Money can be an uncomfortable topic for some people. Nonetheless, as a professional wedding officiant you are operating a business. You are dedicated to giving your clients the best wedding ceremony they could have imagined. You hone your skills, network with others, stay on top of the latest trends, and you belong to JPus, an organization for pros.
Couples are hiring you to perform a service. Naturally, you should be compensated fairly.
Spell out verbally, and then in writing, what the payment expectations are. This is good practice, whether or not you use a formal contract. Be friendly. Language can be clear, but firm. And, of course, polite. Send an email confirming the details after your phone conversation so expectations are clear.
If you take a deposit to hold the date, you are taking less of a chance that your efforts will be wasted while you prepare for the ceremony: meet with the couple, labor over the vows, finding just the right words, traveled to the venue.
If payment is still not received by your stated due date, send a follow-up email. Still keep the tone light, but clear. Include a short note requesting payment. If you include a link to an online payment service, such as PayPal or Quickbooks, it makes it easy for the individual to click and pay.
Email subject line: Payment for officiating
I hope that you are enjoying your pre-wedding activities. Writing to confirm our details and to get the business of payment out of the way so we can enjoy your special day. I’m attaching an invoice for my services, $ (amount here), as we discussed. Please let me know if you have any questions!
I look forward to seeing you on ____ .
If payment in full has still not been made the day before the ceremony, send a reminder email asking for payment before the ceremony begins. Of course, for impromptu elopements, deposits may not be feasible. But payment before the ceremony takes place is still in order.
Payment Due – In Full
We recommend that payment is collected before the ceremony takes place. This gives you leverage. After all, if the couple showed up, ready to complete the ceremony, then it is a fair expectation that payment is made at that time. Once the ceremony is performed, the officiant has little leverage. Withholding the marriage license is a no-no. There are no statutory exceptions for, “I got played.” In other words, if you don’t process the paperwork as required by law, you’ll be in the wrong.
Technology creates easy solutions. Establish accounts with payment apps like Venmo or Zelle. This way, if a couple says they forgot their checkbook or cash, you’ll be equipped to receive money with your phone (and theirs).
If you do perform the ceremony, and for whatever reason, payment is still due, you have a few choices.
- Send the couple an invoice. If still not paid a month later, send another, this one indicating balance due.
- File a case with the small claims court. Sometimes just receiving notice is enough to get someone moving to do the right thing.
- Report the incident to the local police department (where the ceremony was held) as a “theft of services”. If the police get involved, their likely first step is to ask the client about it, and get their side of the story. That may be enough to scare them into paying.
- Let it go, and chalk it up to a lesson learned.