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Vegas wedding chapels face ebbing interest

LAS VEGAS - Eriess Davis didn't want a traditional wedding: No conservative music and rows of unfamiliar guests. She wanted A Little White Chapel, in glitzy Las Vegas.

Wearing a minidress, David marched with her boyfriend, clad in black jeans, through a set of gold elevator doors, and into a waiting room where they could buy garters, memory books and bride and groom baseball caps.

For her, Valentine's Day 2011 was the perfect date. "It's the day of love," said Davis, 23, as she and Matthew Jacobs, 23, waited for a minister.

It may be. But there's not much of it going around these days for wedding chapels in a city known for quickie marriages. There's a love recession in Las Vegas. Fewer than 92,000 couples married in or around Sin City in 2010. The last time the city married fewer people was 1993.

Nevada wedding professionals and officials blame the foul economy and ebbing interest in marriage.

In Nevada, 85 percent of all marriages start in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and almost 5 percent of all marriages in the United States are held near the Las Vegas Strip's neon marquees and smoky gambling halls.

Marriages peaked in Clark County in 2004, when 128,250 couples tied the knot. Fewer people said "I do" in each subsequent year. Clark County made more than $7 million at the peak in 2004. Last year, wedding-related revenue fell to roughly $5.5 million.

To help offset declining revenue, County Clerk Diana Alba's office stopped offering 24-hour wedding licenses in 2006, she said.

"The marriage demographic is aging," she said. "The baby boomer generation is all getting old. Marriage goes in and out of fashion and I think right now it is not as fashionable to get married."

To make up for the wedding downturn, chapels are encouraging longtime couples to renew their vows and promoting commitment ceremonies for gay grooms and brides. Gay marriage is prohibited in Nevada.

The national marriage rate has been on the skids since at least 2004, according to data from the Pew Research Center and the Census.

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