Weddings - History

Since the 1930s, Nevada’s lure of fast, easy marriages – and even easier divorces – has drawn countless couples looking to tie or untie the knot. In fact, at one time the state was anchored by both the self-proclaimed wedding capital of the world and the unofficial divorce capital of the world! It’s a fascinating history intrinsically linked to lenient state laws and sheer good timing. And today, this rich past adds an inescapable element of tradition to any ceremony celebrated in the Silver State.

For couples choosing to wed in an authentic Nevada chapel, the historical aspect is readily apparent. And that’s particularly true in chapels like the charming Little Church of the West, which has stayed more or less the same since it opened in 1942. It was at one time the only chapel on the expanse of highway that would come to be known as the Las Vegas Strip, an avenue now bursting with chapels of all sizes and styles. Toss in Nevada’s famously lenient marriage laws, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a wedding capital of the world. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that celebrities have flocked to Las Vegas to take the plunge from as far back as 1943, a year that saw the first Vegas celebrity wedding of Betty Grable and Harry James. Since then, countless famous couples have formalized their unions in Nevada, and not just in Las Vegas. The state’s capital, Carson City, was the site of Barbra Streisand’s wedding to Elliott Gould and a ceremony of Bruce Dern’s as well. And, of course, spectacular Lake Tahoe is no stranger to celebrity weddings. Both Robin Williams and Alicia Silverstone took their vows near the stunning alpine water.

As streamlined as Nevada’s marriage laws remain, its divorce laws were just as relaxed. At a time when other states enforced stringent regulations, Nevada’s easy approach to divorce drew thousands upon thousands to the thriving city of Reno, spawning legends about wedding rings being tossed into the Truckee River from Virginia Street’s “Bridge of Sighs.” And while the city has outgrown its reputation, the facts remain an inherent part of Nevada’s incredible wedding story.