Award Date

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Elizabeth White Nelson

Second Committee Member

Michael Green

Third Committee Member

Andrew Kirk

Fourth Committee Member

Doris Watson

Number of Pages



This dissertation describes the history of quick divorces and weddings in Las Vegas, Nevada between 1931 and 1965. Throughout much of the twentieth century, states circumscribed access to marriage and divorce, setting limits on how and under what terms people could end a marriage and defining who could marry, while Nevada statutes allowed for people to marry without a waiting period and to divorce after living in the state for only six weeks. Las Vegas boosters saw an economic opportunity in promoting Nevada’s easy marital laws to create tourist industries out of weddings and divorces. Nevada lawmakers, when faced with the possibility that other states institute shortened residency requirements, passed legislation reducing the residency requirement to just six weeks in 1931 to maintain the state’s position as the nation’s preeminent divorce mill. Legislators also protected the state’s “quickie” marriage industry by eschewing the waiting periods and blood test requirements common in the rest of the United States for the betrothed couples. This dissertation argues that Nevada’s liberal laws were not innocent remnants of the state’s frontier past, but legislators actively protected and, in the case of divorce, liberalized the laws even further in order to promote and protect the tourist trade who visited the state for easy weddings and divorces. Easy weddings and quick divorces contributed both to the overall economic vitality of the city and to the popular image of the city. By the dawn of the 1960s, quick divorces ceased to as valuable due to changing perceptions of divorce and legislative reforms in other states, while easy weddings have remained a central component of the Las Vegas image through the present. The promotion of Las Vegas weddings and divorces helped transform the national conversation about marriage and divorce and, by the end of the twentieth century, laws in the rest of the nation closely mirrored Nevada’s laws.


Boosterism; Las Vegas Nevada; legislation; Marriage and divorce; Tourism


United States History

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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