- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - An initial frenzied filing for Nevada’s first same-sex marriage licenses followed by quickie late-night ceremonies gave way Friday to business almost as usual in the self-proclaimed wedding capital of the world.

County marriage bureaus in Las Vegas and Reno saw little more than a trickle of same-sex couples seeking licenses.

As of 3:30 p.m. Friday, 33 marriage licenses had been issued in Las Vegas. Washoe County had issued two by midmorning.

That’s compared to Thursday night when, from 5 p.m. until midnight 40 licenses were issued in Las Vegas after a federal judge lifted a ban on gay marriages. Washoe County issued nine.

Mon Bel Ami wedding chapel has been performing commitment ceremonies for 11 years since opening.

“Now it’s just legal,” said Carrie Gaudioso, a wedding coordinator.

The chapel has been getting returning customers as a result asking if they can, “make it real,” she said.

At least one wedding chapel among the nearly 100 in the Las Vegas area didn’t appear interested in the new business. A woman behind the desk of the tiny second-floor office of Vegas Simple Wedding Chapel said Friday that her business “doesn’t partake in that,” when asked about same-sex weddings. She wouldn’t give her name. Asked to clarify her position, she said the business has four ministers and of those, some will perform the weddings and some won’t, but she couldn’t speak for them.

A UCLA economic study released in June forecasts that legalized same-sex marriage in Nevada could be worth up to $53 million in spending in the state, a figure that prompted some wedding professionals to stand outside the marriage bureau Thursday night to hand out roses and business cards.

The economic study didn’t account for out-of-towners, though.

Counting tourists, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is optimistic the number of marriage licenses issued annually in the area - about 80,000 last year - will get a significant boost.

“That number is just going to grow exponentially,” said Jim McMichael, the authority’s diversity and cultural marketing manager.

To raise awareness the authority placed a full page ad in USA Today on Friday featuring two groom cake-toppers with a view of Vegas in the background and the phrase: “Now you can say ‘I do’ to one more thing here.”

“The phones have been absolutely ballistic,” said Ron Decar, co-owner of Viva Las Vegas Weddings with his longtime partner, Jamie Richards.

His chapel has been offering same-sex commitment ceremonies since opening in 1999 so he didn’t see last week’s ruling changing how his business operates.

On Friday, Decar served as Rev. Ron for the chapel’s first same-sex wedding.

Chris Brentin, 31, fell in love with Las Vegas on his first visit in 1994. Years later, he fell in love with Ben Fidden, too.

The two Australians came to Las Vegas for vacation but had been keeping an eye on Nevada’s gay marriage legal situation. When it looked like it was legal, they figured, why not.

“It’s absolutely mind boggling,” Fidden, 32, said.

Theirs was the first same-sex wedding to be held at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel known for its themed weddings.

Elvis could have been an option, but the two said they wanted a nice, simple outdoor ceremony. Shortly after walking the short length of a courtyard hand-in-hand, the two said I do.

“Gentlemen, you may kiss,” said Rev. Ron. After, they waved to a video camera recording their nuptials.

Their marriage won’t be legal at home in Australia.

“In our minds, we’re married,” Fidden said.



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