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How Las Vegas became a top destination for a “quickie” wedding

This is why getting married in Las Vegas is so easy and quick, and it has to do with the foundations of Sin City.

There is no more popular place to get married than Las Vegas. Sin City has become a staple on “quickie” weddings performed by Elvis impersonators or other non-traditional themes like intergalactic or Hawaiian, but how has this gamble-driven city become one of the most popular destinations for couples who are trying to elope? Here’s a little history of the Las Vegas bridal side.

For many, a Las Vegas wedding has become an option for a relaxed and non-traditional one, mainly because little chapels on the strip are iconic places in Las Vegas. From celebrities like Elvis Presley himself to Jennifer López and Ben Affleck these couples have chosen to say their vows in these chapels for one reason: a Las Vegas wedding is quick, fun, and most of all, official if you fulfill certain requirements.

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The wedding industry is so important in Las Vegas that before the pandemic hit the world, it represented an estimated 2.5 billion dollars in economic activity in Clark County, Nevada.

Why has Las Vegas become an express wedding destination?

It all started in 1931 when state officials relaxed marriage laws, tossing the requirement for a blood test or a waiting period for every couple that asked for a marriage license.

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Besides these relations, new bills shortened the time in which couples could get a divorce.

Basically, Las Vegas made it easier to get married or divorced and was the perfect place to go celebrate either occasion by gambling or partying and spending money on the newly opened casinos.

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“Frankly, it was about luring tourists and trying to make Las Vegas an attractive destination by giving people any reason at all to visit,” said to Hustle website David Schwartz, who teaches courses on Nevadan history at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

This, obviously, became one of the main attractions but now there was another problem, the marriage license bureau was not matching the demand, so after the early wave of wedding tourism, the city decided to open a marriage license bureau in the train depot that was open until midnight.

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This led to the opening of wedding chapels nearby the office and so, in 1933 the first wedding chappel opens led by a minister who turned his home into a 24-hour chapel that could marry couples, day and night.

The quickie wedding in the Little White Chapel

World War II made the wedding industry in Las Vegas thrive, mainly because young couples started looking for quick and accessible options to tie the knot and so, wedding chapels started to open along the Las Vegas strip, but there was one who changed the game, the Little White Wedding Chapel.

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Opening in the early 50s, the little White Chapel capitalized on the irreverence of the times and introduced the first drive-thru wedding. Later, most wedding chapels adopted this model that allowed couples to have a fun and fast wedding without the need to make a reservation and wait for the other couple to finish their ceremony.

Charolette Richards, the Little White Chapel owner claims to perform between 600 to 800 marriages a month despite her age, more than eighty years. And among the celebrity couples that have said “I Do” in the chapel are Joe Jonas, and more recently Jennifer López and Ben Affleck.

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The best part about these free-standing chapels is that anyone who is more than 18 years old, has an ID, and pays a fee, can actually have a wedding ceremony, contrary to most casino chapels that require reservations and are often more expensive.

They even allow mock-up weddings since any couple can “get married” without the need of a marriage license (of course, this means there is no legal marriage contract), and even perform vow renewal ceremonies.

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