from LAS VEGAS WEDDINGS
are almost as many reasons to get married in Las Vegas,
as there are chapels on the Strip. Some couples choose
Vegas because weddings here are quick and convenient. Other
couples believe that romance flowers in the glow of the
neon lights. Whatever reasons people have, they are in
good company. Couples arrive from all 50 states and around
the world. Almost a third of the newlyweds are from California,
while about 12 percent come from abroad. Whatever the betrothed
are looking for, they will almost certainly find it in
the town with the anything goes attitude.
though Las Vegas has changed, most of the freestanding
wedding chapels with the little white steeples and the
big neon signs are still located on the northern stretch
of Las Vegas Boulevard approaching downtown. While there
might be one too many chubby cherubs peering over a bright
red heart to suit uptown sensibilities, many of these small
chapels offer a heartfelt ceremony in pleasant surroundings.
Those in love can feel free to drive through or walk in,
dress up or dress down, or come alone or with friends and
family. Is the bride looking for Elvis? He’s here,
so are Garth Brooks and Bruce Springsteen, and Marilyn
and Cher. Does the groom want something more novel? Nuptials
on horseback in the Red Rock Canyon area or a ceremony
in a helicopter in a night flight over the Strip can be
those who feel that bigger is better, the large resort
hotels now have wedding chapels that either incorporate
the theme of the resort or have no theme at all. And they
will permit ceremonies to be performed poolside or around
the premises. In keeping with a three, four, or even five
star-resort, there is a high level of customer service,
a welcome feature when melt downs or blow-ups are just
a hair trigger away. Yet the traditional setting found
in most hotels means sacrificing spontaneity for artificiality,
festivity for formality. On the other hand, Mom will approve.
While free spirits might opt for a funky freestanding wedding chapel
and first-timers might want a more formal atmosphere, everyone wanting
to get married must go to the Marriage License Bureau at the Clark County
Courthouse at 200 South Third Street downtown before the big moment arrives.
In exchange for $55 cash and proper identification that proves that both
participants are at least 18-years old (or notarized parental consent
if they are underage), the couple, unless they are obviously inebriated,
will be issued a license good for one year. The License Bureau is open
from 8 A.M. to midnight, Monday through Thursday and around the clock
on Friday, Saturday, and holidays.
Couples in a hurry can walk from the Marriage License Bureau to the Office
of the Commissioner of Civil Marriage at 309 South Third Street for a
$50, no-frills civil ceremony performed by a county official. The hours
are 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. daily, including weekends and holidays. No appointment
is necessary, and there is usually no wait.
Contrary to popular belief, most chapels are not open 24 hours a day
seven days a week. Even on weekends, most of the freestanding chapels
lock their doors at midnight, if not earlier. The hotel chapels close
up earlier still. It is also unlikely that walk-ins will be waited on
immediately. Almost all chapels need at least two hours to collect the
required personnel, including the minister to perform the service, a
photographer, and a florist. So even elopers need to do more than just
If getting married on a specific date or at a specific time is important,
then a reservation should be made as early as possible. Saturdays are
the busiest day of the week. Many chapels won’t have a moment to
spare except in the early morning or late evening. Valentine’s
Day is the most popular day of the year for Las Vegas weddings with a
four-hour wait at the Marriage License Bureau not uncommon. Women like
Valentine’s Day because it is romantic. Men like it because it
makes it easier to remember anniversaries. Halloween brings out the ghouls
and vampires, while New Year’s Eve, the second most popular holiday,
is preferred by those who want to begin a new year as husband and wife,
whatever the tax consequences.
And then there are lucky numbers. Many of those moved to marry in Las
Vegas reason that when gambling on love, why not increase the odds of
success by tying the knot on a lucky day at a lucky time. The superstitious
were out in force on September 9, 1999. People started to book the second
day of the second month in the year 2002 the previous summer, and two
o’clock only happens twice a day. Many had to settle for the $222.00
wedding package to commemorate the day.
Aside from the obvious, such as location and appearance, chapels vary
in numerous ways. The time allocated to each party in the chapel can
vary from 15 minutes to an hour, more for a fee. Sometimes the minister’s
fee is included in the price of the wedding package and sometimes it
isn’t. If it isn’t, the charge is usually $50. Meanwhile
limousine drivers should always be tipped. In some facilities shooting
pictures is strictly verboten, except by the chapel’s professional
photographer. Sometimes this policy is posted clearly and implemented
diplomatically. Other times it isn’t.
Attitude can never be hidden, certainly not for long. A word over the
phone or a gesture in person can be a giveaway as to whether a chapel
is committed to making each and every wedding special, regardless of
how many weddings came before or how many will follow.
A word to anyone who wants a Las Vegas wedding might be in order here.
If in doubt about the chapel, the ceremony, or anything at all, wait.
If you don’t want to wait, at least be sure you can get your deposit
back if you change your mind. If you want to try another chapel, one
more compatible with your personality and conducive to fulfilling your
dreams, go ahead. There are enough of them.