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by Abigail Van Buren

Piper Needs to Speak Up if She Expects to Be Paid

DEAR ABBY: I am a church organist and have played for many weddings. After being underpaid, paid with knickknacks from the local gift shop, or not being paid at all because the couple assumed the music "came with the church," I decided to be more direct about my fees.

Now when a couple ask me to play for their wedding, I tell them up front what the cost will be, and what it covers (my travel time, the wedding rehearsal, providing music prior to the ceremony, etc.). I even ask them to please pay me at the rehearsal -- because it has been my experience that the best man, or the bride's father, or whoever had my check often forgot to give it to me in the excitement of the wedding day.

My "policy" as helped me avoid much confusion and hard feelings.

Pastors should be compensated for performing the service, and they need to speak up in this regard. I know it's often difficult to ask church members (or non-members) for money, but most folks are relieved not to have to guess at what might be an appropriate fee for weddings, funerals, etc.

As an aside, I was appalled when my own pastor told my fiance and me prior to our wedding that he had been paid anywhere from $10 to $500, and we should set our own payment. He and I were close enough friends that I could say, "My dentist doesn't let me decide how much I should pay him -- and you shouldn't either!" (He got the message.) -- PAID IN FULL IN KNOXVILLE, TENN.

DEAR PAID IN FULL: Thanks for clearing up a great many doubts in the minds of many. Some pastors and church organists are somewhat timid about mentioning "fees," so I'm printing your very helpful letter.