3 Steps to Making Money Performing Wedding Ceremonies

Couple at altar holding hands
Why you should officiate weddings on the weekends

Many of my friends, clients, and relatives (who don’t already know) are usually surprised to learn that since September 2003, I have been authorized to perform wedding ceremonies (not to mention baptisms and funerals!) in almost all of the contiguous United States.

As a professional wedding planner, in addition to planning weddings, this means I can officiate my client’s wedding ceremony if for some bizarre reason, the minister is a no-show.

But, more importantly, it means I can add another stream of revenue to my wedding business—and so can you!

How it Works

Despite what you might think, not every couple wants a traditional wedding ceremony in a house of worship. Theme weddings, second weddings, civil ceremonies, last-minute-weddings, commitment ceremonies, and vow renewals are perfect opportunities for you to officiate.

As a licensed civil celebrant (which is the title I prefer to use as an officiant), you can perform local ceremonies in your immediate area.

Basically, the couple tells you when and where, and you show up to perform the ceremony! Whether it’s at their home, in a friend’s garden or some other equally special site.

Step #1: Get Ordained

Becoming an officiant is one of the simplest things you could ever accomplish. Just like so many other tasks, the Internet is the place to go to become an ordained minister.

The Universal Life Church (ulc.org) and World Christianship Ministries (ordain.org) are two popular online resources worth checking out.

Neither of these companies require that you have a congregation or anything like that. Basically you provide your name, your address, and a nominal fee to process the application (in 2003 I paid less than $10!).

Within a week or two your certificate of ordination should arrive in the mail and you’re ready to perform wedding ceremonies.

Just be prepared for bouts of heckling.  Seeing the title ‘Reverend’ in front of my name on my certificate was–and still is–the source of much humor and one-liners from my family members and friends! (Don’t say I didn’t warn you…)

**In certain states–like Florida for example, public notaries can legally perform ceremonies without being ordained.

Step #2: Be a One-Stop-Shop for Couples Planning a Wedding

The key to making being ordained such an attractive service to area brides and grooms, not to mention a great way to generate revenue, is, of course, how you package and present your officiant status.

In essence, you become a mobile or portable wedding chapel performing ceremonies wherever your clients are located. And, of course if you already have a banquet or commercial facility that can accommodate wedding guests, you can setup your own chapel right there, onsite (a dream of mine, by the way).

Get together with affordable (or talented friends or family members who can serve as) photographers, videographers, florists, etc. and include all-inclusive wedding packages, at varying price points.

All of sudden you become a one-stop-shop for couples planning a low-cost, but, highly-personalized wedding.

Take it a step further and collaborate with a caterer (or your local grocery store or Costco) and order simple food platters and create a basic menu and you’ve got the reception (or at least a portion of it) covered, too.

Be sure to have a collection of vows and readings, ceremony music on an mp3 player or CD, and an assortment of ceremony ideas that you can suggest to your clients–remember, you want to make the planning process as easy as you possibly can for them.

Decide how far you’re willing to travel to officiate and determine your professional fee. You can easily command several hundred dollars for a couple hours of work on a weekend. Easily.

Step #3: Market Your Niche

Marketing this one-of-a-kind niche is easy to do and lots of fun.

Placing small local ads locally and/or using Google Adwords, creating a dedicated page on your existing website,  or a building a completely separate mini website is a good place to start.

Keep in mind that this is a no-frills wedding option making it ideal for cash-strapped couples and a brilliant alternative to heading down to City Hall or the Justice of the Peace, so be sure to keep that in mind as you create your brand and your marketing collateral — i.e. business cards, website, your elevator pitch, etc.

And, even though being authorized to officiate a wedding is what we’re talking about, here, you don’t have to market it that way (as every other wedding officiant does):

For example, instead of saying you’re a wedding officiant,  why not promote the ‘one-stop-wedding-shop’ angle, instead? Doing this almost certainly guarantees that you’ll stand out from all the other wedding officiants in your town.

Like any other wedding planning specialty, be sure to shine the spotlight on what you do instead of burying under all the other wedding services that you may also be providing.  In other words, make your specialty special.

I know you can do this.  All you have to do (besides getting ordained) is put on that wonderful creative hat of yours.   Keep me posted. 🙂

HAPPY PLANNING!

Related Info:

Confetti Episode #357 – explains how you can use your local marriage laws to find clients.  This is a great way to promote your wedding officiant business.  Click here to listen to or download the audio replay.

23 Comments

  • I signed up on ulc.org today so I can officiate weddings during the weekends or when needed. It was free; I did have to pay for a certificate but I think it’ll be worth it 🙂 Thank you for these wonderful tips 🙂

  • technically, by law, all you have to do is become ordained…..you don’t need to buy or possess the certificate to perform weddings, so it is completely free, if you wish. Of course some people will want proof that they are ordained, but I don’t have it, and I’ve never even been asked. If the state wants to see, they can find my name listed on UL’s website.

    • Great point, Tom. Yes, you’re right; “technically” you don’t need the certificate. But, I’ve been asked for the certificate twice (by local jurisdictions, not clients; different states have different requirements) and it certainly made my life easier when I was able to present mine, on the spot. $10 is a very small price to pay for convenience, in my opinion.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Hi Debbie! Thanks for the advice! Like Jenn, I just got ordained through ULC today and the cost of the certificate was only $7.99! I love your idea of the one-stop-shop wedding. I’m going to brain storm some ideas to expand on that. Thanks again!

    • My pleasure, Mykimoto.

      Can’t beat THAT deal, right?! For less than $10 you’re on your way to helping more local couples than you could ever know in your area all while adding revenue to your wedding business.

      Be sure to share your biz card with the county clerk (or whomever is issuing marriage licenses) in your neck of the woods. They’re in the ideal spot to send you clients.

      Keep going!! 🙂

      –Debbie

  • I am a full time psychologist, and got ordained by the ULC back in 2009. I have turned it into a side business, and am finding that it is a great ‘other hat’ to wear along with my main job-because I can dual market-to couples needing premarital counseling as well-not to mention, the extra money is fabulous 🙂
    I have found, that you do need to stay relatively competitive with pricing here in Metro Detroit-and you sometimes have to be willing to bend a bit on price to get a gig.
    Any other ideas on free marketing?

  • I’m ordained by ULC Modesta for another state. Recently was ordained by AMM for Florida which doesn’t require you have a certificate to perform weddings but I will likely get one. Will make my life easier just in case.

    • Hello David,

      I agree. Even though it’s not required, having the certificate makes things so much easier. Earlier this year, I started performing wedding ceremonies in New York and needed proof of my ordination to be added to the state’s list of authorized officiants. The certificate definitely helps.

      Good luck and keep going!

      – Debbie

  • I have have a question. I am a licensed minister with the State of Ohio and was wondering if I could offer pre-marital counseling as well as officianting?

    • Hello Tyrea,

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you (for some reason I’m not getting email notifications for new comments). If you’re licensed or trained to provide pre-marital counseling, then yes, you could offer the service along with officiating. I believe that prepare-enrich.com offers this type of training.

      Thanks.

    • Hi Kelley,

      Good question. Typically, no; you won’t need a business license to officiate (at least not in the US). A business license has more to do with your local laws and requirements for running a business. Check with your city or state.

      A tax ID or EIN isn’t required to officiate but is related to whether or not you have employees and how your business is formed. But, personally, even if you are operating as a sole proprietor, without employees, having an EIN is a smart move; its a number that specifically identifies your company.

      Hope this helps.

      -Debbie

  • I have been ordained since 2005 and thought about this business and never proceeded. I am thinking about doing it again. What is the typical charge to officiate a wedding? I figured if I could book 1 per week that would be extra golfing money.

    • Hello Derek,

      The fee to officiate a wedding varies depending on where you’re located and the level of service you provide – you would charge less for a basic, pre-scripted short ceremony and more for a customized ceremony that has been created with a particular couple in mind.

      Research the rates of other wedding officiants in your area to get a taste of what couples are paying and try to position yourself within the top third for pricing.

      Pay attention to your costs and don’t forget to incorporate your travel time and any meetings that you have with couples.

      The important thing is to get started. Once you do, you’ll soon have an idea if you’re fees are on target.

      Keep me posted. Hope this helps.

      – Debbie

  • I have a full time job, but wanted to officiate on the weekends to supplement my income. If I were to do the “one-stop-wedding-shop” option, would I need a business license? And either way, business license or no, what is the best way to tackle the income tax aspect of doing this?

    • Hello Kayla,

      Thanks for writing. Kelley asked a similar question in the comments and my answer is the same: Typically you won’t need a business license to officiate (at least not in the US). A business license has more to do with your local laws and requirements for running a business. Check with your city or state.

      The manner in which you handle income taxes for any business depends on the way your business is set-up: sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, etc. That’s a good question for your accountant.

      Hope this helps.

      – Debbie

  • I just found your website after a Google search for a business plan. I just got ordained through theamm.org. Have you heard of this organization are they equal to the organizations you mention in your post?

    • Hello Delia,

      Thanks for writing. I have to admit, when you mentioned amm.org, I had to look-up the site. I’m not familiar with the organization so it would be unfair for me to comment about whether or not they are equal to the organizations mentioned in the post. (Sorry.)

  • Wow this is very good information. I just become a minister and I was wondering how or where can i get the license to perfome weddings on my own office instead of having the couple going to the clerk’s office? This is going an extra mile for them. Im in los angeles california and I’ve seen so many websites where they offer marriages in one hour by appointment. How do they buy or register the license?

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