A common question for those engaging the services of clergy for special occasions is, “What is the acceptable honorarium range for a pastor performing a private ceremony such as a wedding or funeral?”
Research shows that the current rule of thumb is somewhere in the $150-$300 (USD) range for special clergy services. This (or the equivalent) is consistent in North America and Europe for the year 2009.
Minimum Scenario: The officiating pastor will spend a bare minimum of three to four hours working on a wedding ceremony. This would include 1-3 hours at the rehearsal and 1-4 hours at the actual ceremony and reception, plus preparation time.
Maximum Scenario: A “full-service” wedding from the pastor’s side of things could include as much as 10 -20 hours of labor over a period of several weeks if premarital counseling is included.
Minimum Scenario: The officiating pastor will spend a bare minimum of two to four hours working on a funeral or memorial service. This would include 1-2 hours meeting with the bereaved and 1-2 hours at the actual ceremony and reception, plus preparation time.
Maximum Scenario: A “full-service” funeral from the pastor’s side of things could include as much as 5-10 hours of labor if counseling is included.
Unless he is a close personal friend, a pastor is forfeiting other options for the time spent to participate and be at the disposal of the parties concerned. Even if he is also a friend, he is not simply a guest at the event, but an essential part of the ceremony. He will most certainly be held responsible in some way for its outcome.
Moreover, a pastor often has specialized training and extensive experience, which he brings to the event in order to make sure it goes smoothly as well as make it inspiring and memorable. These skills are certainly worth something to ensure a positive outcome on such important occasions.
Few clergy are doing what they do simply for the money. However, other professionals with a similar level of training and experience often charge $50 to $150 (USD) per hour for their services. While most pastors earn very modest salaries, they often they charge little or nothing up front for their service and expertise on these special occasions. A thoughtful and appreciative beneficiary of their services might do well to “honor” them by giving as generous an honorarium as their means allow.