weather icon Clear

Couple helps county set milestone for same-sex marriage licenses


Jennifer Dickerson’s divorce from her husband of seven years was finalized on Thursday. The next morning, Dickerson’s ex-husband drove her and fiancée Amanda Falzone, 34, to the airport.

The women flew from Colorado Springs to Las Vegas, where they became the 10,000th same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license in Clark County.

“Being in love is awesome,” Dickerson gushed to gathered media on Friday afternoon. “And being able to share it with everybody, and now, all of Las Vegas, is awesome!”

Local wedding tourism industry experts hope many, many others will share her sentiment this year.

Friday may have marked a historic milestone for the “wedding capital of the world,” but the number of marriage licenses issued annually in Clark County has dropped substantially over the last decade.

Only about 81,000 were issued in 2016, down from a peak of 128,000 in 2004.

While the annual number of licenses issued has stabilized over the last four years, the fall has been a wake-up call to those working in the wedding tourism industry. Close to 80 percent of marriage licenses issued in the county are for tourists, according to the County Clerk’s office.

It has become apparent that professionals can no longer rely on Las Vegas’s international reputation to sell itself, said Kristen LaBuda, president of the Las Vegas Wedding Chamber of Commerce, an organization that formed last year to unite the industry and give it a collective voice.

“Las Vegas had been dominant on the destination wedding scene, but we never really managed it. We didn’t promote it,” Labuda said. “We were just given this gift, and we didn’t protect it.”

The wedding tourism industry’s economic impact in Las Vegas is about $2 billion a year and extends far beyond the altar to a web of professionals ranging from jewelers to hair stylists, DJs to photographers, and limo drivers to web designers.

“What happens in Las Vegas, lasts forever”

This week the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority launched a weddings promotion campaign aimed at attracting more visitors to tie the knot here.

The efforts are funded by a new $14 marriage license fee enacted by the Nevada Legislature in 2015. It raised about $1.14 million last year, all of which will be used to promote wedding tourism. In addition to advertising, the campaign will focus on centralizing online resources for those considering destination weddings.

“Part of our goal is to generate awareness for the breadth of wedding experiences you can have in Las Vegas,” said Kevin Bagger, executive director of the LVCVA Research Center. “We can have very large scale, elaborate weddings on the Strip, outdoor weddings at Red Rock and everything in between.”

Labuda said the industry is trying to do away with the stigma that getting married in Sin City is a sign of flippancy to the commitment of marriage.

“For us, ‘What happens in Las Vegas, lasts forever,’” she said.

The Wedding Chamber of Commerce aims to restore the annual number of wedding licenses issued to 100,000 in 2019.

County Clerk Lynn Goya called the goal’s timeline “ambitious,” but said she believed it was obtainable sometime in the near future.

“Now that we’ve recognized that there’s something we need to do, I think we’ll pull together and be able to get up to 100,000 again, or more,” she said.

Cliff Evarts, founder and CEO of the 15-year-old Vegas Weddings chapel company, said re-branding the city is the way to go.

“If Vegas were to create an image that it was a romance capital of the world, a place for both weddings and vow renewals,” he said. “It would give a reason for people to come to Vegas that wouldn’t normally come here.”

Contact Brooke Wanser at bwanser@reviewjournal.com. Follow @Bwanser_LVRJ on Twitter. Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477- 3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
'Evangelicals for Trump' event draws hundreds to Las Vegas hotel - VIDEO
Hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters packed the Ahern Hotel in Las Vegas for a faith-based campaign event. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak names new DETR director, head of unemployment task force - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak named Elisa Cafferata acting director of Nevada’s Department of Training, Employment and Rehabilitation and announced Barbara Buckley as the leader of a rapid response team on unemployment insurance at a press briefing Thursday afternoon. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak unveils long-term COVID-19 plan with Nevada Health Response team - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday a long-term strategy for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in Nevada through a targeted approach. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak: Bars in four counties to stay closed - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak said bars in four counties, including Clark County, will remain closed to help fight COVID-19. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
COVID-19 case reported at Legislature's special session - Video
A person who was inside the Nevada Legislature Building has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes said Friday, July 10. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump Pushing for Reopening Schools and In-Person Learning - Video
Donald Trump launched an effort on Wednesday to reopen schools across the United States with in-person learning.
Special session to tackle $1.2B budget deficit in special session Wednesday - VIDEO
Closing the state’s $1.2 billion budget hole will be the prime focus of the upcoming special legislative session that will convene at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Carson City, according to a proclamation issued by Gov. Steve Sisolak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lawmakers to tackle $1.2B budget deficit in special session Wednesday - VIDEO
Closing the state’s $1.2 billion budget hole will be the prime focus of the upcoming special legislative session that will convene at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Carson City, according to a proclamation issued by Gov. Steve Sisolak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Democratic leaders resign
Several key Clark County Democratic Party leaders have resigned as progressive leadership has swelled in recent months.
Dream Big Nevada celebrates DACA ruling - VIDEO
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections under DACA for 650,000 young immigrants. Astrid Silva, founder of Dream Big Nevada, discusses the temporary victory and the next step for Dreamers.
Councilwoman Michele Fiore walks out of city council meeting - Video
Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore walks out of a City Council meeting during public comments.
Mitt Romney marches in Washington, D.C., protest - Video
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah joined a group of protesters marching through Washington, D.C. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada gyms, bars that do not serve food can reopen Friday - VIDEO
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday evening said Phase 2 of the state’s Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery will begin on Friday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Rep. Horsford admits to having affair - VIDEO
Nevada Congressman Steven Horsford admitted to having an affair with Gabriela Linder, a former intern for Sen. Harry Reid. Linder detailed her account of the affair in a podcast she called, "Mistress for Congress." (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
McCarran airport no longer using WeChat app

WeChat — one of the apps President Donald Trump believes could be a national security risk — is no longer being used as a tourism guide for Chinese visitors at McCarran International Airport.