QUAERITUR: What to give a priest after a wedding?

From a reader:

Help, my daughters wedding was yesterday and I was stuck, what is an appropriate tip or gratuity for the our parish Priest, besides what the parish charges, 20 50 100 I’m lost. After the Mass I just stood there and didn’t want to look cheap or stupid. Your view would be of great service here Father


It is appropriate to give the priest something after a wedding. 

It strikes me that $100 not too much.  It could be more.

The priest has the right to "live from the altar", as the old phrase goes.  The local diocese may have a policy about Mass stipends and "stole fees", as these "tips" to the priest are called. It is the priest’s responsibility to handle them properly once he receives them.

In addition to the stole fee, there are three more things people can give priests which they will very much appreciate:

  1. Give the priest a hand by making sure that people behave properly during the rehearsal and set up time before the wedding.
  2. Give the priest a hand by making sure the church is spotless after the wedding (there are often Masses in parishes on a Saturday afternoon).
  3. Give the priest is zero pressure to go to the reception.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Cristero says:

    Thank you very much for the information, Father.

    On a related question, what would be an appropriate Stole Fee for a Baptism? My wife and I have been chosen as Godparents, and would like thank the Priest in an appropriate manner.

    Thanks again, and God bless you on the anniversary of your ordination. Ad multos annos, Pater.

  2. PomeroyJohn says:

    If you feel comfortable doing it, ask your priest the “proper words” to put on your check. After our parish priest said the Mass for our daughter’s Quinceanera last summer, we gave him a check as a thank you. When we received our end of year tax statement, there was a line for the same amount as his check. He informed me that the diocese’s policy is that if I wrote “GIFT” on the memo line, he could keep it (which was our intention). If we didn’t write Gift on that line, the money went to the parish. So I made sure the replacement check said Gift on it!.


  3. worm says:

    John, I didn’t realize this could be an issue. I would have assumed that the payee on the check would have made it obvious. If it is made out to the priest, it belongs to the priest. If it is made out to the parish, it belongs to the parish. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. Sliwka says:

    Re: worm
    Does that change for members of a religious order (like the Basilian Fathers)?

    In my own experience at my own wedding, we paied a Church fee of about 2-300$ (I think)and then a stippend to Father of roughtly the same amount. It was clear on our “checklist” (baptism cert’s; completion of a marriage prep; et cetera) that there were two separate “fees” we should be aware of, and to not join them together. One was definitely for the priest.

  5. adt6247 says:

    Other things of note:

    1) DO invite the priest to the reception. As Fr. Z said, don’t be forceful, but do invite.
    2) Also tip the servers. If it’s a simple low mass, a $10 tip each is fine. If it’s a solemn high, I’d do more, particularly for the MC. A good MC has a lot of effect on the liturgy.
    3) If there are other clerics assisting the priest, such as a deacon or subdeacon, they should be tipped as well.
    4) If you use the parish’s volunteer choir, and don’t pay for the privilege, tip them too.

  6. PomeroyJohn says:

    Regarding the Gift to the Priest considered a donation to the parish,

    I’m just passing on what I was told by my Pastor. I’m in the Diocese of Spokane, Washington. It may or may not be the same in other dioceses or for members of an order. I DO know that it wasn’t this way 6 or so years ago when I gave a gift to our previous pastor. That money went to the Priest as intended.

    It may have something to do with the large financial assessments against all the parishes in the diocese as a result of our Bishop’s (oh he of soon to be happy memory) arrangements with the courts at the time of the diocese filing for bankruptcy.


  7. dallas says:

    The BLACK in our wedding guide says the priest should never be given less that the musician…

  8. dallas says:

    The BLACK in our wedding guide says the priest should never be given less than the musician…

  9. C. says:

    the priest should never be given less than the musician

    How is that consistent with Catholic social justice teaching? The musicians are usually laymen who deserve a just family wage.

    In most places, the bench fee is far greater than the priest’s stipend. For a good reason. You aren’t paying for the Mass, remember–that’s given free of charge, by Christ.

  10. Random Friar says:

    *Does that change for members of a religious order (like the Basilian Fathers)?*

    For most of us, yes. I turn it into the priory/house procurator. Same thing with Mass stipends (actually, after the Mass stipend is satisfied, we usually just write a check to the religious community for all the priests’ Masses at the end of the month). Even with Christmas gifts.

    In some parishes there are wedding/baptism coordinators, and the overall “fee” usually covers everything. In my experience, funeral homes handle the finances by writing a check to the parish. If in doubt, talk to the coordinator or priest.

    NB: I don’t know one priest who will *NOT* waive a stole fee or donation in case of true need. I do get annoyed when someone doesn’t want to spend $100 to pay the people who clean up the church after them, but have no problem with an open bar at a nice reception hall.

  11. Adam W. says:

    I would add…

    Give the Priest (and everyone else, especially yourself) a hand by READING the Rite of Marriage before you sit down to plan your elaborately themed wedding with your rhyming vows and unity candles.

    My wife and I had the most BY THE BOOK wedding mass I’ve ever heard of (at the parish we both grew up in, and where my mother still works). We opened the book, and did what the book says (Novus Ordo, English). The only “creative” decisions were:
    -What songs? (stuff from the hymnal)
    -What color flowers? (white)
    -How many clergy? (we had three priests and a deacon)

    No made-up prayers, no made-up vows, no made-up rituals.

    This was the least expensive, and least stressful, wedding I’ve ever been to or heard of.

    That was six years ago, and my mother reports that people are still talking about that wedding as the “best ever,” and the way they all wish their weddings could be.

    Moral: It’s not that hard to plan a wedding. Just open your Rite of Marriage and ask yourself…. What does this prayer REALLY say?

  12. momoften says:

    I think you really hit it on the nail Father when you said that the wedding party families should be responsible for the helping the priest make the people behave. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask the groom and bride to ask guests to come properly attired(ESP in the summer)as it is the house of God! I see so many women dress like, well…ladies of the evening..people arrive in shorts. And, in turn they come ready to socialize in church before and AFTER the ceremony…argggghhhh! I know our pastor tries to in a kind way to remind people it is the House of God–BUT would it not have more impact if the groom could ask the guests to keep talking to a minimum and pray for the graces about to be received by the bride and groom through the sacrament of matrimony?

  13. I hope I do not stray off point in bringing this up, but it is also a courtesy to tip the altar boys. A parish usually only lets the “cream of the crop” serve for weddings and funerals. A “missa cantata” with incense will usually have a complement of four servers plus a master of ceremonies. A range of ten to twenty dollars for each is generally acceptable, twenty to thirty for the master of ceremonies, especially if the latter oversees the rehearsal (which does happen).

  14. “Comment by adt6247 — 30 May 2010 @ 3:56 pm”

    I apologize for overlooking your remarks. Well said.

  15. Mary Bruno says:

    Our priest told us not to give him any money for our wedding. He said if we wanted to put it in the collection basket for the parish so we put some extra money in the collection basket.

    I never thought of giving the priest money when my daughter was baptized or at funerals. But two funerals were the same priest as the wedding so I presume he’d have the same thought on accepting money.

    I prepared/planned another funeral a few years ago with another priest. The funeral home helped with expenses at the Church I don’t know if that included any money for the priest. We invited the priest to the meal after the funeral and he came and had a nice meal, food to take home and had great conversation with some of our guests.

  16. mattdiem says:

    And, please don’t forget Father, what all priests *really* want as a gift: a beautifully framed 20″ x 30″ photo of the couple on their special day. That way you have something to remember them by and whatnot as the years go by….

  17. DanielKane says:

    $100 to $150 is not out of line for a wedding. Certainly the Sacraments are free, but I would guess that in addition to the marriage preparations that vary from place to place, it is a good 4 to 6 hours of preparation and work – for Father. Priests need to fund their own retirement, pay their own taxes, buy cars and clothes, pay for retreats, travel to visit family, purchase their own food, and so on…

    Order priests have similar expenses (they are not personal but communal).

    Figure what you would earn in a similar circumstance and offer accordingly. That would make the offering proportional to your budget.

    If a $100 tux rental is a bargain and $150 tux rental reasonable, a $100 – $150 tip, gift or stole fee is similarly reasonable. A tux is not necessary for validity. It never ceases to amaze me that $100 looks so big in the collection basket and so little at a Yankees game.

  18. Actually, I think the bigger issue is not what kind of “tip” you can give the priest, but what is suitable as a donation to the parish. I think it horrible that there should be a “set fee.” Rather it should be “what the couple is able to give.” A minimum should be the amount spent on flowers. If this is too much, then too much is spent on flowers. If the flower sum is less than the amount the parish asks (after cleanup etc.), then by all means give the priest a “tip” for the difference.

    As to the comparison of priests and musicians. Priests have to eat, buy clothing, etc., too. They are human.

  19. kittenchan says:

    Ha ha, all you talking about how $100, or even $150, is reasonable. (Not to pick on you, Daniel, you just happened to be the latest commenter.) At my parish, it’s $400 for the wedding (even if it’s not a Mass) and $250 for the music (even if you don’t use the parish choir or musicians).

    I’m going through marriage prep right now, and even after knowing about the fees for a long time, the sticker shock still makes me choke a little. And then there’s the over $300 worth of prep and NFP classes… @_@

  20. Oh, yes. By all means, tip the altar boys!

  21. holeksa says:

    $100 tux rental
    $800 wedding dress (used once)
    $700 hall/hotel rental
    $600 photgraphy
    $2500 food & drink
    $200 car rental
    $300 cake
    $100 marriage certificate
    $1500 rings
    $500 entertainment
    $200 invites
    $300 decorations
    $$7300 total

    Sacrament of Matrimony= $priceless$

  22. I’ve never seen anybody serve at a wedding. The only times I’ve seen servers at a funeral, they were kids from the family. I think most wedding planning guides are Protestant, so they focus on the made-up attendant jobs like flowergirl and ringbearer, instead of the real jobs, like acolyte. It just doesn’t occur to people.

    Of course, if you’re having relatives from out of town come to be servers, I expect that your parish priest would be a tad nervous about it. There’s such a range of training and ignorance from parish to parish, that you would probably want the kids to meet with Father early to reassure him that they know what they’re doing. (The same thing is true of bringing in musicians, singers, etc., of course; but if I happen to be a bad singer, it doesn’t mess up Mass. Sometimes you do get people wanting non-Catholic or non-practicing relatives to read readings, which is bad.)

  23. Dead on target. I would only add that one should ensure that the wedding party show up on time to the rehearsal.

    I also find it funny that people will whine like a stuck pig about stole fees and/or donations to the church, but have no problem dropping a couple grand on a dress and $20k plus on the total wedding.

  24. Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P.: tip the altar boys

    First, Happy Jubilee.

    Second, wasn’t there a custom – once upon a time – that altar boys would hold a cincture end to end in front of the door of the church and not let the couple out until they received their “tip”?

    Has anyone else heard that? This is tickling the edge of my memory.

  25. Sacristymaiden says:

    Fr. Z, I seem to remember having heard that somewhere too. I don’t remember where, or in what book though. I’d like to know more about it. It sounds like it would be a neat custom if it were true.

  26. ikseret says:

    A priest friend told me about an interfaith wedding he witnessed with a rabbi present. Apparently, rabbis charge at least $1000 just to show up. Meanwhile, the priest did all the paper work and met with the couple a few times before the wedding. They asked him how much to give him and he jokingly responded they could give whatever the rabbi is getting. The couple’s faces dropped. He told them he was joking and they didn’t have to give him anything if they couldn’t afford it. I think they ended up giving him about $150.
    Funny how people are so stingy when it comes to giving to the Church or to priests.

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