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Niagara Falls may serve up Mc-weddings

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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Good news for couples who are just itching to get hitched in the nation's honeymoon capital.

A law pending in the New York Legislature would exempt Niagara Falls from the state's requirement that couples wait 24 hours after getting a marriage license to say "I do."

The idea is meant to tap into an underdeveloped market in a city that has seen better days.

"We were looking for ways to invigorate the economy in Niagara Falls," said state Sen. Byron Brown, the bill's sponsor.

The notion of no-wait nuptials in the Falls is supported by tourism officials and a majority of the city council hoping to attract engaged couples and already-married ones looking to renew vows.

Supporters of quickie weddings envision more job-generating chapels, along with kiosks where couples could buy marriage licenses after normal business hours and on weekends.

The Rev. Gerard Fedell, who ties the knot for about 700 couples a year at the Falls Wedding Chapel, said as many as three dozen couples a month have come to him hoping to get married right away. Lifting the waiting period would simplify things, he said.

"I don't think it's necessary for the state to put an obstacle in the path of people who wish to get married," Fedell said.

Buffalo Bishop Henry Mansell views the waiting period differently.

"Marriage counselors and clergy people of all faiths recognize the importance of serious preparation for marriage: marriage preparation programs, candid dialogue on issues that will affect marriage and the family, open discussion about where the couple is going," he said.

The proposed legislation "trivializes" marriage, he said.

In Nevada, the reigning king of quickie weddings, marriage is a major industry. Last year, marriage generated $10 million and supported hundreds of jobs, Brown said.

Fedell noted that New York is in the minority of states requiring a wait between license and vows.

"We can look at other states and say civilization has not ended as we know it because there is no waiting period," he said.