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Big Apple Seeking Vegas' Nuptials Crown

New York is trying to tie the knot with more marrying couples -- particularly those who are eloping -- to supplant Las Vegas as the world's weddings capital.

The Big Apple spent big bucks to try to lure more such couples, and the tourism dollars they bring with them, reports CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano.

Vegas is generally thought of not only as a gambling mecca, but one for quickie weddings.

It's where Britney Spears wed her hometown beau, Jason Alexander, in 2005. That marriage was annulled 55 hours later.

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But can New York really grab a share of the unofficial marriage capital's business?

"We hope people will come from all over the world and that New York City will become the wedding capital of the world," observed First Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris.

So the city has created a $12 million, 24,000 square foot downtown palace of wedded bliss: two chapels, a photo wall, mirrored bathrooms, fresh flowers, and a store with related items that could rival Vegas. There are 16 computer kiosks where couples can register online for their marriage license. Brides and grooms can have as many as 30 people there.

Last week, Jennifer Avila and former Marine Carlos Sanchez became the first couple to say "I do" to both each other and the new love shack.

"This place is really beautiful. It's really nice!" Avila beamed.

The new space replaces one that was once dingy and dark -- the one seen when Carrie and Mr. Big tied the knot in "Sex and the City."

"Carrie Bradshaw would definitely approve of this place," asserted Harris. "It's authentic. It's the real deal. It's fabulous. And it costs $25.

In 2008, the New York City Clerk's Office issued 66,000 marriage licenses, compared to $106,000 issued in Las Vegas. Now, New York is hoping a little glitz and glam will make more couples decide to elope in Manhattan.

Weddings are big business -- $72 billion annually in the U.S. And New York officials hope the tough economy won't stop love, and couples will go on with their plans.

Carley Roney, editor in chief of The Knot, told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez she thinks New York really does have a shot Vegas' unofficial title.

"We live in the most romantic city in the world. People all over the world saw that 'Sex and the City' wedding and this is our opportunity," Roney said. "We have great restaurants, great shows, and now we have a fantastic, easy process at City Hall and a glamorous wedding to give people."

"People actually are having small ceremonies and saving all the money for the reception" now, she added.

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