Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s under-the-radar Las Vegas wedding may have stunned the globe — but perhaps choosing to tie the knot at “the wedding capital of the world” shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise.
The Hollywood power couple wed in Las Vegas last weekend at the iconic A Little White Wedding Chapel, according to press reports. And in so doing, they joined some 70,000 couples who get hitched each year in the Nevada city. (That equates to an average of 190 weddings per day!)
What’s more, Vegas weddings have spiked in popularity as pandemic restrictions have lifted. So the Afflecks are in good company — especially as interest in quick “micro weddings” and “minimony” elopements has also risen during the pandemic.
“Exactly what we wanted. Last night we flew to Vegas, stood in line for a license with four other couples, all making the same journey to the wedding capital of the world,” Lopez wrote in her “On The JLo” newsletter.
“Stick around long enough and maybe you’ll find the best moment of your life in a drive through in Las Vegas at twelve thirty in the morning in the tunnel of love drive through, with your kids and the one you’ll spend forever with,” she added.
And that led us to ask how and why Vegas has become the go-to place for this important life-milestone, even among A-listers — and what it all means for the city’s bottom line.
Here are 10 things we learned.
People have been saying ‘I do’ to Vegas weddings for almost 100 years
Vegas’ wedding boom traces its roots back to the 1930s, when Nevada eased marriage laws and the state became “the easiest (one) in the nation” to get hitched in, according to the Clark County Clerk’s office. (Vegas is located in the Nevada county.) Among the requirements dropped: the need for a blood test and the waiting period to obtain a license.
It’s now a $2 billion business
The wedding industry generates $2 billion annually for the Vegas economy, the clerk’s office says. Some 18,000 locals earn their living from the nuptial business. And Nevada benefits in others ways: A portion of the marriage license fee goes to fund the state’s domestic violence prevention programs.
You don’t have to be a high-roller to get hitched
The actual marriage license runs $102. But the wedding ceremony adds to that, of course. One Vegas chapel quotes fees as low as $39 — for a “Sign & Go” wedding — but packages can run as high as $2,300. And you can spend much more than that if you opt for something truly luxurious at a Vegas hotel.
We can’t get enough of those chapels
Vegas is famous for all its small — and often kitschy — wedding venues, as immortalized in the first “Hangover” movie (though the chapel in the film was essentially a constructed location, according to the Los Angeles Times). The Clark County clerk’s office says the boom in chapels started around World War II, when Vegas saw a rise in weddings. One of the earliest chapels, the Little Church of the West, is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
J-Lo and Ben Affleck join many celebrities who wed in Vegas
Over the years, plenty of boldface names have chosen Vegas for their wedding location. Elvis Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu in the “Sin City” in May 1967. Tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf tied the knot there in October 2001. And TV personalities Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos got hitched in Vegas in May 1996. There have also been some celebrity Vegas weddings that proved rather infamous. In January 2004, Britney Spears eloped with her childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander in Las Vegas, but the marriage didn’t last even a full week.
The Vietnam War played a role in promoting Vegas weddings
When President Lyndon Johnson announced in August 1965 that he was immediately eliminating the marriage exemption for men eligible to serve in the Vietnam War, it prompted a rush of couples that day looking to get married in Vegas to avoid the military draft before the new rules went into effect after midnight — 171 couples to be exact, according to the Washington Post. And it went down to the wire, with 112 of the couples saying their “I do’s” between 10 p.m. and midnight.
Place your bets on the most popular wedding date in Vegas…
Naturally, Valentine’s Day is a perennial favorite day for getting hitched. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that more than 800 couples have chosen the February holiday period of Feb. 12-14 for their wedding date.
You can grab a marriage license as soon as you land in Vegas
Yes, you can get your marriage license at Vegas’ McCarran Airport. In recent years, the Clark County Clerk’s office has opened a pop-up license bureau at the travel hub — during that Valentine’s Day period, as might be expected.
Vow renewals are also popular
Already married? No worry: Vegas still will welcome you for a ceremony. The Clark County Clerk started issuing vow renewal certificates in 2018.
Elvis has truly left the building…
But what about the ultimate Vegas wedding experience: having an Elvis impersonator officiate the ceremony? Sadly, that may no longer be possible: Earlier this year, the company that handles the licensing for all things Presley started issuing cease-and-desist letters to Vegas businesses that do Elvis-themed weddings, according to a report in CNN. We’re guessing Affleck and Lopez didn’t need a Presley stamp of approval, anyhow.