Wedding Etiquette for a Pastor

Wedding image by Mat Hayward from

Aside from the bride and groom, perhaps the next most important person at a wedding is the pastor who is officiating at the ceremony. Yet, the pastor may pose one of the biggest wedding etiquette questions for the bride and her wedding planner. The pastor usually plays a bigger role in the wedding day beyond making sure that the vows are recited, rings are exchanged and the marriage validated in the church. Also, the pastor has certain expectations of the bride and groom, and vice versa.

Meet with the Pastor Beforehand

First of all, the pastor usually expects the engaged couple to consult with her before the wedding so she can give guidance and advice and get to know them better before the ceremony. She may also give the couple some guidelines on what they can and cannot do in regard to decorating the church. Also, the pastor may discuss any expected stipends or fees for performing the ceremony or for using the church. She may also ask the couple to choose from several scripts or other protocols that she usually uses for wedding ceremonies.

Other Expectations of the Pastor

Pastors expect the wedding to start on time so as not to delay the start of other weddings or church services later in the day. Some churches impose a fee if the ceremony starts late. After the ceremony, the pastor may set a time limit for taking photos in the church.

The Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner

The pastor usually leads the wedding rehearsal at the church. If the pastor isn't available, he may delegate that task to a church employee or volunteer. Some pastors may require a stipend or fee to run the wedding rehearsal. There is no obligation to do so, but the couple may want to invite the pastor to the rehearsal dinner if they are members of his church and have a close relationship with him. If they invite the pastor, they are not obligated to ask him to say grace or lead a prayer before dinner.

The Wedding Day

On the wedding day, the bride and groom may want to include the pastor in one or more photos of the wedding party, although there is no obligation to do so. Also, they may want to invite the pastor—and perhaps a guest—to the reception. If so, they should send the pastor a formal invitation just as they do the other guests. The pastor is usually not expected to bring a wedding gift, because performing the ceremony is considered his "gift" to the couple. However, if the pastor is a close family friend or a relative, he may choose to give a gift. As with the rehearsal dinner, the bride and groom are not obligated to ask the pastor to lead the prayer before dinner.

The Pastor's Stipend

It is customary for the pastor to receive a stipend or small fee for performing the wedding ceremony. Often, the stipend policy and the dollar amounts expected for weddings will be included in the guidelines that the pastor gives the couple during the planning stage. Some churches require a stipend for the pastor and an additional separate fee to cover services for cleaning the church before and after the wedding ceremony. If the bride and groom are close to the pastor, they may want to give her an additional monetary tip.