- Associated Press - Monday, February 14, 2011

LAS VEGAS | Las Vegas’ love life is in the dumps.

Fewer than 92,000 couples married in or around Sin City last year. The last time the city of drive-through wedding chapels married fewer people, it was 1993.

The wedding industry hopes Valentine’s Day provides some much needed sizzle, but they aren’t betting on it.

With it falling on a weekday, the celebration isn’t expected to be as hot as years past when lovers took advantage of the day falling on a weekend to go to the altar.

The love recession is a real heartache for Vegas.

“The volume is down,” said Joni Moss, a longtime Las Vegas wedding planner and founder of the Nevada Wedding Association, a business group. “The number speaks for itself. And people are just spending less.”

Small mom-and-pop chapels have been hit the hardest, Miss Moss said.

In Nevada, 85 percent of all marriages start in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, and almost 5 percent of all marriages in the country become official near the neon marquees and smoky gambling halls of the Las Vegas Strip.

While Nevada was 35th in the nation in population in 2009, it’s fifth in marriages, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Marriages peaked in the county in 2004, when 128,250 couples tied the knot. Fewer people said “I do” in each subsequent year.

Nevada wedding professionals said the longtime drop in new marriage licenses is not a reflection of Las Vegas’ waning popularity. They blame the double-barrel woes of a national recession and the ebbing interest in the holy state of matrimony.

Local governments, which issue marriage licenses, are also reeling from the loss of wedding income.

Clark County made more than $7 million in its wedding prime in 2004. Last year, wedding-related revenue dwindled to roughly $5.5 million. Coupled with declining property taxes, the wedding bust is a real bruise, County Clerk Diana Alba said.

“It does affect the revenue that comes in,” she said. “It is a major part of the tourism.”

To help offset declining revenue, the clerk’s office stopped offering 24-hour wedding licenses in 2006, Miss Alba said.

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