Fewer going to the chapel

The number of marriage licenses issued in Clark County dropped in 2007 for the third straight year to just under 107,000, the lowest number since 1996.

A variety of factors get the blame: the economy, gas prices, national trends in marriage and family, international competition, and a fracas over a rogue wedding chapel that was forcibly closed in October.

But just because weddings are down doesn’t necessarily mean the wedding business is down. Some in the industry point to increased traffic and new opportunities, and there’s evidence that Las Vegas’ share of the national wedding market is holding steady.

At the same time there’s a fair amount of pessimism.

"I’m disappointed," said Cliff Evarts, who owns two chapels downtown and is spending $3 million to build a third. "I believe the number of weddings in Vegas should track the number of visitors to Vegas."

Through October 2007, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority recorded 32.9 million visitors, a slight increase over 2006.

Weddings, however, are in a precipitous slide.

There were 106,789 marriage licenses issued in Clark County in 2007, down from 112,531 the previous year.

That’s a 5 percent drop — and a 15 percent plunge from 2004’s all-time high of 125,967.

Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, said Joni Moss, a wedding consultant who’s also on the board of the Nevada Wedding Association.

"Let’s not forget renewals of vows and commitment ceremonies," she said, noting that those aren’t recorded as marriages. "That’s big business … but we can’t call anyone and get a number for those."

At the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, vow renewals make up 40 percent to 50 percent of the business, said owner Ron DeCar.

"I can’t say that my business is down," he said, adding that the past few months have actually been pretty good. "My business is relatively the same or better than last year."

He sees economic factors challenging chapels. For example, he includes gasoline cards in some of his packages to entice people to drive here to get married.

Chapels in casino-resorts on the Strip, meanwhile, are feeling the heat from increased competition in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico, said Alan Feldman, spokesman for MGM Mirage.

He said none of the chapel managers were surprised to hear that marriage license sales were down.

"We’re feeling it," he said, although the downturn wasn’t universal. MGM Mirage’s Monte Carlo and Mandalay Bay chapels had increased business because of new offerings and a remodeled chapel, respectively.

Renewals and commitment ceremonies are a good way for a chapel to diversify, "but we also have to be realistic that they represent a fairly small number when it compares to the mainstream weddings," Feldman said.

"We’ve got to continue to get the word out. Las Vegas has the ability to do the wild and wacky ceremonies that other locations can’t offer," he said.

"We still think that in terms of coordination, ease of access to services, Las Vegas is still the best place to be."

Evarts said he has heard from a number of people who feel a pinch in their business.

"I haven’t heard from anybody who’s doing gangbusters," he said.

He and others in the industry worry about local chapels getting a black eye because of the attention surrounding the Las Vegas Garden of Love chapel, which had its business license revoked late last year.

For years the chapel was accused of roughshod, hypercompetitive tactics and dismal customer service.

Now that it has closed, couples who had reservations there find themselves flailing about to save their arrangements.

That ugly scenario is further smudged by the fact that a number of weddings at the Garden of Love were improperly witnessed, and the Clark County clerk’s office advised some couples to get another marriage license to make sure their unions are legitimate.

And Evarts is still waiting for the city of Las Vegas to propose new rules for handbilling outside the marriage license office, where most of the Garden of Love complaints originated.

"The city did the right thing, but they need to finish the job," Evarts said. "We’re going to have to rebuild the wedding industry from scratch."

Las Vegas’ downward numbers also could reflect a larger trend: Fewer people across the country are getting married.

The annual marriage rate hovered at just above 10 people per 1,000 throughout the 1970s and ’80s, but started falling in the late ’80s. In 2006, the rate was 7.3 people per 1,000, the lowest rate in 86 years.

People are marrying later and divorcing less often, said David Popenoe, an emeritus scholar at Rutgers’ National Marriage Project. People are also cohabitating without marrying at much higher rates.

If the Vegas wedding industry wants to boost its business, it should focus on more than just its image, Popenoe suggested.

"What they’ve got to work on is getting more people married across the country," he said.

Though weddings are down, a higher percentage of U.S. marriages are taking place in Las Vegas.

In 1985, for example, Clark County had 59,496 weddings — about 2.4 percent of the 2.4 million weddings recorded nationally.

By 1995, that percentage had grown to 4.3 percent. And in 2005, Clark County’s 121,282 weddings made up 5.4 percent of the 2.2 million weddings across the country.

Social trends and population growth are probably behind those numbers, Popenoe said.

"You have fewer people being married under traditional auspices. People are having their own self-designed ceremonies," he said.

Also, "the place is growing so fast, you’ve got more people of marriageable age all the time."

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or (702) 229-6435.

Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like