It is always a privilege and joy for rabbis and cantors to work with couples as they approach their wedding day and to stand with them at the moment when they pledge their futures to one another.
Wedding honoraria vary widely by geography and circumstance, so it’s not possible to give a definitive answer.
Often, there is no fee for couples who are members of the clergy’s congregation and in such cases, it is most appropriate to donate to the congregation, often to the clergy’s discretionary fund. Keep in mind, though, that for some clergy, wedding honoraria are an important part of their livelihood.
You can expect to discuss an honorarium in your first conversation with clergy, and it is totally appropriate to ask about it directly. If you are working with a small budget and wedding costs are a concern, you should raise the issue with your rabbi or cantor. They will do their best to accommodate your circumstances. Some clergy ask for a token deposit to hold the date on their calendars while others will ask that the full honorarium be conveyed by a certain date prior to the wedding. Unlike other wedding vendors, your rabbi or cantor will want to focus solely on your relationship and on your ceremony on your wedding day – not on remembering to collect the fee.
It is best to ask your officiant ahead of time when and how much they would like to be paid.
In general, your rabbi or cantor will spend approximately 15 hours or more preparing for your wedding, including multiple meetings with the two of you, as well as travelling to and from your wedding venue. If the wedding venue requires out-of-town travel, it’s generally expected that the wedding couple will cover transportation, meals, and overnight accommodations for the clergy and their spouse, if needed.
No matter how your rabbi or cantor handles the honorarium, a sweet thank you note afterward is always appropriate.