Guidelines for Wedding Stipends?


Hoping the community will be able to give advice regarding stipends for a priest to celebrate a wedding liturgy.

I was told by a friend that these are set by their diocese and all priests receive the same amount. After I read your replies, I will share what this bride's mother was told, which does seem rather high to me.

This parish has a guideline for brides - no crash to walk down the aisle due to safety precautions. How true is this in other parishes? I understand that high heels can cause someone to trip and the parish would be liable.

Also, does anyone have a guideline for the organist's stipend? It seems that if the parish uses an outside organist rather than the one regularly employed, there is a bench fee to compensate them for one of their choice.


All of this sounds pretty normal, or at least how it’s done in my diocese.

I am not sure of the numbers, but I do know that when a couple books th Church, the list of fees is gone over, and if there are any issues, most of them can be remidied.

If I remember correctly- the standard fee is about $150, and that goes to the parish. From my diocese’s website,

The standard diocesan offering of $150 should be made at the time of finalizing your wedding liturgy. In addition, consult your parish for information regarding their fee for the organist, vocalist, and instrumentalist. The parish organist will help you choose from the recommended music, and suggest possible vocalists/instrumentalists. As soon as your date has been scheduled, contact the organist.

The priest/decon does get a stipend out of that fee, and, at least in my area,
it is also the custom to give a the celebrant a monetary gift.

Our diocese also does not allow the use of a “crash”, mostly for safety reasons.

I also know that these fees can vary greatly depending on where you live, and what type of Church you want to get married in. At St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, I believe the wedding fee is upwords of $2500.


Could your friend be mixing up stipends with stole fees? The former relates to Mass Offerings/Intentions and, in my Diocese, the Priest may accept a stipend of £10.

As to stole fees (offerings to the Priest for baptisms, weddings, funerals), the Catholic Church does not quote an amount nor charge for Sacraments or service as one is not deprived of them on the basis of lack of means. If one has the means, there is no set amount for stole fees as these are free will offerings i.e. donations. How much should the wedding couple give towards stole fees? I reckon, the wedding couple should consider what they give in proportion to their wedding costs. It sometimes beggars belief when one comes to know that the Celebrant was handed £10 against the thousands spent by the wedding couple on the gown and reception.

My Parish charges a fee for use of the Church for expenses incurred i.e. heating, electricity, insurance, cleaning, etc. Could it be possible that your friend was quoted an amount in relation to those?


The offering is set by the diocese, and goes into the works of charity fund, not to the priest individually. A person may give more than that amount as a stipend to the priest, and the priest may keep it if it is clearly intended for him and not the parish.

This is not the same as the fee to rent/use the church which might indeed be quite high if it is a large church.

I don’t understand this paragraph.

What is a crash?

The organist doesn’t receive a stipend. He/she receives a fee for services. They set that themselves.


Never heard of a “CRASH” but here’s what it is…

From the web:
A “crash” (a long white strip of cloth or plastic) is sometimes unrolled at weddings immediately before the wedding party proceeds down the aisle. While this has become a custom in some places, it is completely optional. It is our strong preference here that a crash not be utilized. We have found that the carpet in the church tends to make the crash rip and tear almost every time. Not only is this unsightly and a nuisance but it is also a hazzard especially for elderly guests. If you insist on a crash, the church aisle is 60 feet long.


The organist fee can vary, but they are set by the American Guild of Organists and you should be able to find this information online. Yes, it is customary that the organist gets his “bench fee” even if another organist is brought in so if you chose to bring in another organist, you’ll essentially pay two fees.


It’s important for prospective brides and grooms to look at their wedding plans from a parish and pastor’s viewpoint, as well as their own.

A practicing Catholic couple is (unless one is an active member of the armed services) active in their parish or respective parishes. Either the Brides’ or the Groom’s parish is therefore the place where they should be married: in the presence of their own parish community. In such cases a faithful parish member is charged nothing, or a nominal amount just for the utilities.

When a non-practicing Catholic shops for a beautiful “photo-op setting” church, they must remember that they are, with their wedding rehearsal time, decoration time, and ceremony and photo time, taking up valuable space in a parish’s regular calendar, and using a large chunk of that parish’s monthly resources of manpower, utilities, insurance, clean-up, and time. :coolinoff:

Each parish has standards of decorum re music, floral decoration, and even fashions (I know a couple of great churches who nix low-cut strapless bridal gowns, :dts: more power to them!)

Proper Catholic churches refuse to allow pop music during the ceremony and it is indicative of the selfishness of some couples that they are offended by this . An organist is retained by the parish church on the understanding that he/ she is paid for music at all events in accord with parish guidelines; and if that organist is shoved aside :imsorry: for the wedding couple’s imported musicians, it is only right that the organist be recompensed for their stipend whether the wedding couple thinks this unfair or not.

Wedding couples rarely stop to consider that they are probably only one of many engaged couples vying to occupy the “desirable” church on their rehearsal and wedding-days-- and each “non parishioner” wedding is a disruption of regular parish life :hypno:. Many magnificent churches must in “self-defense” charge very stiff stipends to discourage excessive numbers of non-parishioner weddings from frequently displacing the regular congregation on week-ends when the church should be availible for quiet prayer, public novenas or rosaries, or other occassions (such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or day retreats which usually must be scheduled on Saturdays, the popular day for weddings.)

I know one pastor :ouch: of a gorgeous, historic church who has told me that his Saturdays often see three weddings a day --morning, noon and night-- :eek: to the detriment of the parish’s life. The (expensive ) stipend charged by that parish is no real great obstacle to wealthy people who are spending $ tens of thousands on that one day, and who have no intention of becoming active parishioners at that church. (I told him he should raise the fees until they effectively discouraged such people ! However In the case of serving active military getting married far from home, most churches are glad to waive all fees.

The Wedding Day is important, but less important than THE MARRIAGE according to the mind of Christ; and shallow couples :cool::onpatrol: who regard a church building as venue for a glamorous photo-op should be charged a stiff venue fee accordingly.


Aunt Raven,

Sounds a bit like “raven-ing” as you offer a rather negative approach in your response, including assumptions on the part of the wedding couple. I have nothing more to comment for your lack of real help.


Thank you everyone else who responded so far. It seems the fee mentioned so far is lower than the amount my friend was quoted, whether or not it is for the pastor’s personal use or returned to the parish – and she is a parishioner.

My understanding of the church portion of her expense is in excess of $500 which includes the organist and vocalist. Maybe I could understand it better if I equated it with the offering for a funeral. For these, the pastor goes to the funeral home prior to mass for the blessing, celebrates the liturgy, and then accompanies the family to the cemetery for another prayer service. It is a heavy expenditure of time, yet does not come close to the amount stated for a wedding.

Realistically, I appreciate that there is a rehearsal gathering, but many parishes defer this to someone other than the pastor.

It’s been many years since my daughter married, so this disclosure by my friend was quite an awakening. :eek: I did not know what to say.


Not sure what any of this has to do with the OP. Many small, beautiful parishes actually rely on non-parishioner weddings for income. If a pastor thinks too many weddings are “cramping” his parish’s life, all he has to do is stipulate-no non-parishioner weddings. Lots of parishes do this and they are perfectly within their right.


An Aisle runner is the most useless addition to the wedding industry. It disrupts the flow of the procession, people make noise when taping it to the ground, it causes a trip hazard, and it continues this idea of the “bride” being a “pretty princess” rather than focusing on the liturgical procession as a whole.


Ah, aisle runner – that sounds like a better word than “crash.” I don’t have a problem with it being in disuse, but I was curious if other parishes followed suit. Thanks!
[Maybe some people did *crash on the way up to receive communion?" :smiley: ]


Funeral Directors, not the family, are the ones who pay my Parish and give £150-£250 which includes printouts of the Order of Service for the funeral, flowers and use of the Parish Hall for the family to gather before and after the burial. The organist is by separate arrangement with the family.


The op doesn’t say, but much of this advice may not be applicable to a parish operated by a diocese but served by OFM priests, and is especially unapplicable to Franciscan parishes with no affiliation with a diocese.

Many Franciscans will not expect or accept any payment for administering sacraments, and even if goods or money is gifted to Franciscans living in community, all gifts are turned over to the Guardian for use by the entire community of friars (ordained or not).

In many diocese parishes being served by an OFM community, even individual salaries paid by the diocese are turned over by the friars to the Guardian.

Peace and all good!


Thank you, Santi2. How does the money you quote for the UK equate with US dollars? Are you saying your parish fees are $150-$250?

I love the idea that the family fathers in the parish hall afterwards. What a lovely practice! In my former Michigan parish, we had volunteer funeral teams that cooked an entire turkey dinner for the grieving family, and the free-will offering the family gave the coordinator (if anything) was put aside to purchase supplies for the next funeral. This was a wonderful witness of compassion and charity at a time when the family needed comfort and support. But then again, that parish was exceptional, going well beyond the norms elsewhere.


The fees we paid the parish when we married (7 years ago):

Deacon stipend $150
Church rental fee - $500
Oganist - $150
Cantor - $150
Premarital prep (included the FOCCUS test): Can’t remember, I think it was $50


There is no such thing as a parish that is unaffiliated with a diocese. The meaning of parish is a self-supporting church that is established by a bishop to serve a specific territory (or, in rare instances, another type of community) within his diocese.

Franciscans may have a priory that is located within a diocese, and not directly afiliated with the diocese, but that is not a parish. Even so, priests of a religious order must be given faculties by a bishop to celebrate the sacraments within his diocese. Otherwise, they are limited to celebrating Mass within their own religious house only. If a Franciscan priest had faculties to celebrate other sacraments within a diocese and married a couple in the priory (unlikely scenario, but let’s say that he does), he could only do so with the permission of the pastor of one of the spouses, and the sacrament would need to be recorded in the parish register of the local parish, as well.


In regards to the priest’s stipend, I think it might depend on the diocese. Most people in my area will give about $100 - $200 for the priest’s stipend and that is for his use only. Some parishes will not specify an exact amount. Others will.

Many parishes have begun to not allow the aisle runner because of the safety precautions. In my experience of cantoring Catholic weddings over the past 10 years, when there was an aisle runner it would often get ripped before the bride even got to walk down the aisle. I’ve seen people trip on them, especially women with heels. There are similar rules with regards to flower petals, rice, bird seed, etc. Where I was married, they allowed aisle runners, but nothing no flower petals or other things to throw on the couple when they were married. The main reason was the potential for law suits should someone slip.

For musicians, the fees are different from parish to parish. Most churches will have a bench fee for organists if you decide to use an outside organist or other instrumentalists. The reason for this is that an organist’s salary is also based on weddings, funerals and other special masses they may have at the parish. It is a loss of income for them. If a couple really wants to have other instrumentalists, they have sometimes asked the organist to play only the responsorial psalm, Gospel Acclamation and maybe the parts of the mass, while the have the other instrumentalists do the rest. They all depends on a couple’s budget, though.

For the parishes where I am on the musician roster, the parish, itself, sets the fee - not the musicians. Once in a while the music director will set the fees for him/herself and the rest of the musicians, but at the approval of the pastor. When I freelance, I set my own rates and keep it fairly competitive, so that I don’t price myself out of work and also so that I make it worthwhile to give up about 5 hours on a Saturday or Sunday away from family and to pay taxes. In my area, the rates at parishes for a cantor is between $150-$250, depending on the musical and vocal training of the cantor. For an organist, it can range from $200 to $800. The upper range is usually not for Catholic parishes, though. I see that more often for top notch organists at Episcopal/Anglican or other Protestant churches in the city where I work. I would say, most Catholic parishes in my area have organist fees set between $200 - $400.

Most places will accept outside cantors, but some will only want you to use their own. I’m not sure if there is a bench fee for them as well, though. Part of the reason is because they want to throw work to the cantors of the parish. Another reason is because sometimes couples will bring in outside singers who may have a nice voice, but know nothing about the liturgy or (which is very common) the singers aren’t musicians and so the organist or whoever the instrumentalist is, end up having to teach the music to the singer or struggle through a piece accompanying the singer who really didn’t know the music. They prefer to work with people who know the liturgy and the repertoire.

Hope this helps.


When we were married (9 years ago), the church rental fee was $800 . It is now $2000. Many of the parishes in my area today charge between $500 - $1000 for the church rental fee.

I don’t remember how much the premarital prep was either. We did a full Saturday. I think it was between $50-$100. I know it was definitely no more than $100.


Awesome, Sarabande! Who would ever believe these fees? Oh am I ever glad my children are married! The expense must cause parents to mortgage their homes if they have not provided for this early in their marriage.

I must say that I am more than a little scandalized that a Catholic parish charges $2,000 to rent the Church. Even if it is a Cathedral with the most elaborate setting, I fail to see how that justifies a rate like this.

As for the organist, I have played for weddings, and the preparation at home is extensive, which warrants that type of fee. Hours and hours of practice. Not only the liturgy, which should be rather routine, but the preludes usually consist of at least five, plus the wedding march.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

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