Wedding season throws up priests' pay dilemma
Published 14/08/2011 | 05:00
It's the marriage season -- but the big question facing many couples is the mystery of how much to pay the priest.
Payments or donations, to church officials such as the priest and the sacristan are frequently not specified and are not standardised by the church when wedding ceremonies are performed.
A bride and groom are expected to make fiscal donations to the priest who marries them, and a steeper payment to another priest for the use of his church if it's in a different parish.
Apart from the priest, there is an unspecified fee for the official church organist (who may be absent if the couple are providing their own music) the altar servers and the sacristan.
They may also have to pay for the retrieval of their baptism and confirmation certificates.
All of these donations are at the discretion of the parish and the priest. According to church sources, the church element of a wedding can cost anything from €200 to more than €1,000.
"I would never expect anything from a couple to perform a marriage because there is no fixed fee. It is completely up to them if they would like to give a gesture. I would often get nothing at all," said Fr Patrick Ahern, a retired priest based in Tralee, Co Kerry.
Fr Patrick Carroll, co-parish priest in Cabra, Dublin, said: "I'm sure it varies around the country but in this parish we don't nominate a fixed fee, we ask for a voluntary donation. People's situations may differ so voluntary donations are better.
"I've found the people still generous throughout the recession because it all depends on people showing their appreciation. Now, some churches would probably charge a fee if they were selected from outside the parish, or some of the more popular churches might have a fixed fee, but when people ask us we say it's a completely voluntary offering."
The wooden church of Our Lady of the Wayside in Kilternan, Co Dublin -- known as the Blue Church -- is one of the most popular wedding locations in Dublin.
"You have to sort out your own priest and your own paperwork if you're from a different parish but the fee will be €300 for the church and we'll sort everything else out on the day," said parish secretary Olive Treacy.
The Church of Ireland does not have a standard fee for marriage either.
Rev Canon Victor Stacy, Rector of Dun Laoghaire and Provincial Registrar, has previously lobbied for a set fee but this was turned down by the registry of marriages.
"It's completely voluntary; it ranges from free to whatever. I believe a fixed fee was considered inappropriate as there are people you don't want to charge.
"In terms of clarity for the couple, when they meet with the officiate and when everything is being discussed, from flowers to prayers, that is when the donation fee should be brought up because everyone from care-takers and organists should be given something," he said.
When a couple has decided to marry, the first thing they should do is contact their local Registration Office to make an appointment to meet the registrar to give him or her their marriage notification.
A spokesperson at the General Register Office said: "Regardless of whether the marriage is civil or religious, a fee of €150 must be paid. If it is a civil ceremony, the registrar requires no fee.
"If the registrar travels to another location to perform the civil ceremony, they will receive only travel and subsistence expenses," the spokesperson added.
Fr Brendan Hoban, an acclaimed speaker on reforming the church and a member of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, said: "The fee is a matter for the couple and their priests. [The Association of Catholic Priests] has no policy on that at all."
Garry O'Sullivan, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, said: "I think that there should be a standard minimal fee to get married because it works the other way, too.
"I know a priest who was marrying a couple in another parish. He had to organise for someone else to cover his own parish for two days and after all that the couple gave him nothing at all. He wasn't paid."