Updated April 5, 2021 - 11:04 am
Kendra Swy and her groom, TJ Lehberger, were one of 36 couples to marry at the Little Vegas Chapel on Saturday.
Their wedding was one of more than 1,000 expected in Southern Nevada on Saturday, a day made popular by its date: 4.3.21.
For Swy, the “countdown date” signified the culmination of her six-year relationship. But for Las Vegas’ chapels and the greater wedding industry, the day’s warm weather and relaxed capacity and travel restrictions represented the end of a long wait for the city’s wedding scene to rebound.
“My fiance and I had been trying to plan an actual wedding. But with COVID, it was frustrating,” said Swy, 35, from Temperance, Michigan. “So just the two of us came out and will experience Vegas for the first time.”
Wearing a shimmering gold dress, Swy exchanged vows with her husband in a short ceremony before returning to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and gambling with some of the cash they were gifted back home.
“We like the countdown date, and seven is a lucky number and used in craps and 21 is for blackjack, so we feel like we should get lucky,” Swy said.
Return to form
For Chrissy Jimeno, venue manager at the Little Vegas Chapel, the busy day was a welcome return to form.
She said that the chapel used to average 15-20 weddings on weekdays and 20 on weekend days. In 2020, weddings dropped to fewer than 45 per week.
“We hope to pick up the pace from here. Spring is usually wedding season anyway,” Jimeno said. “We’re hoping as restrictions lift, we will see more.”
The Clark County Marriage License Bureau estimates upward of 1,000 couples may have married on Saturday, up from the 200 to 300 on an average Saturday.
“That’s not including couples who got licenses for April Fools’ Day,” Clark County Clerk Lynn Marie Goya said with a laugh.
Weddings in the county in 2020 dropped by 23 percent from the year before, Goya said, and most of those could be attributed to the lack of international visitors.
“That shows us what a strong core industry this is,” Goya said. “I think what last year showed to many couples is how important it was to have the stronger tie that marriage brings. Yes, the health benefits, but also how important it is to have someone who has your back in a crisis.”
‘Countdown to forever’
After sending invitations for her 4.3.21 wedding and later being told by her venue that she had to halve her guest list, Raven Paul, 30, of Wakarusa, Kansas, decided to just do what she had always wanted: elope.
“I’m the kind of person to say, ‘Let’s just do it,’” Paul said. “I don’t want a lot of people. I just want to go experience it somewhere I’ve never been.”
Khiana Allen and Michael Durham of Dallas eloped on Saturday, deciding that they could always have a big celebration in the future.
“We like the countdown date,” Allen said. “It’s our countdown to forever.”
Morgan Sheets flew from Illinois with Kyle Kingdon to marry at the Crimson in Bloom pop-up by Cactus Collective Weddings at Red Rock Resort.
“We have small families all over the U.S., so it was easy to do something for ourselves,” said Sheets, 27. “Plus the weather is great, we want to hike the canyons and there’s plenty of entertainment.”
McKenzi Taylor of Cactus Collective Weddings said that her company had more bookings than usual for Southern Nevada desert elopements in 2020.
She said the seven couples her micro-wedding company married Saturday were motivated by the fun date and having a story to tell.
“I think 2020 was a year for people to think about what’s important to them,” Taylor said. “A lot of couples get pressured into the big wedding. I think a lot of couples want nice photos and a meaningful ceremony, and it gave everyone permission to do the things that are important to them.”