Getting Married...Las Vegas Style

Our wedding anniversary is coming up. Truth be told, we sometimes forget the actual date, but we always remember to celebrate at some point. This year, we're thinking in advance. After 27 years, we're still celebrating this awesome relationship. Since we're in Las Vegas, why not check out all the options. I mean, we could ostensibly get married all over again. Why not?  

chapel collage


Las Vegas is known, among other things, as the Marriage Capital of the World. It's easy to get married here. There are about 50 wedding chapels, most between Downtown and the Strip in a rather seedy part of town. A marriage license costs $60. There's no waiting, no blood test and the Clark County Marriage Bureau clerk's office is open 8am-midnight including all holidays.


marriage license bureau


There are some restrictions: you can't be married already, you must be older than 18 and you can't marry any relation closer than your second cousin. It's all on the honor system. If you complete an on-line pre-application, you can go directly to the Marriage Bureau's Express Window. Since we're already married … to each other ... we can forego all this paperwork (and the $60!) and just renew our vows. Just a bit of trivia … in a given year, Clark County Nevada issues about 5% of all the marriage licenses issued in the entire USA. Just while I was standing there, three couples came out of the Bureau with valid licenses in hand. Wow! There are several fellows standing around outside with brochures to entice you to use one chapel or another. “Just mention, Tyrell, when you get there!”


couple with marriage license


We decided we'd check out some of the top chapel venues. There are lots of options. We could have a “theme” wedding, for instance. Elvis or KISS or underwater at Silverton Aquarium? Or maybe at the Neon Museum Boneyard, or by the famous Las Vegas sign, or even a drive-thru wedding aka The Tunnel of Vows. Choices also include a Camelot Wedding (with knights as attendants and either King Arthur or Merlin officiating … I'd choose Merlin myself), a Goth wedding, an Egyptian wedding ceremony with King Tut as the officiant or perhaps the Austin Powers 60's wedding package. Even an Intergalactic Star Trek theme with aliens in attendance had its appeal. Why do I think that some folks are not taking the “holy institution of marriage” seriously? Elvis is by far the most popular though.


renew vows with elvis


Our plan was to drive along Las Vegas Boulevard and stop at five notable chapels. We wanted a little history and a story to go along with the ceremony rather than a casino hotel ambiance. First on the list was A Wee Kirk o' the Heather. They even translated the Scottish name for us to The Little Chapel of the Lucky (?) Flowers (did we really need that translation?) This is the city's oldest continuously operating wedding chapel established in 1940 … and not to be confused with the non-denominational chapel at Forest Lawn Cemetery in California. They tout that their white chapel with purple trim signifies the purple of heather. I'm not sure why that's significant, but it obviously is. The chapel is located right on the Strip and you can get a shot of the chapel and the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign all in the same photo. Not sure either purple trim or the photo opp of the Las Vegas sign justifies their claim as the perfect wedding venue. Just sayin' … it looked pretty commercial. We moved on.


wee kirk of the heather


Cupid's was chosen for a visit simply because of its corny name. They had a lot going for them. They offered a “beautiful Las Vegas wedding at a down to earth price … no surprises … heart of the Strip (get it? Heart? Cupid?) … very close to the Marriage License Bureau.” They espoused an “unrushed pace … allow yourself 1 to 1-1/2 hours from arrival to departure” (sounds like an airline flight). They offer wedding gown and tux rentals and your wedding or renewal is live on the internet. With these credentials, we thought we had a winner. But alas, it seemed all too overwhelming and we moved on.


cupid's wedding chapel


Next on the itinerary, Graceland. You know what to expect. Opened in the 1950s, it is one of the oldest wedding chapels in Las Vegas and is known for weddings performed by Elvis impersonators. This should have been a hint. The fact we could buy t-shirts here from the souvenir shop with “Just Married at Graceland Chapel” on them was also another indicator that perhaps this was not the place for us. But having Elvis officiate the wedding or even walk me down the aisle … it had its allure. Nevertheless, continued the search.



graceland chapel


According to Frommer's, the Little White Wedding Chapel may marry the most people in the city. Established in 1951, they claim to have married about 800,000 couples. They have 10 ministers on staff. We were especially impressed by the Tunnel of Vows Drive-thru window. No waiting … drive right up! They're obviously good at what they do since lots of famous couples have gotten married here … Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Michael Jordan … the list goes on. Even our daughter, Casey, got married here once. Despite the fact they even offered a free recipe for love on-line … it wasn't quite right.


drive thru wedding


The Little Church of the West was quite a ways out of town and we were so exhausted, we gave it a pass. The church itself is constructed of California redwood and was intended to be a replica of a typical pioneer church. It's listed on the US National Register of Historic Places and it's considered the oldest building on the Strip. A little research and I found a Groupon coupon for 50% off the ceremony. My frugal side was in serious conflict with my romantic one.


groupon coupon


So what's the appeal, you ask? Well, I think the chapels are so tacky, they're kitsch. The range for a wedding is $50 for a simple “I do” ceremony to $20,000 … for a bit more hoop-la. However, when all was said and done, though we enjoyed the exercise of looking, our frugal natures (despite the coupon offer) convinced us that a couple of days in a romantic hotel with some champers on ice would be better use of our anniversary celebration budget. After all, we've been married twice before … to each other. I doubt Elvis could make any improvements.