Las Vegas Weddings.
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wedding chapels at the Strip resorts
do not yet have
service but offer every other conceivable amenity.
from LAS VEGAS WEDDINGS...
Kitschy, funky, depressing, romantic. Everyone
has an opinion about Las Vegas weddings. With the exception
of Las Vegas itself and, possibly, Elvis, it is about the
only part of pop culture that draws an immediate, visceral
response. Sometimes the reaction comes from personal experience. “My
[sister, parents, best friend, or fill in the blank] got
married there.” Other times it is based on images from
the movies and television shows or from news coverage of
the rich and famous who married in Las Vegas. But whether
the perception is good, bad, or just plain ugly, Las Vegas
weddings are not only part of pop culture, they are popular,
too, and growing more so all the time.
The number of visitors to Las Vegas has increased five-fold to 36 million
since 1970, and the number of marriage licenses issued by Clark County
has tripled. Since the millennium more than 120,000 couples each year have
said their vows in what used to be known for good reason as Sin City, and
an estimated additional 40,000 to 50,000 couples have had renewal of vows
ceremonies. That is about five percent of all weddings performed in the
United States in a given year in a county that accounts for less than half
a percent of the population of the country. With Las Vegas weddings becoming
more formal and often attended by upwards of ten to 50 guests, the industry
contributes approximately $1 billion dollars to the town’s $30 billion
tourist economy, the remainder coming from gaming, entertainment, lodging,
All types of people for all sorts of reasons on a wide range of budgets
get married in Las Vegas. The many venues for wedding services, over 50
by one count, make it possible to satisfy just about everyone. The freestanding,
independent chapels north of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard live up to
their anything-goes-attitude for the happy-go-lucky. The in-hotel chapels
of the luxury resorts deliver on romance for the lucky-in-love. For something
completely different, ceremonies in a helicopter or on horseback at Red
Rock Canyon can be arranged. A growing trend is that of same-sex couples
partaking in commitment ceremonies. Another trend, whereby an Elvis impersonator
officiates, has been around for a while. Diversity is part and parcel of
the wedding scene of Las Vegas today.
The history of Las Vegas weddings is no less varied or any less entertaining,
particularly as it is intertwined with the history of Las Vegas itself.
Movie stars and rock ‘n roll stars, gangsters and gamblers, and entrepreneurs
and industrialists are part of the story. The first wedding on record was
in 1909, four years after the founding of the dusty frontier town. The
wedding industry got its first boost in 1912 when California enacted the
so-called “gin law” developed to keep people from marrying
drunk. Young couples in love who could not wait the required three days
from getting their marriage license to saying their vows went across the
state border instead. In 1933 a resourceful minister turned his home into
a 24-hour a day wedding chapel “as a convenience to local and out-of-town
brides and grooms.” Yet ironically, it took Clark Gable’s 1939
divorce to make Las Vegas a household name across the country.
Through the decades celebrity weddings have propelled Las Vegas’s
popularity as a marriage mecca. Each and every one of them tells a tale
about eternal love or marriage disaster, dashed hopes or dreams come true.
The parade of stars across the desert began in 1930 with the wedding of
William Boyd, better known to fans of early Westerns as Hopalong Cassidy.
For his fourth, but not his last, marriage, he took a day off work, chartered
a plane for the wedding party, and exchanged vows in a room in the National
Hotel. More recently the quickie wedding and short marriage of pop star
Britney Spears garnered headlines and captured the public’s attention,
continuing to provide fodder for fan magazines and television talk shows
long after it was over.
Las Vegas weddings are a phenomenon not quite like any other. The industry
attracts cheers and jeers, but it touches a couple of hundred thousand
people annually on the most important day of their lives. Let’s go
to the chapel now and see what all the excitement’s about. Who knows,
maybe even Elvis will be there.