Skip to main content

Hold the rice: Couples scramble to reschedule Vegas weddings

Wedding Tourism

March 30, 2020

By: John Sadler

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Logan Charnell was within two days of his scheduled leave from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, with plans to marry his fiancee, Alyssa Bayudan, in Las Vegas.

But amid the coronavirus outbreak, President Donald Trump banned domestic travel for military members. Charnell learned about it in a text from Bayudan.

“I just kind of looked at my phone, and I had a wave of curse words that just came out of my mouth,” Charnell told the Las Vegas Sun.

Charnell, a communications technician, wasn’t the only person with plans for a Las Vegas wedding disrupted by COVID-19.

Local residents Jessica and Edwin Harris changed plans at the last minute, holding a smaller ceremony that they characterized as an elopement at the downtown Lucky Little Wedding Chapel after watching Las Vegas Strip businesses begin shutting down. Around 20 people had canceled plans to attend their wedding.

“We were just kind of seeing more of the casinos closing. That was kind of our breaking point,” said Jessica Harris, a lifelong Las Vegas resident. “I just felt bad because I knew it would be affecting a lot of people’s travel plans.”

Edwin Harris, originally from Springfield, Missouri, moved to Nevada in July 2016.

“It was just kind of crazy that we had spent well over a year planning for our wedding to be on March 21, and then with everything that had happened and just trying to plan for the worst, we were able to have our wedding and actually celebrate really less than 24 hours from making the decision, which was pretty crazy,” he said. “I think living in Vegas is what allowed us to do that.”

Exact numbers aren’t known, but the outbreak brought weddings to a virtual halt in a city that casts itself as a top destination for tying the knot.

After Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the shutdown of all nonessential businesses in mid-March, the Clark County marriage license bureau closed to help slow the spread of the virus. No license means no wedding.

Nicole Buse and Justin Barnes postponed plans to travel from Kansas to Las Vegas to be married. They were going to have about 90 people at the Flamingo Las Vegas hotel-casino. Buse said they became concerned for older family members coming to the wedding.

“We definitely didn’t want to … jeopardize their safety: our parents and grandparents,” she said. It took about 30 minutes for the Flamingo to accommodate their change of date.

“Now that we have postponed it … it’s kind of like starting over again,” Buse added, “so that’s been kind of exciting.”

Charnell and Bayudan had planned a low-key ceremony in Las Vegas ahead of a big bash in Hawaii. They’re not sure now where they are going to get married — maybe in Louisiana or Mississippi — and their families on the West Coast probably won’t be able to make the trip.

“Right now it’s just a waiting game for us, just when the travel ban’s going to be lifted,” Bayudan said. “Logan’s projected to go to training in April to August, so he can’t really come to Vegas during that time.”

The Harrises rescheduled their reception in February, and said the businesses they hired for the event — florists and caterers — were understanding.

“We already talked to a lot of our vendors, pretty much all of them were 100% supportive,” Jessica Harris said.