VCVB director: Marriage law will help tourismState law removes three-day wait for marriage licenses

Published 1:00 am Sunday, April 22, 2012

The executive director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau said a bill that makes it faster for couples to get marriage licenses will increase areas in the state that cater to destination weddings.

“When you have a three-day waiting period for couples to marry, it makes it difficult to plan for a destination wedding,” VCVB executive director Bill Seratt said.

“It will help all the areas in the state that are special venues for destination weddings, not just Vicksburg, but areas like Natchez and the Coast,” he said.

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Gov. Phil Bryant Wednesday signed Senate Bill 2851, which becomes law July 1. It removes the three-day waiting period for a marriage license and erases the requirement that the bride and groom each undergo a premarital blood test for syphilis.

Legislators argued about the proposed changes for several years before approving them this session.

Opponents said marriage should not be entered lightly, and they fretted that Mississippi could become home of quickie Vegas-style weddings.

Tourism officials sought the change, saying same-day licenses could make Natchez, the Gulf Coast and other scenic spots more attractive for out-of-state couples who want elaborate destination weddings.

Redding House in Biloxi, a century-old home with white columns and a wraparound porch, hosts at least as many weddings for out-of-state couples as for locals, executive chef Patrick Heim said Thursday.

Heim said he was unaware legislators had debated removing the waiting period for a marriage license, but he thinks it will be good for business. He said couples have had to apply for a marriage license early in the week to obtain the document in time for a weekend wedding. For out-of-state couples, that could add to the wedding expense by requiring extra hotel nights or multiple trips from their hometown to apply for the license.

“When it comes crunch time and they have all of their other ducks in a row and that’s the last thing they need to do, sometimes it’s a stick in the mud,” Heim said.

Edna’s Cake Creations in Natchez produces several wedding cakes and grooms’ cakes a week, and many are for couples exchanging vows at the city’s antebellum homes, said Deanne Cooper, a baker and decorator. She said the new state law could simplify some couples’ planning process.

“We just recently had a couple from Japan who got married at Dunleith,” Cooper said, mentioning one of the stately homes. “They did everything online and over the phone to get their cake.”

And the marriage license for the Japanese couple? Cooper assumed they were fully informed about the three-day waiting period.

“They were going through a travel agent,” she said. “I guess they kind of knew all the rules and regulations.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report