By Kelly Robertson—Could this be another source of income for you? Check with your County Clerk to find out if you can become an ordained minister and officiate weddings. Ministers can also perform other ceremonies such as Baptisms. This may be an option you find enjoyable.
The First Thing You Have to Do Is Become A Minister! Believe it or not, “ordination by mail” was made legal in the United States in 1974. Today, all you have to do is go to one of the many websites available and you can quickly become an ordained Minister for life for free! Once ordained, you can perform weddings, funerals, baptisms and other functions of the clergy. California’s only requirement is that you meet the minimum age of 18.
Excellent sites to visit are Universal Life Church or a similarly named but separate organization, Universal Life Church Monastery, but there are many more to choose from. Just do a search for “how to become a minister.” These sites also offer the tools you’ll need: Basic supply packages starting at $20 to $30 include an ID card and credentials of ordination. Or you can choose larger packages that include certificates, how-to videos and instruction books on vows, ceremonies and rites of passage. Some companies even have on-line education/training.
What Kind of Money Can I Make? That depends on your availability, how far you want to travel and what types of services you provide. Fees for a simple “local” wedding start at about $150 but a Confidential Marriage can earn you up to $1,000. Don’t forget a few things about weddings when considering your fee: Weddings almost never start on time. You will have to arrive about 30 minutes early to make sure everything is set up for the ceremony and you’re obligated to meet with the bride and groom’s family and guests. Once the ceremony is over, you’ll have to stick around for photos and another round of meet and greet. Personally, I never stay for the meal but always leave a nice wedding card with the couple’s vows inside, printed on nice paper.
Another easy moneymaker is performing elopement ceremonies. I specialize in quick marriages at my home and offer the service as a “package.” For $195, all the bride and groom have to do is show up with one witness and a valid Marriage License (go to USmarriageLaws.com for County Clerk info). I set up a portable decorated arbor on my porch, provide a silk bouquet for the bride to hold and perform the basic “fill-in-the-blanks” vows/ceremony. I also have disposable cameras to capture the memories. After it’s all over (5 minutes max), I hand the couple the camera, open a bottle of champagne and serve a small chocolate torte to celebrate. I bought the bouquet on ebay.com for $19 and purchased the cameras on Overstock.com for about $4.75 each. Of course, I can reuse the arbor and bouquet over and over again. Your obligation to the couple ends with some polite conversation and certifying the marriage certificate.
What Does A Minister Wear? I have a nice robe and stole that I wear with a large cross that makes me look pretty official. For “civil ceremonies,” couples have asked me to just wear a suit or a skirt with a “preacher-collared” blouse. Most of my purchases have been made on ebay.com (do an ebay search with the word “clergy”) and remember to look at the rating of your ebay seller before bidding. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to wear special clothing for a theme wedding but it’s customary for the bride and groom to provide the costume to you at no charge plus you get to keep it!
How Do Couples Find Me? You need a website these days, because this is the main way that couples look for a wedding officiate. A basic 2-3 page site is acceptable and pretty cheap to set up and get hosted. (Visit GoGetDomainName.com for easy template sites and domain names.) Go to any search engine and type in Minister or Wedding Officiant and you’ll see an array of simple to elaborate sites. Two popular wedding directory sites to sign up with are OneWed.com and WedAlert.com. Some listings are very expensive and some are reasonable—all that matters in the end is how high the placement is in search results. I found that I was able to negotiate a lower fee for all my listings, especially if the site didn’t have a wedding officiate vendor in my area. The vendor category I use when advertising is Wedding Officiant and my official title is Reverend Kelly. I tell couples that I am a non-denominational, non-judgmental Minister who wants what they want: a personalized and memorable wedding day.
What/Who is My Target Area? Most of the couples I marry are second marriages, military members, those who don’t attend a church and mixed faiths or cultures. I have placed successful ads in local newspapers and the Pennysaver. I also advertise my services for holidays but, of course, charge a higher fee. I’ve been performing marriage ceremonies every Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s for the past 5 years. My local fee is $350 and I get it!
Okay, A Couple Wants to Hire Me – What’s Next? You’ll want everyone to sign a contract that secures a 50% non-refundable deposit, which guarantees or books the wedding date. The contract clearly states the couple’s responsibilities and the Minister’s obligations. For a wedding that I must travel to, my fee always includes at least one personal meeting with the couple, a get-to-know-you session talking about their wedding day dreams, theme, size, religious preferences, type of vows, etc. I have a checklist that I bring with me, and based on our discussion, I write the vows and ceremony and email it to the couple for edit and final approval. My fee also includes unlimited phone calls and emails. If the couple wants me to participate in a rehearsal ceremony, my fee is increased by $100. It is customary for the remainder of your fee (which often includes a tip) to be given the day of the wedding and it’s usually cash!