For more than sixty years, Reno was the divorce capital of the world. It was the place where you took “the cure,” got “Reno-vated,” and threw your wedding ring into the Truckee River from the Bridge of Sighs. Prior to 1970, divorce statutes in most states were so strict that some people seeking divorces traveled to places with more lenient laws. The business of attracting divorce-seekers was called the migratory divorce trade.
A high-profile divorce case in 1906 paved the way for Reno to become the divorce destination. The Reno divorce experience was popularized in film and fiction, and everyone in America knew what it meant when someone said, “I’m going to Reno.”
By the 1960s, Las Vegas had surpassed Reno in number of divorces, but by then it didn’t matter. No-fault divorce became the national norm by the 1970s and the migratory divorce trade came to an end.
Reno’s quick wedding trade developed as the result of Nevada’s lenient marriage laws. It got a boost in 1927, when the California legislature passed a law requiring a three-day waiting period. 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.