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County clerk reduces hours as demand drops for late-night, same-day marriage licenses


Come July, the Washoe County Clerk will be adjusting daily hours for its Marriage Bureau for the first time in more than 40 years, a move that was approved Tuesday by county commissioners.

Clerk Janis Galassini proposed the office close at 8 p.m. rather than midnight. Additionally, holiday operating hours would be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The existing 8 a.m.-to-midnight hours have been in place since 1979 per state law.

Thirteen percent of marriage licenses in Washoe County are issued after 8 p.m. and only 2.2% of those couples get married the same night they receive their license, according to Galassini.

More than 1,000 marriage licenses were sold after 8 p.m. in 2016 but that number dipped close to 700 in 2019.

The demand for late-night, same-day marriage licenses has decreased and the change in office hours will result in a cost savings and provide greater schedule flexibility, Galassini said.

“The savings will come from reduced wages due to the amount of shift holiday pay and holiday comp, which is paid at two-and-a-half times the regular rate,” Galassini said. “There are also security and facilities after hours costs to consider, as well as the safety and security of staff.”

The sale of marriage licenses in Washoe County peaked in 1978, and has declined steadily since. Image: Washoe County Clerk’s Office.

Overall, Galassini said Washoe County sells about 20 marriage licenses per day, or approximately 7,300 annually. That number is down significantly since it hit a high of almost 37,000 licenses in 1978.

Forty-nine percent of marriage licenses are currently issued to locals, compared to 34% in 2013 — a sign that marriage tourism is on the decline. However, the Arch of Reno Wedding Chapel is still the top officiant of wedding ceremonies. Antique Angel Wedding Chapel and authorized ministers exchange spots for second and third place depending on the month.

The Nevada State Legislature passed AB 397 during its last session. The bill removed the requirement for the clerk’s office to establish a program for commercial chapels to issue marriage licenses when county clerks’ offices are closed. State law also allows county clerks to adjust hours as needed if the fiscal impact is neutral or presents a cost savings, and if approved the Board of County Commissioners.  

Patricia Simpson, Arch of Reno Wedding Chapel board member, tried to compromise with the county. She told commissioners the marriage bureau should be open until at least 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

“With the upcoming 42% increase in cost of marriage licenses, we believe this is not the time to make such a drastic 25% cut to the hours licenses are issued,” Simpson said.

Starting July 1, the cost of marriage licenses will increase from $60 to $85. A license may be obtained up to one year prior to the ceremony.

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.