I have often been asked by brides and grooms what should their budget be for a wedding officiant or marriage minister. To be fair to them and to the work, I am very candid and take them through a number of truths and dispel as many myths as possible. A bride once said to me, "I am not sure if it needs to be that much when they will only be there for like 20 minutes." Myth! Even the most in-and-out officiant will be there longer than 20 minutes if they care anything about their people, business or brand.
Essentially, it's never 20 minutes. Many couples start off by saying they want a ceremony that's short and quick but in my experience I have only done maybe 1 or 2 ceremonies that were "quick" and those ceremonies were elopements. Even then, I have delivered my elopement packages which means me staying with the photographer to ensure that the customer service of my brand is fully delivered.
Any quality officiant, and there is a range of pricing for this work, will arrive at least a half hour to an hour prior to the start of your ceremony. Rehearsals are usually an additional charge and if it's not, then it has been included in the set price for the minister. It all comes down to the person's time. The hope is, if you are hiring a quality minister they probably have a full schedule and are in high demand (particularly during wedding season); this may be the case, generally, June through September.
When I got married I booked my wedding minister first, along with the venue and getting my dress. Those 3 things meant "THIS IS HAPPENING!" He was a southern baptist minister (I'm no Southern Baptist, but he meant a lot to us as a couple) from Arkansas. He also, was a Chaplain in the Army Reserves... busy. Therefore, I had to orchestrate his flight and hotel to ensure I would have him booked our special day.
Next, an officiant has to build your ceremony. Think of every time you text or call your officiant... even if you never did they were still there in case you needed them. You are essentially part of their "case load". Whether they are using a basic ceremony or creating a custom ceremony they have to take the time to print the material and proof read. Regardless, if the ceremony needs to be created or edited this all takes time prior to the ceremony. The officiant may also need to secure a copy of personal vows (ensuring it makes it to the alter), readings or poems can all be part of the officiant's responsibility once the couple decides on what all they desire to include.
For one of my recent weddings I went as far as having a custom Protestant minister attire created from scratch because my bride desired that I wear white and something different than I had worn to anyone else's wedding. I did not want to wear a regular white dress, because that isn't me. I am an ordained Protestant minister that wears specific things for sacramental work such as marriage... I didn't want to misrepresent who I am and what I stand for. Therefore, I decided to create something that was most appropriate while still pleasing my customers. I had to attend numerous fittings, purchase quality material from a fabric store in manhattan and create something that would make me feel comfortable in both warm or cool weather. It all came out beautifully but it all took TIME.
Lastly, the officiant has to sign the marriage license to make it official, seek out witnesses who are tied up in the festivities of the celebration and (in some states) pull the couple aside to have them sign. Then the officiant must review the legal document to ensure all things are correct, filled out fully and then hand it over to a responsible designated person or process it themselves via snail mail as soon as possible. This all takes time and diligence. Believe me, if anything were to be incorrect on that legal document it will fall on the officiant (sipping tea)- don't make me have to spill the beans on some officiant horror stories I've heard. And, on top of that, couples change their minds about all of this at the last minute. Did I dispel the 20 minute myth for you yet? While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, TIME has never lied. The minister carries a great deal of responsibility regarding your ceremony and you can take the route of having someone in your family get ordained online over night and hope for the best or you can hire a professional who will take responsibility and be accountable for the ceremony of your special day.