It is one of the world's most famous wedding venues, playing host to celebrities such as Britney Spears, Frank Sinatra and Joan Collins, as well as legions of eloping couples.

But after six months on the market, A Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, the scene of more than half a million 10-minute ceremonies, failed to find a buyer.

It was the most stark example of a "love recession" that has hit Las Vegas, the self-proclaimed "Marriage Capital of the World," in recent years. The number of weddings has fallen from 128,238 in 2004 to 74,534 last year. Annual revenue is down by an estimated $1 billion, to $2.5 billion.

The chief reason appears to be that millennials, saddled with student loans and exorbitant rent, no longer feel like running off to Sin City on a whim to get hitched by an Elvis impersonator.


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Marriage rates in general in the US have also been falling for decades. Only 50 per cent of US adults are married now, compared with 72 per cent in 1960. And the average age for a first marriage has reached its highest ever point - 30 for men and 28 for women.

Charolette Richards, 84, the owner of A Little White Wedding Chapel, put it on the market for $12 million in April. after running it for more than 50 years.The chapel is a one-acre complex on the Strip with various wedding spots, including the Tunnel of Love, where couples are married in a pink Cadillac under a cherub-festooned canopy. According to the estate agent, the chapel, which hosts 100 weddings a day at weekends, is still "very profitable".

However, there was only one bid.Ms Richards, known as "The Wedding Queen of the West," eventually decided the show must go on, and has placed her retirement plans on hold.

She told The Sunday Telegraph: "This is where I belong. I love the people that come here to get married. And I love doing whatever will make them happy and remember their wedding day."

The decline of the Vegas wedding industry began before 2008, but the financial crisis exacerbated it, and it has cast a long shadow. At the marriage licence bureau in downtown Las Vegas, Lynn Goya, the clerk of Clark County, said: "We have seen a lot of millennials delay getting married. Like every generation they want a bit of financial stability before they jump into that wonderful pool, marriage, a house and so on."

Almost five per cent of all marriages in the US still take place around the Las Vegas Strip, where numerous other chapels also operate.

The industry is working to attract more couples, including promotional activities in the UK, one of the main overseas markets.Las Vegas is also trying to lure more upmarket weddings.


"We just a had a $25 million wedding and they had Bruno Mars perform," said Ms Goya."But it's the full gamut. We also still have people coming in with change to pay for the marriage licence. And a lot of people still choose to get married by Elvis because it makes them laugh. If you start your married life with laughter that's a good thing."

However, those hoping to ape The Hangover, the Hollywood film in which a character drunkenly marries a woman he just met, will be disappointed.

"That's not real. It's illegal to get a licence if you're drunk," said Ms Goya."Even though its a fun industry we take it extremely seriously.