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Honeymoon association wants to raise fees

by Sally J. Taylor

Lake Tahoe’s potential as the wedding and honeymoon capital of the west could contribute significant cash to the economy, according to members of the Lake Tahoe Wedding & Honeymoon Association.

While Las Vegas offers “glitz, in-and-out quickie marriages, and Elvis ministers,” Lake Tahoe offers “scenery, skiing, the lake and serenity,” said board President Jeff Kaufer.

“In order to get the word out (about Lake Tahoe) we need money,” he said.

To do a proper job of telling brides about the romantic benefits of Lake Tahoe, the association board of directors Wednesday voted to pursue a wedding license fee increase on the South Shore.

During the next few weeks, they hope to convince others in the business community, especially the chambers and lodging owners, that the increase makes sense.

“It’s not to benefit just the big guys,” Kaufer said on Thursday. “(the benefits) spread out all over the wedding industry and trickle down through the town.”

A 1995 study by Strategic Marketing Group indicated that those who come to Tahoe to attend weddings do a lot more while they are here. About 75 percent spend money at the casinos, 68 percent at fine restaurants and 49 percent go shopping. Between 2 percent and 15 percent participate in some form of recreational activity during their stay.

About two years ago, the newly formed association began a similar campaign to raise wedding license fees. It was cut short when small chapel owners feared a loss of business.

Licenses in both Douglas County, at $42, and El Dorado County, at $45 for a confidential and $50 for a public license, are below industry standards.

In San Francisco County, a confidential license costs $79 and a public license, $69. In Monterey County, the fee is $64 and $54 respectively.

According to the 1995 study, only 26 percent of couples chose to come to Tahoe based upon license fees and costs while 66 percent came for the scenery.

With its dues and advertising dollars from members, the association currently produces an annual wedding and honeymoon guide called “Watercolor Memories” and buys a few advertisements in select bride magazines.

Despite those efforts, the number of wedding licenses purchased on the South Shore, after growing in the 1980s, has declined steadily for four years.

“Watercolor Memories is a good start,” Kaufer told the board. “We need to go farther. We need these kinds of dollars (from a fee increase).”

Wednesday, Attorney Dennis Crabb explained what it would take to raise marriage license fees.

On the California-side, he said, a fee increase requires a county election with a two-thirds majority approving the change.

On the Nevada-side, the association would have to take its case to the Nevada Legislature, which begins its next session January. An alternative to legislative approval would be for the few chapel owners on the Nevada-side of South Shore to contract together to raise fees for promotions, he said.

“There needs to be broad consensus that this is a good thing,” Crabb said.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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