Anear 30 years of marriage, Don and Cindy Couse traveled across the country from New York City to renew their wedding vows at the Graceland Wedding Chapel on June 21. â Friends and family at home watched and cheered via Zoom during the 2:30 p.m. ceremony. This year marked another special anniversary for the couple. The two met about five decades ago in Albany, New York, in 1971 during kindergarten class and have been dating ever since.
The trip was a good time for her and her husband, who are both 51 years old and working in IT.
Having never been to Las Vegas before, they thought it was the perfect place to celebrate their decades together. âThe ceremony was super light and fun,â said Cindy Couse. “We got a little sentimental, I was wearing my mother’s pearls.”
After more than a year in quarantine, they needed a getaway. âReally, it was just great to come back and do things,â she said.
The couple are far from alone. Thousands of couples are flocking to Las Vegas as the coronavirus pandemic subsides and vaccinations increase in a marriage boom that has the local wedding industry in high demand. And with COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings relaxed in June, Las Vegas chapels, venues and wedding planners have said they are busier than ever.
As of the spring, the number of marriage licenses issued and marriages filed in Clark County has been at a tremendous rate. The number of marriages filed in June jumped almost 30% from 2019, from 5,737 to 7,451. So far, 2021 has had more marriages each month compared to 2019, with the exception of January. Marriage licenses in June were up more than 14% from 2019.
Site operators have noticed this.
Donne Kerestic, CEO of Chapel of the Flowers, said his company “has definitely seen growth” in ceremonies in recent months. This year, Chapel of the Flowers activity has grown by around 20% compared to the activities of the first six months of 2019, he said.
At the start of the pandemic, Rod Musum, vice president and general manager of Graceland Wedding Chapel, said he had had to cancel nearly 2,000 wedding ceremonies. Now, just like the Kerestic experience at the Flower Chapel, things are returning to normal.
âIt didn’t happen overnight, but when things started to open up we got a lot busier,â Musum said. âThere is a lot of demand for ceremonies. Our daily bookings are starting to exceed what we had on average before COVID. “
Sedona and Brian Alcaraz were among these couples. The couple married in an outdoor garden chapel at Caesars Palace on June 5. Sedona Alcaraz grew up visiting Las Vegas with her parents. Brian had never been here. Sedona not only wanted Brian to experience Las Vegas on the greatest day of his life, but also to make memories with his family and friends “on a fun note” after everything that happened. over the past year and more.
“The busiest spring ever”
It’s not just the wedding venues that are benefiting from the renewed demand.
Businesses adjacent to the wedding such as caterers, clothing stores, and wedding photographers are also getting a boost.
Kristen Solis’ photography business – Kristen Marie Weddings + Portraits – was devastated by the pandemic in the spring of last year. Solis has had about 20 pandemic-affected marriages – about two-thirds of his clientele for the year. Solis said fewer and larger marriages – the riskiest at the height of the pandemic – were where his business was making money. Only a few cancellations adversely affected its results in normal times.
Solis weathered the storm. Most of her clients have rescheduled for this year or 2022. Now she’s more reserved than ever. âThis has been my busiest spring in 12 years of activity,â she said.
At first glance, one might attribute the resumption of the marriage solely to the repressed request mentioned by Musum. But some say there is more to it.
‘One stop shop’
Kerestic, the CEO of the Flower Chapel, has a theory. Planning a wedding was stressful enough before COVID. Now, he speculated, with the weight of a global pandemic on the shoulders of the bride and groom, they are turning to the experts.
âWe are a full service city. If you do it elsewhere, now you have to become a project manager, hire 14 different vendors, find a location, your minister, photographer, videographer, florist, DJ, limo driver, âKerestic said. âI think it’s become so overwhelming for couples that they’re like, ‘Let’s go to Vegas,’ because it’s a one-stop-shop. They will do anything for us.
Clark County Clerk Lynn Marie Goya said she believed the pandemic may have changed the way people view a relationship.
âI think it made people re-evaluate what’s important to them,â Goya said. âOne is the financial aspect and the health benefits of marriage. But also, you know, if something terrible happens to you, you’ve got someone you can trust and rely on. There is a solidity that celibacy does not offer.
Even with the current boom, there is room to grow. Las Vegas’ full pre-COVID wedding clientele is still not fully back, thanks to continued restrictions on international travel.
Goya said about 20 percent of the city’s clientele are locals and the remaining 80 percent are destination weddings and vow renewals. About 20 percent of the latter 80 percent, she said, are international couples coming to Las Vegas to get married.
While domestic demand is higher than ever, the current international market for the Las Vegas wedding industry is only a tiny fraction of what it was in 2019. Goya said she expects to âanother boomâ once all international travelers can come to Las Vegas.
The identity of Las Vegas is tied to its wedding industry, Goya said. Long before the emergence of huge hotel complexes, she said, weddings supported the city.
âWe’ve been the wedding capital of the world for about 50 or 70 years,â she said. âI think it’s so much a part of who we are that in some ways we’ve taken it for granted. For about a year and a half, Las Vegas has become a truly safe, efficient, and fun place to get married, even during the pandemic. And I think it reminded people of what made us the wedding capital of the world in the first place. “