And with budgets tightening and wedding costs spiraling ever upward, the stigma is falling away from getting hitched on the cheap. As a result, businesses and cities across the country are looking to attract couples fleeing the wedding industrial complex.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg turned the Manhattan Marriage Bureau into a gleaming 24,000-square-foot wedding palace in 2009, saying he intended to give Vegas a run for its money.
“Not everybody particularly likes Vegas,” said Carolyn Gerin, co-author of the Anti-Bride Guide. “There are all sorts of business that have sprung up to cater to brides that want to do it differently. It’s like, why would they leave money on the table.”
The lure of running off to Sin City has long been tied to the state’s streamlined wedding laws, which allow couples to skip blood tests and waiting periods. In recent years, other states have also hit the accelerator on their marriage license process.
Mississippi enacted a “quickie marriage” law this year to attract visitors, and similar legislation is under consideration in New Jersey. New Orleans saw a jump in marriage tourism after eliminating its waiting period in 2003, according to the Louisiana Department of Tourism.
“I feel like everyone who is getting married considers Vegas. I’ve just never liked it that much; it’s tacky,” said Nina Baltierra, 27, who eloped in 2010 after spending months planning an increasingly elaborate 200-person wedding in rural Pennsylvania.
Instead of flying to the desert, Baltierra and her groom called in sick and drove to New York City, where they were married in Central Park by a photographer and officiant team who do a brisk business in “guerrilla-style” elopements.
“It only took an hour and a half to get to New York City and the possibilities there are endless,” Baltierra said.
In Las Vegas, the industry is not giving up on the gimmickry that is its hallmark. Chapels are already starting to market “Armageddon Wedding” packages for Dec. 21, 2012, the close of the Mayan calendar said to portend the end of the world.
The quickie wedding in that case could make for some very short marriages.