lot about the dynamics of the wedding officiant business in Indiana and how prices are set.
The rest of this article goes into more details about how wedding officiant prices work. It’s based on my experiences and my observations. I’ve been a wedding officiant longer than many other officiants in Indy so I have an interesting perspective. I’m probably responsible for driving down prices at some point. My business has been cloned and slightly altered a lot. That’s just the nature of the business and it’s interesting to watch. Ultimately, we all have something unique to offer and I want you to find the perfect officiant for you. I think everyone who decides to become a wedding officiant has something great to offer.
There are probably countless wedding officiants to choose from in Indiana. The full-time and part-time pros and those who just get ordained online to marry a friend. Everybody seems to know somebody who’s ordained. The prices range from free to whatever a person thinks someone will pay for their services.
I know this because when I started officiating weddings I had no idea what to charge. My prices went up and down and I did a lot of bargaining. That was before the might power of google took over giving us endless data at our fingertips.
If someone called me, I’d consider what they wanted and I’d quote them a price based on the entire situation.
How the $50 Quickie was born
I remember the day my $50 Quickie Wedding was born. A couple called me on a Tuesday to ask me if I could marry them. I was thinking, who wants me to marry them on a Tuesday? This was when they had just stopped marrying couples in the Courthouse in Indianapolis, so it was over 5 years ago. The couple wanted me to come downtown and marry them. I live in Fishers and I had a preschooler so it was a little tricky. The first price I gave them was $150. That was the cost of my weekend weddings. They asked if I could go any lower, so I said $100. Then they asked if I could go any lower and I had to consider it a little bit more. I had to drive downtown and find a babysitter or take my son with me... At that point, It really wasn’t worth it.
But it would be nice to help them and to make money.
So, I said, if you want to come to my home in Fishers, I’ll marry you for $50. An hour later, I’d performed my first $50 Quickie Wedding.
And Little did I know how my life would change after that.
A life changing opportunity
Looking at what a great opportunity it was as a stay at home mom, I decided to capitalize on this $50 Quickie idea. I started advertising weddings in my home in a big way on my website! I turned my living room into a wedding chapel. I didn’t have to leave my house, I didn’t have to hire a babysitter and weddings were paying for my groceries! It was pretty awesome! It did not take long of quickie to take off!
I had created a very important usable service. There were other businesses downtown charge $150. On Friday’s the prices went up to $300! For hundred’s of couples, it was worth the drive to Fishers.
I married a lot of couples that were happy they found a service they could afford, or just a nice easy service they could trust. That gave me a lot of satisfaction.
Many people said I could charge more money. Other people said, yeah, but people just come to you, you marry them, and they give you $50! We definitely say the cup as half full.
And if you look around, there are several wedding officiants that are still marrying couples in their homes. I married some of them and others started their wedding officiant careers with me at Marry Me In Indy!
When it was no longer worth $50
Eventually, for me, the money I made from the quickies was no longer really worth it. My family wanted the downstairs of our house back and so did I.
It turns out, the less you charge for a wedding, the more some people think they can take advantage of you.
While I married many, many great couples in my home, there were also some not so nice couples. If you offer your services at a bargain price, some people take advantage of that. It’s just part of the marketing equation. And it’s human nature.
The way you make money with low prices is with volume. If I marry 50 couples in a month, 40 of them will probably be great. Great couples and great customers. 7 of them will be much higher maintenance than the $50 they are paying, and 3 of them will make you want to quit. It’s a good thing it averages out.
When I was marrying couples in my home, it basically only cost me the price of advertising.
There were plenty of times people came and it was a situation where I just couldn’t charge them anything. Often times, it was not so much a business but an incredible opportunity to interact with so many people.
If you are a minister, why do you charge money at all?
I think a lot of people consider that when they are looking for a “minister” or a “Pastor” to marry them. They don’t think of it as a business transaction, they think of it a personal transaction.
And when you think about it, it really is.
Getting married is a very personal interaction and the person marrying you is part of that. So for many people, that begs the question, then why do you charge money at all? Why do you pay a minister? Isn’t this included in your job?
Almost every professional wedding officiant in Indy is an online ordained minister. I’m not talking about pastors with actual churches who receive a salary from their church, I’m talking about the people you find online to marry you.
Anyone can get ordained online and legally perform a wedding in Indiana. It’s free! You only have to pay for a certified copy of the ordination. Since they stopped marrying couples in the courthouse, being a wedding officiant has become a serious business. It’s also a highly competitive business. If you shop around, you will find all sorts of prices and services.
The business of officiating weddings with free online ordination
Some people see a business opportunity and capitalize on it. They don’t care who you are, they are going to sign your paper, say a few words, and take your cash.
Some people just want to marry people, they aren’t looking to make a huge profit.
Other people are working full time in their wedding officiant businesses to support their families. That’s me.
Locally and nationally, there are people who just run booking services. If you need a wedding officiant, they’ll just send you one. You pay one price and you may never know what percentage of that actually goes to the wedding officiant that performs your ceremony.
These are all great business models because there is literally something for everyone. These businesses wouldn’t exist if they had no customers.
What goes into setting a price to officiate a wedding?
First of all your overhead. The price of maintaining a website, advertising so people find your website, mileage, wear and tear on our car, a phone, office rent. Things like that. You have charge enough to cover your expenses and pay yourself.
Usually, you plan a wedding and a wedding officiant comes to you and marries you. It’s pretty straightforward. You don’t need an office.
There are some wedding officiants that rent actual office space. It is pretty rare in Indy but they really fulfill a purpose. When You think about it, If you just need to get married without a wedding, you need to have a place to do it. Wedding Officiants with offices offer you privacy and they have to charge enough to pay for the office and to actually pay themselves. But they are also near the county clerk and very convenient.
The number of guests for the price
Some wedding officiants put a limit on the number of people who are allowed at your wedding. They aren’t charging per person, they are charging based on the space they are providing for the wedding.
For the wedding officiants that marry couples in their homes, It’s basically rent free. However, there are drawbacks. You can legally only have 4 people in your home at one time for business, it’s a city code. I found that out the hard way.
I used to have whole families and extended families in my home for a $50 Quickie. One day, we received a letter from the city advising us of the code that we obviously had no idea existed.
If I come to your home and marry you it’s a party and you can have as many people as you like. It’s just when I’m doing business out of my home I am limited by city code. I’m sure there are people who marry couples in their homes that will tell you it’s OK to bring extra people and maybe they are OK with that. I’m not, my business pays my mortgage and my family’s health insurance. Those are risks I’m not comfortable with.
Officiants with offices also have capacity limits they have to enforce. There are occupancy limits and fire codes. The price isn’t necessarily based on the number of people, it’s based on crowd control and safety. Do you risk a fine or risk being shut down or be nice to someone?
The law and number of guests allowed
A few years ago, someone made anonymous complaints about many wedding officiants. I wasn’t the only one to get a letter. Other officiants got knocks on their doors and actual inspections to make sure they weren’t violating any codes.
It's a wedding, my friends and family should be able to be there.
I’ve found that a lot of people think that because it’s a wedding, it has to be OK for anyone to come. It’s a very sticky situation. I’ve had people knock on my door in a middle of a wedding because they came to watch their friend get married. Everyone just assumed it was OK. Even when I told them ahead of time it wasn’t, a lot of people didn’t actually hear me. It caused so much stress that I finally had to just stop it altogether. There were whole groups of people who would come time and time again to see yet another friend get married. They assumed if they did it before, they could do it again. I finally had to literally yell and kick them out of the house. And, that was the end of it.
It’s been proven to me time and time again that if you give a little, there are some people who will simply push to see how far they can go. As a wedding officiant, I’d really rather not have to yell at couples on their wedding day.
I would offer to come to their home so they could have as many people as they wanted but they didn’t want pay that.
The $50 Quickie Evolves
I still offer the $50 Quickie because it really is a great service. It’s useful to so many people. I just meet couples at a table in Starbucks, sign their marriage license and everyone goes home happy.
Interestingly enough, some people come to Starbucks and expect me to perform an actual wedding ceremony, Like Starbucks in the venue. They think for $50 they are getting a full wedding experience. Read my website, watch my videos. It clearly states otherwise but people hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest!
Some people prefer to meet in a public space. They have no desire to go into a strangers home.
Click here for more information about the $50 Quickie!
When I stopped marrying couples in my home the comments were interesting.
The ladies in the clerk’s office say it time and time again. “I can’t believe you did that!” They have an entirely different view of the people who come through their offices every day. And I’m sure it’s very realistic. There were a few crackheads, a lot of meth mouth and some interesting smells, but I will say, it was an overall great experience! It was just time to stop. I never felt like I was in danger. I have a lot of great stories!
"Free Venues" for a wedding?
One of the biggest problems many wedding officiants face it having a location to perform weddings for free. If you can offer a free location or “venue” then you have a way to sell your services.
That introduced the Canal elopements advertised as a “free venue.” Monument circle is a totally iconic place to get married. There are public spaces all over Indy that people love that you can use for free. I’ve performed hundreds of these weddings.
It was great when I was just meeting a couple or just a small group of people, but when the idea of having a “free venue” got out people went a little crazy. An elopement is a short and sweet, 30 minute appointment. Couples wanted to have 80 people show up and get married in one of those public spaces! They figured they could save money on a venue and get my services as a lower rate. When that happened, I had to draw a line and most people didn’t understand. They were choosing the spot at the price I was offering and thinking that because I offered to marry them at that spot, anything goes. I had it written on my website that that I was offering the services. If something went wrong, it could come back on me somehow. I didn’t want that responsibility.
There are so many things that can go wrong. It’s your wedding day, do you want to take that chance?
What can go wrong with a "free venue?"
When you meet in a public place you really have no privacy. But, it is free! A lot of wedding officiants take advantage of “free” places to get married. One person started it and everyone else took it as an opportunity to make a few dollars.
You get a “free” place to get married and the wedding officiant makes money for selling you the package. They can charge just about anything they want. And usually, less is more. People are looking for bargain weddings. here is a HUGE market. You can look at it and say, I can get married on the canal for $60 or $80! What a great deal!
But you have to ask yourself, is it?
On a great day, it’s a great deal. On other day’s it’s not.
I’ve performed hundreds of budget elopements and I finally decided to stop.
This past wedding season was rough. It rained a lot. There have also been some bitterly cold temperatures. I found that a lot of couples really weren’t looking at that part, they were just looking at the price tag. Because I sold them on a free venue they were looking to me for a free alternative when the weather got bad. And I really didn’t have one.
How about free indoor public spaces?
There are indoor public places but that’s a lot different then being outside. Those inside places can also be rented for weddings and they have event schedules of their own. There’s no guarantee. All that last-minute hustle to accommodate people who really weren't helping themselves ultimately became no longer worth the money.
What really tipped the scales for me was that the couples were really just looking at the price tag and really thinking about the wedding itself. It was like I cared more about their wedding then they did.
Don’t you want your wedding to be dry?
Don’t you want everyone around you to be comfortable?
If you want to elope in the rain or the snow, just the two of you, I’m all about that! An elopement for two and a wedding with guests are two different things.
So, That’s it. Those are the budget wedding options in Indy that officiants offer to basically take over where the courthouse left off.
How Do you set a price for a formal wedding?
How about formal weddings? How do you set a price for that? What are you paying for?
Some officiants charge $80. Some charge $600. What are you getting?
Some wedding officiants have full-time jobs Monday - Friday and can pick and choose the weddings they do on the weekend and decide on their price and won’t do it for any less. Take it or leave it. Many of them are worth it and they know it. If you are a man and you are a chaplain M-F and perform weddings on the weekends you are a highly desirable commodity!
Some people are happy to make money, any amount of money, and will charge less. Some people use $100 bills to light their cigars, other cherish every single penny they have with the utmost respect.
I met a guy that charges $1000 a wedding. He might do about 6 of them a year and he doesn’t advertise. It’s word of mouth. He knows an event planner that specializes in expensive weddings. When she needs an officiant, she calls him. Those people aren't concerned with cost.
The cost of time and travel
I’ve changed my prices a lot because the market has changed a lot.
I finally decided I need to set a price based on my time and travel and what I’m satisfied with.
In too many situations I would book a budget wedding and I would have to sit around waiting for the couple or whomever to get there. It was only a half an hour appointment and they were 20 minutes late.
Since I started charging what I felt it was worth and budgeting my time to be somewhere for an hour it has become much easier. I had to look at the interactions I was having with couples and how everything was playing out and decided, OK, you can be 20 minutes late, because you already paid me and I scheduled this time to be here. Instead of thinking, are they going to get here soon? I have another appointment in 45 minutes. Now I know that I’m scheduled to be there and my next appointment is scheduled accordingly. Logically, I look at it as a win/win situation. No stress for either of us.
There are people who think the world revolves around them and schedules are unimportant. But more couples are actually planning for that. They will tell their guest the wedding starts an hour earlier so everyone will be on time.
Some officiants will only travel a certain distance and that’s reflected in the price. I get a lot of people wondering if I will charge extra because the wedding is outside Marion County. I don’t even live in Marion county. I travel a lot further for my price I’ve built it into the package. Anything further than an hour away is really pretty much out in the middle of nowhere and most people understand that it will cost more. Or, there may be an officiant they can find in their area that will do it for less.
What else goes into the price of wedding officiant services?
Other than time and travel, what exactly are you paying for when someone sets a price?
Everyone will put their best foot forward and put together when they are selling you a package. What does it all mean?
Is a rehearsal included? Is a personalized ceremony included? What is a personalized ceremony?
I want you to have the wedding ceremony you want. That’s my thing. My intention when I became a wedding officiant was to allow you to get married anyway you want. A personalized ceremony is part of that.
What goes into a personalized ceremony?
I’ve learned that personalization can mean many things. Someone can say they personalized your ceremony but all they actually did was change a few lines in an already great ceremony they perform most of the time and charged you extra.
I’ve learned over time, that’s really OK. When I give couples choices, they choose the same ceremonies over and over again. So I just start there. Look over those ceremonies and choose one or choose it and alter it any way you like.
I’ve put together an entire wedding ceremony website with countless ceremony options. Of all the websites I visited to get the information, it was basically the same information on every website. True story. There are, of course, readings from books and some original ceremonies protected by copyright, but not many. I’ve had couples bring ceremonies they say they’ve written. I’ve put the first paragraph in google and the entire ceremony came up. That’s why I just show you my ceremonies upfront. I offer a service to give you more personalization but I’m being upfront about what you are actually paying for.
Some officiants just use the same ceremony time and time again and many couples are perfectly happy with that. I price it accordingly.
How about wedding ceremony rehearsals?
I don’t include rehearsals because not everyone wants or needs a rehearsal. I charge the same for a ceremony and a rehearsal because they require the same amount of time. I’m driving the same distance each time. I charge $150 each.
If someone says they’ll perform you ceremony and rehearsal for $180, that means they are getting paid $90 for each service. If they add an in-person consultation to that, I really don’t think they are getting paid fairly for your time. But, if you are OK with selling your time and services for that price, more power to you! There are people on a budget that will buy them!
The value of experience
I truly believe that experience is worth money. It’s true, just about anyone can perform a wedding ceremony. Read a script, say a few words and sign a piece of paper. But, as a professional wedding officiant you find yourself going into the unknown. Anything can happen when you get to a wedding. Thing happen, can you roll with the punches? There are a lot of pretty pictures on Instagram and what you may not know is they are styled photo shoots, not real weddings. The media and their pretty pictures are not always the reality of your wedding, especially if you are on a budget. You have to have a certain amount of experience to be able to assess a problem and solve it. It may not be wedding experience, it may be life experience. I worked in 5 star hotels and Executive Office level Customer service in my previous careers. That translates. I had a neighbor who did a few wedding for me and she has a theater degree. That definitely translates. She knew how to play the part.
I’ve made mistakes and I’ve learned from them. Everyone does. And it’s worth it to the couple hiring me. Or it’s not. It depends on the situation, just like everything else in life.
A few more things to think about
I have just a few other things to mention about what goes into the prices wedding officiants charge and what you should think about.
Over time, I’ve heard stories of wedding officiants that suddenly stop answering their phones, they cancel last minute or just don’t show up. It’s a real thing. The bargain you may think your getting turns out to be a bigger problem than just the money. You are at your wedding with nobody to marry you.
I’ve gotten calls the night before a wedding that might be from a dad of a crying bride looking for someone to marry her the next day because the officiant just didn’t show and then, on the phone, said he wasn’t coming.
Some people may find something better to do for the weekend so they just cancel.
Being a wedding officiant is a great idea, but it doesn’t always translate into actually officiating a wedding.
There may be people that advertise lower prices but you can never actually get a hold of them and you wasted your time waiting for them to call back instead of hiring someone else.
I know some prices can vary widely and not everyone has a big budget but often it’s really just a difference of 10’s of dollars, not 100’s.
Wedding Officiant Price Wars in Indy
I know it’s an Indy price war for a wedding officiants. Sometimes I never meet a couple until their wedding because they just booked me online and we exchanged 2 or 3 emails. Couples will book solely on price. I market to that. It’s OK. Others will actually take the time to talk to me or meet me first. They may meet me and several other wedding officiants. It’s not usually about the price, it’s about finding the right person to marry them. There’s a big difference.
If you are looking for a wedding officiant in Indiana I invite you to check out my services and prices here. Or contact me! I'd happy to answer any questions you might have.
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Check out how to get legally married in Indy here!