Park Wedding Chapel Records
Scope and Contents
The collection includes photos, postcards, newspaper clippings, articles, business records, and correspondence relating to the Melcher's chapel and Reno's wedding chapel history. It is primarily comprised of business-related materials for the Park Wedding Chapel as well as a few items for the Mt. Rose Chapel, and the Country Palace.
- Park Wedding Chapel (Creator, Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.
The Park Wedding Chapel opened on May 15, 1956, as the first wedding chapel in Reno. Joseph Melcher, a local advertising executive, and his wife Venila, converted what was formerly a private home into a chapel. The location was ideal; not only did it face Powning Park, but the marriage license bureau, located in the County Courthouse, was just across the street. The Melcher’s facilities included a chapel, waiting room, powder room, and registration room. The bride and groom were responsible for finding an official authorized to conduct the service, although there were a number of Reno clergy who would not perform marriages in the chapel. The Justice of the Peace was available at all hours, however, and could perform marriages at any location within his jurisdiction.
Long known as the Divorce Mecca, Reno’s quick wedding trade caught on as the result of Nevada’s lenient requirements for obtaining a marriage license, and got a boost in 1927 when the California legislature passed the so-called “anti-gin” law, which required a three-day waiting period between the issuance of a marriage license and the ceremony, later adding a blood test and medical exam to its requirements. Though Reno remained famous for divorces, it wasn’t long before the Washoe County Courthouse turned out more marriage licenses than it did divorce decrees.
When the Park Chapel opened at 136 South Virginia Street, owner Joe Melcher declared that his goal was to have a place where marriages could be performed in a dignified manner, citing the coldness of a judge’s chambers or the office of the Justice of the Peace. In this regard, the Park Wedding Chapel paved the way for other wedding chapels in Reno, and an expansion of the already lucrative marriage business. For a relatively nominal fee, a visiting bride and groom could have a quick yet respectable wedding. Reno’s casinos and beautiful natural setting made it an ideal place to honeymoon as well.
With the success of Park Wedding Chapel, the Melchers established a second chapel, the Mt. Rose Chapel. Although successful, the Park Wedding Chapel remained in operation the longest, closing in 2007. The building was demolished and replaced with a new commercial building in the same location.
[Much of the above information is from renohistorical.org, accessed March 22, 2019.]
2.8 Linear Feet (4 boxes)
Language of Materials
The Park Wedding Chapel opened on May 15, 1956, as the first wedding chapel in Reno. Joseph Melcher, a local advertising executive, and his wife Venila, converted what was formerly a private home into a chapel. The collection includes photos, postcards, newspaper clippings, articles, business records, and correspondence from 1956 to 2016 relating to the Melcher's chapel and Reno's wedding chapel history.
Arranged in the following series: 1) Administrative and Business Materials; 2) Clippings and Articles; 3) Photographs
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Kevin Melcher in January 2019.
- Guide to the Park Wedding Chapel Records
- Jessica Maddox
- March 2019
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description