My husband and I will be having our civil marriage convalidated by our parish priest. He has been meeting with us to do the marriage preparation. The sacrament itself will be no-fuss, in the church office with no guests present (we will need to have people from the office as witnesses, I suppose). I have heard that it is appropriate to give a cash gift to our priest afterward, but I'm wondering what an acceptable amount is, and how I go about doing that in the least awkward way. It seems tacky to turn this into a transaction, but I do appreciate that he has taken time to help us, and that his own earnings are modest, especially as we are in a small, urban parish. Should I give him a card and say that we wanted to make a "donation," or would that imply it was for the church, and not for him personally?
You have met with the priest personally for multiple counseling sessions, free of charge. You are going to be celebrating an important sacrament in his office, again no charge. Presumably you are not impoverished, but no one asked you to provide an insurance card or sent you a bill, and they won’t.
If you were having regular meetings with a professional counselor, what would be the counselor’s hourly rate? $50 would not be out of line, and may even be low. If you were being married before a Justice of the Peace, what would he charge for the ceremony?
The proper things to do: Ask the church secretary if there is a suggested donation for weddings conducted in the rectory and (if it is within your means) make out a check for that amount. If no amount is suggested, consider offering the same amount you would have paid for the Justice of the Peace and some professional counseling sessions. Make the check payable to the church and put it in a sealed envelope, adding some cash or a gift card for the priest if you wish, and discreetly give it to the priest on the day of the ceremony.
This is not tacky. This is simply the way things are done. Besides, making the check payable to the church means you can get a charitable donation receipt to use when you file your tax return.
Offerings on the occasion of sacraments are typically set by the diocese (as a maximum, they are always optional). The bishop also determines whether the offering goes to the priest or to the parish when given. In our diocese, the typical offering for a wedding is $75 and it goes to the works of charity fund for the parish, not to the priest. A separate gift can be made to the priest in whatever amount one desires.
So, I suggest you simply ask what is customary in your diocese.
You can put the monetary gift in a thank you card for your priest to indicate it is for him personally. The offering for the parish can be simply mailed or dropped off at the parish office if one is customary in your diocese.
It’s been a while…17 years already?..but IIRC we slid the priest a hundred bucks in an envelope, transacted by the best man. And those were 1995 dollars!