Even before she asked, Diana Alba sensed that wedding chapel owners and managers would not hold their peace.
So after hearing numerous complaints, the Clark County clerk realized she would be left standing at the altar when a show-of-hands vote went three-to-one against her plan to issue official unofficial wedding vow renewal certificates.
"I always thought this would be an idea that would do something good for the wedding industry," Alba told representatives of about 15 chapels at a Thursday summit to discuss the proposal. "But I don't sit where you sit, so I don't see things the same way."
As a result, she said she would drop further consideration of the certificates, which would have been sold by the Marriage Bureau on official-looking stationery but would have had no legal standing, as a ploy to breathe new life into the sagging Las Vegas wedding industry. She said she was unwilling to push a certificate ordinance in the face of so much opposition even as it gained increasing attention from national news outlets.
Cliff Evarts, the owner of Vegas Weddings downtown and a prime mover behind the idea, characterized the outcome as more of a trial separation than a divorce.
"I think they are shooting themselves in the foot," he said of other chapel owners. "But sometimes ideas have to mellow. I will be talking about this every chance I get and I think it will come up again before the end of the year."
However, the majority of chapels don't see a future in the certificates now, even after Alba stressed they would have been optional souvenirs and not mandatory.
"Since the chapels are selling their own or giving them to people now, then the bureau would just be cutting into that," Glen Davis of Las Vegas Weddings said. "In five years, I have never had one person ask me for an official certificate."
Graceland Wedding Chapel general manager Brandon Reed said, "The idea just baffled me. I don't see how it would help the chapels in any way. I'm really glad that (Alba) listened."
The allure of a Vegas wedding has been fading steadily for years. The number of marriage licenses issued has dropped from 128,250 at the peak in 2004 to 91,890 last year, the lowest total since 1993. The downward spiral has continued into this year.
The stream of calls that Alba receives about what is going wrong is prompting her to include not only the local statistics on the clerk's office website but also those of other cities, to demonstrate that Las Vegas' claim as America's wedding capital is not just hollow hype.
Still, chapels have rolled out growing menus of vow renewal ceremonies -- Elvis-themed, Egyptian-themed, drive- through for those who want to get it over with, including kids, excluding kids -- to pick up the slack. Some chapels now pull in more than half of their business in renewals.
The vow renewal certificate was conceived as a way to more deeply tap into the 78 percent of visitors who arrive already married.
"Nevada would be perceived as the only place to have a 'real' vow renewal, with a keepsake certificate," Nevada Wedding Association Vice President Joni Moss wrote in a report touting the economic potential.
Although puzzled when the certificates were initially suggested, Alba came to see the benefits.
"It's something different, something to drive people to come," she said. "Just the little bit of talk to this point has already generated a lot of buzz. It has been fun for me to talk about something positive."
She also found that one of her predecessors had issued certificates in the 1980s and 1990s by merely stamping "vow renewal" on a regular marriage license. With improved computer graphics software, Alba thought creating separate certificate would cost little and could sell for about $45 each.
While certificates might have generated a couple of hundred thousand dollars for the county's general fund, she said boosting the industry was even more important.
But most of the chapels disagreed.
"Giving people keepsake certificates is part of what I do as a minister and a chapel," said Emma Mayberry, of the Lilly of the Valley Chapel. "That's something that should stay within the industry."
Others worried that $45 spent on a certificate might mean $45 less for flowers or some other amenity.
David Nye of the A Elvis Chapel, thought that a trip to the courthouse to buy a certificate, even though not legally required, would complicate a vow renewal.
"It just too confusing," he said. "It's a difficult industry as it is, and you don't want people coming in any more confused."
Instead, he proposed selling the certificates to the chapels in batches for resale, a compromise that gained some support among skeptics.
But Evarts said the industry has reached a crossroads where it must hunker down or double down.
"The certificates would be doubling down on our future," he said.
Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at email@example.com or 702-387-5290.