Reno Wedding Chapels Hope for Business From Same-Sex Marriage
It's been almost 2 weeks since same-sex marriage became legal in Nevada, and some owners of Reno's iconic wedding chapels are hopeful gay marriage could help bring back an industry that's been struggling, ever since the end of some very heady glory days. At the Chapel of the Bells on west Fourth Street, owner George Flint remembers them well: "In the good old days we were doing 300 and 400 weddings a week in Reno, sometimes 600 a week. Now we're down to about 150."
Back in the day…when the neon wedding chapel was king, when Reno had 18 standalone chapels compared to just 4 now. Hopes were high there would be a boost in business once Nevada's ban on gay marriage was overturned. George has seen a bit of one: "Out of the dozen we've done, maybe 14...all but 2 have been females."
But so far it hasn't been enough to change turn things around after decades of decline. Downtown at the Arch of Reno Wedding Chapel, co-owner Kathy Marino told us, "I think licenses have declined probably 50% in the last 10 years." She has seen even less of an impact from same sex marriage than George Flint has: "It's not as busy as everybody thought it would be. We've done a few."
She says other states ran with the idea before they had a chance. Nevada came to the party too late, and like gaming, they're seeing most of their competition coming from California. In the Golden State, gay marriage has been legal off and on since 2008. As Kathy told us, "We're not in the forefront anymore."
George Flint agreed. As he put it, “Most of our weddings come from California, and California's had same sex marriage now for years, even as close as South Lake Tahoe.”
As for the wedding process in Nevada, it's the same...with a slight change in license wording. George told us, "It no longer says bride and groom, it says person 1 and person 2." And as for the gay couples, they're pretty much the same too. George knows...he's been in the wedding business for over 50 years. As he put it, "They love each other, they want to be married. So let's take care of them and accommodate them."