NYC wants to be Vegas-like marriage destination

Tue Jan 13, 2009 1:51pm EST
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City has issued an open challenge to Las Vegas, seeking to become a premier destination for people to get married in what officials hope will boost tourism during uncertain economic times.

The new Manhattan Marriage Bureau opened to the public this week following a $12.3 million renovation, and the 24,000-square-foot (2,230-square meter) space has won enthusiastic reviews from newlyweds.

"We're taking Las Vegas on," said First Deputy City Clerk Michael McSweeney. "The city hopes to advance New York not just as a tourist destination, but as a marriage destination."

But will it be enough to unseat Las Vegas -- known for quick weddings presided over by Elvis impersonators -- as the U.S. wedding destination capital?

In 2007, New York City issued about 66,000 marriage licenses, including more than 21,000 licenses in the borough of Manhattan, city records show. Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, issued 108,963 licenses in 2007, a spokeswoman at the city's tourism office said.

Applying for a marriage license in Las Vegas, where there is no required waiting period, is still less cumbersome than in New York, where couples must wait 24 hours after filing a marriage application before holding their wedding ceremony.

NYC & Company, the city's tourism agency, said the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park hotel has already created a wedding reception package tied to the new location, and the agency said it plans to market New York as a wedding destination abroad.

It has been something of a pet project for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a mayoral spokesman said. Jamie Drake, who decorated the mayor's Upper East Side townhouse, was hired to oversee the design.   Continued...

<p>Shanta Persad carries flowers next to a mural of City Hall at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau inside the new Office of the City Clerk after her wedding ceremony in New York January 12, 2009. The new facility is part of a complete physical and operational overhaul of how people receive marriage licenses and other documents. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>