“The laborer is worthy of his hire.” (That’s in the Old and New Testaments.)
People often ask whether we’ve written anything on this website concerning honoraria–what would be appropriate to pay the preacher for a wedding, a funeral, a banquet, or for guest preaching in their church.
I haven’t…until now.
I suppose the reason is that this is so subjective, so hard to nail down. Different regions of the country and different denominations will have their own customs and expectations. But, for what it’s worth, I will give it a try. I know full well that we will leave some questions unanswered, some subjects unaddressed. But, here goes.
The last wedding I did, they paid me $550.
That generous, surprising amount was completely their decision. Two months earlier, when the bride-to-be asked “How much do you charge?” I replied that “I don’t have a fee. Whatever you do will be fine.” I may have suggested she ask her minister (they lived several states away and were coming to Mississippi for a family gathering and wanted to marry while everyone was together) what he thought was appropriate.
So, I might owe him a thank-you note. (As a matter of fact, I do owe him one. He did the pre-marital sessions, and even sent a note to that effect.)
Every pastor has his stories. For one other wedding, I was paid $500. But that was far and above the usual. Back when I began marrying people, it was more like $10 or $20. But that was when you could live on a hundred dollars a week. (Yes, Ginger, there really was such a time in America.) In recent years, the typical gift for a wedding was $100 or $200.
I remember a couple of times when I have had pity on the couple getting married in dire circumstances and assured them we would charge nothing, not for the church (with its huge a/c and electricity bill, and janitorial costs) and not for me. When they pulled up to the church in a limousine toasting each other with champagne, I felt like someone had just run a scam on me.
I’ve done funerals where the honorarium was not enough to pay my mileage. And done a weeklong revival where that was also the case. If the people were poor or the church was small, that was no problem. But it rarely has been the case. Thoughtless is more likely the culprit.
But every minister has done this. It’s par for the course. You don’t enter this work to get rich.