Wedding tourism, to the estimated tune of $900 million in economic benefit each year, is a sometimes an under appreciated segment of the Southern Nevada economy. There are now about 80,000 local weddings each year, down from a peak of about 128,000 in 2004, some estimates claim. But, that still makes Las Vegas this country’s largest “destination wedding” locale.
Almost all of us have been to a “Vegas Wedding,” some planned long in advance with elaborate rehearsal dinners at ultra-chic dining spots, some, more quickly arranged and executed as spur of the moment events.
One of the linchpins of our local economy, the thing that holds us together and keeps our economic wheels from falling off, is that Las Vegas has something for everyone, and this applies to the wedding business as well. In my thirty plus years here I’ve had the pleasure of a more elaborate ceremony at a local house of worship with the guests moving to a major Strip property for a big party.
I also recall, years ago, a good friend from Ohio calling me up out of the blue to ask if I would be his best man at 6 p.m. that night at his wedding at Circus Circus. In a crazy set of circumstances, I already had dinner plans for 6:15 p.m. that night at the exquisite Circus Circus Steakhouse. The wedding chapel was right next to the steakhouse, so my friends and I attended the ceremony, with yours truly as best man, and then walked down the hall to partake of what is always one of the best dining experiences in Las Vegas. The happy couple went on their way.
I have a checkered legacy in the best man role because in South Florida in the mid-1970’s I served in that capacity for a friend and former boss. The wedding, not a big affair, went smoothly. I’m sure you couldn’t care less, but I even ended up in a brief relationship with one of the bridesmaids – but I digress. However, I must not have been a very dynamic best man, because when I saw him a few months later, I inquired as to the well being of his wife. He asked me, “When did you meet my wife?”
In true Las Vegas tradition, it seems the bachelor and bachelorette party business is booming and that’s helping to offset the decline in the number of Las Vegas weddings.
You, most likely, know Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Willis (to Demi Moore), Kelly Ripa (to Mark Consuelos), Michael Jordan, Wayne Newton, Britney Spears, Richard Gere (to Cindy Crawford) and Angelina Jolie (to Billy Bob Thornton) are among the long list of celebrities that had Las Vegas weddings. Some lasted, some did not.
These days we hear more and more about elaborate bachelor and bachelorette parties than the weddings themselves. Las Vegas stands for fun, so getting male or female friends to come to town and party for a long weekend and then have the wedding back home, in a more convenient location, makes sense. These parties are great for the local economy.
There are numerous wedding and travel websites with various views on Las Vegas weddings. On the plus side, they note a Las Vegas wedding’s affordability, the ease in booking a chapel, the ability to pre-apply for a license at the Clark County Clerk’s office downtown, having an Elvis impersonator perform the ceremony (you can’t get that in Oshkosh) and finally, the chance to begin the honeymoon here right away.
On the negative side, many Las Vegas weddings are quickly planned and the haste involved can create problems. Also criticized is a wedding at a small chapel that can be one of many that day. You might get rushed in and out to make up for the next couple waiting to take the plunge. Another drawback is it can be difficult to get close friends to get to Las Vegas quickly enough to attend. Then again, if they are friends in your outer circle, you have a built in excuse as to why you didn’t invite them.
Along with small chapel owners and even the major casino/resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, I’d like to see the wedding business boom once more. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) always seems to have some extra money lying around. How about a $50 payment for any couple getting married in Clark County?
Just an idea.