Stiffing the Pastor

by admin on May 5, 2010

G is a good friend and a great gal that possesses many talents. Organization, manners and tact aren’t any of them. When she and her boyfriend decided to tie the knot I was happy to be the some-what coordinator as my gift to her. My abilities begin and end with being a decent list maker but I had the internet to guide me! Everything told, it would cost about $250 dollars, the bulk of it being paying the pastor. She seemed happy with what I cooked up seeing as she didn’t have much better planned.

G was going to have a potluck reception in her backyard. Friends jumped at the chance to help provide food in lieu of gifts. A dish to pass wasn’t a requirement though. We knew we had a handful of ladies we could rely on that could feed a small army and were excited to do so. I had no problem with the potluck considering our friends were very supportive of it but it just makes the end of the evening that much worse.

We used some of my old dresses, hair clips from when we were in grade school and chairs borrowed from everyone. Friends came with curling irons and did everyone’s hair It was so eclectic, intimate and beautiful. It was truly the best ceremony I have ever attended because everyone in attendance made it happen. We all had a hand in seeing G and her husband start a life as one.

The reception, by contrast, was the worst I’ve ever attended. G and I had a small argument at the beginning over paying the pastor. Despite our long talks and the lists I had her look over she was under the impression the $250 she set aside was for their honeymoon. “What honeymoon?” I asked. She answered, “The one Husband and I decided we should have this morning.” She wouldn’t budge and the pastor that drove 30 miles to marry them went home empty handed. It was, as she said, his job that the church pays him to do.

Both bride and groom proceeded to get so drunk they were rolling in the grass, fighting with each other and acting like, well, drunken idiots. She upended her last beer for the night and passed around the cup she drank it from. When it came my way I saw bills stuffed in it and asked a guest what it was for. “Oh, G and Husband need honeymoon money and they asked us to pitch in”. Yes, the very people she asked to bring chairs, food and various other things she was now asking money from. On top of the money she refused to pay the pastor.

The kicker? She blacked out at the hotel they rented for the night and doesn’t recall much other than the ceremony and some of the reception. The guests paid for her to have a romantic night she can’t remember.   0503-10

The pastor/officiant is the  “vendor” that most often gets stiffed of his honorarium or fees.  Considering this is the person who has the final authority to sign and mail in the marriage license (like the pastors I have worked with), it doesn’t seem prudent to deny him a token of your appreciation for taking the time from his family to conduct a ceremony.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

phoenix May 5, 2010 at 9:42 am

I’m not really seeing how G is “a good friend and a great gal.” Didn’t she just essentially con her guests into doing her entire wedding for her, not lifting a finger and not even paying a dime, keeping all her funds for her honeymoon and then asking for extra gimmees on top of it? I say con because although the guests seemed happy to do it, her behavior indicates taking advantage of the good graces of others. This was not a gracious bride who appreciated the help of friends, G is this story sounds like a complete spoiled brat who decided to see just what she could get away with.

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counselorm May 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I’ve reviewed my share of job descriptions for pastoral positions (for my husband) and performing weddings is not in any of them. As the great Web Host said, they are vendors who perform on their own time. They do not prepare for the weddings (remember that beautiful message he gave?) during “work” time. They perform the weddings on their days off (the same days off you are taking to have the wedding). They usually meet with the couples in advance and spend hours in preparation. And, most importantly, rarely do they have a real relationship with the bride and groom. Even when my very close friend (my best friend’s husband) performed my wedding, we compensated him for it. Officiants work really hard to make weddings special. They are also usually the least expensive service being provided — is it worth a few hundred dollars?

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Raccoon Princess May 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Stiffing any vendor is tacky, but one who works for God? That certainly takes gonads, and more gonads than brains.

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Anonymous May 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I’m sorry, but I can’t find anything “beautiful” or “intimate” about a wedding where the guests were asked to do everything.

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AS May 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Talents don’t make a person good. Manners do. And G seems to have none!

My first reaction was “What?!??? G just got her beautiful wedding for free?” And the friends who worked for her are wearing a smiling face. If G was actually a “good girl and a great friend”, she would have thanked her friends profusely, and been decent enough to pay the pastor his fees. I am sorry OP, but I don’t see anything about G that supports your first sentence. You are being a good friend and trying to see her talents; or maybe trying to see the positive side of the situation.

I have a question – doesn’t the pastor have a contract that has to be signed before he agrees to marry people? (Sorry, I have no idea).

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Patty May 5, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Wow. I am stunned. Why you want to be friends with anyone that would stiff a pastor?

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Xtina May 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Wow, an entire wedding/ceremony for $250?? And I don’t mean ‘wow’ in a good way, It sounds as though people were mostly OK with providing everything to the B & G for free and if they truly were happy to do it, then more power to them, but what an awful way to hold a wedding and treat your victims, er….guests. Sounds like more of a con job to me. I hope the B & G will one day realize how awful this was….it sounds like everyone involved was rather young, which doesn’t excuse it, but sometimes maturity will help a person see the error of their ways.

And to stiff the poor, unexpecting minister is despicable! This couple was only responsible for paying for ONE thing in this whole lurid affaird, and they couldn’t even find it in their collective consciences to do that. Add to the atrocity that they kept the money simply because they were selfish and knew full well what they were doing, and these two deserve to be cast straight into the deepest recesses of E-hell.

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Joe May 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

The poster’s definition of a “great gal” varies from mine just a skosh. Most of the women I know who I consider “great gals” would be aghast at the idea of stiffing a clergyman to fund their honeymoon and then getting drunk and rowdy at their own wedding to the point where they black out.

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Enna May 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm

That’s bad not paying the pastor especilly if s/he needs to sign anything to make it legal. I agree with the above statment that G can’t be a good firend after her behaviour. There is nothing wrong with having a simple wedding but not paying the pastor is mean and cheap and a good way to clock up bad karma.

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Lethal May 5, 2010 at 2:51 pm

It’s awful to stiff any vendor, but it’s also illegal for an officiant to withhold signing off on a marriage license pending payment, as your last paragraph would indicate might happen.

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Annie May 5, 2010 at 6:16 pm

G effectively ruined the blessings her friends were pouring on her by becoming a drunken lout and misusing her friends’ generosity. She certainly doesn’t sound like a “great gal” – in fact I think she saw you coming and decided to ride you for all you were worth. It’s outrageous that she can believe the pastor doesn’t need to be paid – after getting a wedding for free and then conning her guests and friends into paying for a romantic night she can’t remember. That she even had the gall to tell you she was that drunk should tell you what kind of a person she is.

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Amazed May 5, 2010 at 8:25 pm

An extremely important question is who actually engaged the services of the pastor? The bride? The letter writer? If the LW engaged the services of the pastor, then she is responsible for seeing he got paid. She cannot just say “Oh, go get your money from someone else.”. She is on the hook for the money.

Second question: Why did the pastor officiate at the wedding without getting any kind of deposit or partial payment in advance? If the couple and the pastor are total strangers, why would he go so far out of his way to perform a ceremony, without any kind of advance guarantee of payment?

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Billie May 5, 2010 at 11:58 pm

I’m not sure exactly where a pastor fits into the scheme of things, but I thought it was common to give a ‘donation’ to the relevant church in lieu of a vendor payment? And regardless of his powers of revenge (authority to mail the certificate), stiffing the pastor is a mean thing to do.

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Momma Bates May 6, 2010 at 7:29 am

The first half of your story made me smile. I’ve attended a few wonderfully intimate weddings like you described. They can be a true celebration among friends.

The second half nearly made me weep. I think you might want to reconsider calling this person a friend.

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Lily May 6, 2010 at 7:31 am

Wow, this is not someone I would choose to remain friends with. Her sense of entitlement is appalling.

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DW May 6, 2010 at 11:16 am

In my church, it’s pretty common to have a wedding the old-fashioned way, with family and friends helping. Some of them would feel shafted if they weren’t allowed to do so, in fact. It’s a different atmosphere, and because of this I’ve never really seen it as the bridal couple’s responsibility to invite and entertain a huge pack of people with a lavish do that leaves them in debt for years. The modern vendored wedding in fact makes me very uncomfortable. I feel like the $30 gift I can afford doesn’t somehow pay my admission fee. I know it’s not about that, but still.

However, obviously this wedding started with the lovely, intimate, old-fashioned way of doing things and the couple made it dirty. Pathetic. It all comes down to a lack of gratitude. And don’t even get me started on people getting drunk at weddings. There’s a pet peeve… From what I’ve seen, alcohol and weddings don’t mix! I’ll never forget going to the wedding of my husband’s client’s son (another pet peeve. What does your computer guy have to do with your kid’s wedding?) when I was 7-8 months pregnant, trying to get through a narrow passage in the overcrowded hall to reach the bathroom and seeing at the far end of the opening a guy standing, who took one look at me and proceeded to barge through anyway (there was room for only one) and who then amazingly was there to do the exact same thing when I was heading back! Turns out he was a drunken groomsman.

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Elizabeth Bunting May 6, 2010 at 11:41 am

I have known many pastors and they all without exception believe that officiating at a wedding is a very serious matter. By law, here in Canada, they do not have to perform the ceremony if either of the participants is drunk.

Most want to counsel with the couple for several weeks prior to the wedding itself. There are many pastors who would have refused to marry such a couple under the circumstances described.

If the couple is entering into a “Christian” marriage, then it is a very serious matter and not to be taken lightly, but soberly, reverently and in the fear of God. Oh well, of course, the fear of God is nothing nowadays.

This couple is fortunate???? that the pastor in question would even perform the ceremony. I know some Christian pastors who would no, under the circumstances.

Based on the description of this couple, I would be very concerned about their commitment to each other and to their devotion to the concept of a “Christian” marriage. If they are not Christians, then it does not matter.

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Jdbar May 6, 2010 at 1:52 pm

The way I understand it is that while performing weddings may not be explicitly in the pastor’s job description, it’s something that most churches will expect him/her to do for people in the congregation since ordained clergy has legal standing to perform weddings. Part of the interaction is that while the pastor doesn’t bill the wedding couple, it’s still expected that they will compensate him/her for performing this service for them. If the couple doesn’t attend any church and needs a “mercenary minister” for the ceremony it would be even more egregious not to provide compensation.

Weddings are always a lot of work for clergy and their timing is difficult since they’re usually on Saturdays. The pastor’s biggest day of the week is the very next day. I know that on plenty of occasions my father performed a wedding Saturday afternoon, then went into his office until late that night to make sure he was ready for Sunday.

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Dani May 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I’ve been to a few weddings where people pitched in and brought food. One was really sad and cheap-feeling (in a motel meeting room), and the other was outside in a gorgeous park in Washington State and felt like a joyous old-style community gathering. The bride’s family contributed the main dish (salmon, grilled outdoors) and the wedding cake, but everyone else brought a dessert, or a side dish. The two weddings were like night and day. At the first one, the bride didn’t thank anyone or say much of anything, really (mostly because her husband is a controlling jerkoff, but that’s another story) and it felt strange eating what looked like someone’s leftovers. At the other, it was obvious that everyone loved the bride so much, bringing a dish wasn’t a problem at all, and it felt like a picnic. And she was the perfect bride–gracious, kind, and totally radiant. The couple was moving to the UK shortly after the wedding and couldn’t ship large presents across the pond, so the dishes brought were kind of like a wedding gift. (That’s not to say they didn’t get a lot of envelopes…and I’m sure there weren’t just well wishes inside those cards too!)

I guess I’m trying to say it’s not inherently tacky to do a potluck wedding…it’s all in how it’s handled. And in the OP’s story, this was handled poorly, to say the least.

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kudeenee May 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Evil me says you should have taken the cup aside and removed some of the money to send to the pastor! Tell me that you didn’t contribute to this fund! Next time, if there is one, have the bride give you money upfront to pay the pastor, etc. by telling her that it will be one last thing that she has to worry about!

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Anonymous May 6, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Dani, I have to respectfully disagree. A wedding is one time when a potluck is tacky. This doesn’t mean that the happy couple should have to pay for a sumptuous meal for everyone–a Costco cake and Hawaiian punch works just fine. If Aunt Jane privately offers to bring along hots dogs, that also works just fine. But to ask your guests to essentially cater your event isn’t fine at all.

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Dani May 7, 2010 at 8:57 am

IMO, since it was phrased as an open request (”Bring a dish if you can”), not a mandate, it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Will I do it at my wedding? Probably not, but it worked in this case.

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Anonymous May 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

But it was an open request to everyone, which automatically makes people feel obligated. If a couple wants to have a large wedding (as opposed to an intimate courthouse or church wedding, with immediate family, for instance), they should be able to throw a large wedding. No one is entitled to one.

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jenna May 7, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Anonymous: totally untrue. Have you ever read “The Jungle” (Upton Sinclair)? It has a chapter with a very accurate description of weddings among the working class in the USA at the turn of the century. That’s only about 100 years ago.

And they were potluck. That’s just how the community worked. It’s how things were done. People could usually scrape together enough to bring a dish, but nobody could afford to host a reception and they didn’t have Costco or Hawaiian Punch back then.

So “no potluck!” is *not* a “wedding tradition” or an “etiquette rule” – from a time when modern etiquette was in its infancy this was considered OK, so I don’t see why it’s not OK now, given a certain set of variables.

Those variables being: local guests who are able to easily bring something (lots of out-of-towners means they won’t really be able to contribute – hotel rooms usually don’t have kitchens), a close-knit community that is happy to do this sort of thing, and a community-minded, grateful bride and groom.

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Babs May 11, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I work in a large church in Miami for 3 pastors. I’m sad to say that this happens a lot. No, they do NOT usually get paid by the church, unless it is on church property during regular business hours (which of course it is not). One of my bosses had to travel over 140 miles, on his own time and expense and was told ahead of time “we’re going to make a donation to the church, not to you.” Can you believe that? He was very honest and for the first time and said, I really would appreciate it if you would cover my expenses. Nope. Apparently they wanted the tax credit and wouldn’t get it if they paid him directly. It’s funny what people will pay for weddings, and elaborate funerals, but they don’t think the pastors who officiate the event are worth spending some money on. We had the largest wedding ever by a family who owned a very large nursery – one of the biggest in the area. The sanctuary was completely filled with beautiful plants. Guess what they gave to the pastor and others who sang, ran the sound, etc…you guessed it – a plant! It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad that some people are so lame!

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Alison July 11, 2010 at 12:20 am

I’ve worked at a church and this happens all the time. They also don’t pay the organist, get upset that the church charter states no non-religious music (so no movie theme songs or the traditional wedding march, which is from an opera, hey we didn’t set it) and want to get married in the building because it’s pretty. We have to do a lot to get it organized.

Fortunately, our secretary is a sassy old lady who will call up the couple and make them pay. We would go broke without her. Weddings are expensive to put on for the church too and we can’t afford it without them paying their fee.

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Divine Bird Jenny July 14, 2010 at 3:56 pm

My brother-in-law was the best man at his longtime friend’s wedding. When it came time to pay the priest who officiated, the groom looked at BIL and said, “the books say that the best man always pays the officiant.” He had interpreted it to mean that the best man is the one who FINANCES the officiant, not that he’s the one assigned to hand the money over so the bride & groom can enjoy their day. Naturally, he hadn’t mentioned this at all before the wedding–I wonder what he would have done if BIL didn’t have his checkbook on him?

I think BIL ended up paying almost $1000 out of his own pocket for various things throughout that wedding. It made my husband NEVER want to be the best man for anyone lest this happen to him!

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