Some years ago, I was out for a friend's birthday party in Las Vegas at Kiss by Monster Mini-Golf, a black-lit, indoor minigolf course themed around everyone's favorite face-painted '70s rockers. After we putted, one of the owners approached our group: An out-of-town couple was about to get married in the course's adjoining chapel (Vegas!), but they didn't have any friends or family to witness the union. Would we attend?
A few minutes later, I was seated in a pew watching two of my friends walk the aisle as spontaneous bridesmaids while a shockingly accurate Gene Simmons impersonator conducted a ceremony replete with quoted lyrics and Kiss references. Vows were exchanged, the groom smooched the bride and we cheered. Just another Saturday night in Las Vegas, undisputed king of wild and weird nuptials, where you can have the drive-thru/Santa Claus/mobster/Dracula/Taco Bell/Cirque du Soleil wedding of your dreams.
However, while the options for an original, only-in-Vegas wedding are still strong, the number of people tying the knot in the city is falling. According to the Clark County Clerk's Office, which issues and files marriage licenses, 2017 saw a 26-year low in the number of weddings performed in Las Vegas. The clerk issued 78,186 marriage licenses last year, down from 81,325 in 2016 and 81,652 in 2015, when the city saw a boost from the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide after a long period of decline. Even as visitor volume has climbed, marriage licenses have slid since 2004, when Clark County issued a high of 128,250.
The October shooting on the Strip may have impacted 2017's stats. November's nuptials were down 9% year over year, and marriages dropped 17% in December. So far, 2018 is shaping up to be even worse. January and February, the most recent months for which data was available, were five-year lows for licenses issued, off 10% and 12%, respectively, from the previous year.
While fewer couples are saying "I do" in Las Vegas, the options for a unique, unconventional wedding remain robust. Earlier this year, Cirque du Soleil debuted Zumanity Weddings just outside the show's theater at New York-New York. "Zumanity" is the Canadian circus company's most sensual and suggestive show, stocked with acts that in general involve extremely fit artists showing off their strength, flexibility and dance skills while wearing minimal clothing.
For a "Zumanity" wedding, Edie, the production's delightful drag queen "mistress of sensuality," serves as officiant, with a pair of performers escorting the couple down the aisle while a member of the band provides live accompaniment. The package ($3,500) also includes "love seat" VIP tickets to the evening's show, a sparkling wine toast and high-resolution photo and video of the ceremony.
Also relatively new to the Vegas wedding market is the Cannabis Chapel, a "420-friendly," weed-themed venue for marriage ceremonies and vow renewals conveniently located across the street from the Grove marijuana dispensary. Included in the basic package: use of a silk cannabis bouquet for the ceremony.
As last fall's tragedy fades from the headlines, Las Vegas may see marriage licenses rebound somewhat, but the "Marriage Capital of the World" isn't attracting couples like it used to.