Every funeral comes expenses, such as the professional services of the funeral home staff, casket or urn, cremation permit, cemetery plot, and so on. One expense you may not have considered is the honorarium. But what is an honorarium and who should receive one? Let’s look at a few key questions that will help you understand honorariums and their role at the funeral.
What is an honorarium?
Traditionally, an honorarium is a monetary token of appreciation for someone who has performed a service for free. For example, at both weddings and funerals, it’s customary to offer an honorarium to the officiant/clergy who presided over the ceremony.
Some churches will accept a monetary token of appreciation, while others will not. It all depends on the practices of that particular church or clergy person. But either way, it’s always good etiquette to determine whether offering one is appropriate or not.
Who might receive an honorarium?
This type of monetary gift is typically offered to the officiant/clergy person who officiated the funeral service. Additionally, it’s also customary to give an honorarium to any soloists or musicians who performed.
If another professional (not clergy) officiated the service, then you might give the honorarium to them instead. However, if a family member or close friend officiates, there’s no need to offer an honorarium unless you want to do so.
Note: It is not necessary to give the funeral director an honorarium. Their services are included in any fees you pay to the funeral home for coordination of the funeral service.
How much is customary to pay?
Ultimately, it depends on your preferences and budget. For an officiant, the average range is somewhere between $100 to $300. When determining the amount, consider how much time they spent 1) getting details and preferences from the family, 2) planning their remarks, 3) traveling and 4) attending any services. And of course, did they do a good job? That matters, too.
For a soloist or musician, the average range is somewhere between $50 to $100 per person. However, consider whether they are a volunteer or a paid performer. If the church’s organist volunteers to play at the service, offer an honorarium. On the other hand, if you want to personalize the service by bringing in your loved one’s favorite local band, they will receive payment for their services, not an honorarium.
Please note, some churches or clergy have stated fees for officiating a funeral service, but they should be upfront about these fees when you meet to discuss the service.
What’s the difference between a payment and an honorarium?
The biggest difference between the two is that the amount of an honorarium is up to you. With payments, the pricing is set by an outside entity, such as the musician or the florist. But with an honorarium, you determine what you are able and/or willing to offer as a token of your appreciation.
How do I pay an honorarium?
Most of the time, you pay with cash (or check). You can place the money in an envelope and give it to the person when you thank them. It’s also good etiquette to either include a thank you note with the honorarium or follow-up with a handwritten note a few days after the service. If it’s easier, the funeral director can deliver the envelope on your behalf.
What if I have more questions?
Your best resource for information is the funeral director. They have worked closely with countless churches and people in your area and will know what’s expected. If you have questions or concerns about how to proceed, just give your funeral director a call. They are there to help you in whatever way you need!