Compensating pastors for weddings

Dear Annie: I am the pastor of a beautiful church in a small urban community. Because we have a beautiful sanctuary — and also because many ministers will not conduct weddings for nonmembers in this area — we get a lot of requests to have weddings in our church. Because I think it’s important for every human being to know a minister to whom they can turn in the case of an emergency, I am willing to do these weddings and have never charged a fee for doing so.

At one time, the couples I married really appreciated this effort and sent thank-you cards, small gifts or cash honorariums. However, the most recent four couples I married did not even bother to send a thank-you note. These are people who spend $15,000 on a wedding and apparently don’t think the minister’s time is worth compensation or appreciation.

Please, Annie, for the sake of ministers throughout the country, would you remind your readers that churches do not pay their pastors extra for weddings and that it is considered good manners to make some effort to compensate a minister for the time he or she puts into a wedding (eight to 12 hours, by my calculation). In the meantime, unfortunately, my policy now includes a mandatory fee to cover my time. Blessings to you! — Unappreciated Pastor

Dear Unappreciated: It’s unfortunate when a few bad apples spoil the barrel. I agree with you; it was rude of those couples not to give a donation or even send a thank-you note. You were kind enough to volunteer your time and give them a personal relationship with a pastor.

The fee sounds like a reasonable solution, and as long as you keep it relatively small, it shouldn’t discourage people from getting married at your church.

Whether or not every couple fully appreciates you, rest assured that you are appreciated; I’m grateful there are people like you doing good work in the world.

Dear Annie: My husband and I met at a casino in Las Vegas. I was on a bachelorette trip for my best friend, and he was on a bachelor trip for his brother. We were sitting with all our friends at the blackjack table, and we both kept getting blackjack. It was awesome. It turned out we both lived in San Francisco, so it just felt like complete fate. And it was!

For our fifth anniversary, we went to Vegas to celebrate where we met, gambled the night away and had fun. Our 10th year is coming up, and he is asking me to go again. But over the past five years, he has been gambling online a great deal. He has actually been hiding part of his income from me and gets very defensive when I ask him where the money is going. I’ve stopped asking because it just causes fights, and I’ve started pretending I don’t know what he’s doing.

I am beginning to think that he has a problem, and Vegas is not where I want to go to celebrate our 10th anniversary, as I don’t want to encourage any of this type of behavior. What should I do for our anniversary? — Married to a High Roller

Dear Married: It’s time to take off that poker face and have a real conversation with your husband about his gambling. This is a very serious addiction and needs to be treated as such.

The nonprofit Gamblers Anonymous provides support for compulsive gamblers who wish to stop. The best anniversary gift for both of you would be his attending one of the group’s meetings.

His road to recovery may be rough and meandering. Look after yourself so that his addiction doesn’t destroy your psyche, too. Gam-Anon Family Groups, for the loved ones of compulsive gamblers, holds meetings every day. Please attend one.