When it comes to weddings, in the casino capital of the world – and the land of a gazillion megawatts – swapping the vicar for Elvis Presley is pretty much the norm.
But then, so is ziplining across the Las Vegas Strip in a bridal gown and swapping neat finger foods to risk cardiac failure with a reception at the Heart Attack Grill’s all-you-can-eat buffet.
In fact, want to get married by a pirate at a gun store? That’s cool in Vegas. Fancy saying your vows under neon lights while playing mini golf? That’s good too. And if you’re short on time… Sign up to the drive-thru package – with a ceremony in a pink limo lasting no more than five minutes.
Although The Wedding Travel Company has reported a 50% increase in demand for vows in Vegas since January 2022 alone, getting spliced in Sin City is nothing new.
One of the area’s most famous venues, A Little White Wedding Chapel, has been going since the 1950s and is said to have married around 800,000 couples, from Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in 1958 to Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner in 2019.
Yet the novelty of a Nevada wedding day is still going strong, with Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker, secretly marrying in a low-key ceremony just last month in front of an Elvis impersonator at the One Love Wedding Chapel.
Kourtney wrote on her instagram: ‘Once upon a time in a land far, far away (Las Vegas) at 2am, after an epic night and a little tequila, a queen and her handsome king ventured out to the only open chapel with an Elvis and got married (with no license).’
Although without a licence, the marriage isn’t valid, Kourtney added: ‘Practice makes perfect.’
She later revealed that the venue refused to grant a licence in the early hours – despite their pleas – but they went ahead and had the ceremony anyway.
The lovebirds are the latest to join the likes of Lily Allen and David Harbour, Britney Spears and Jason Alexander and Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton – all of whom tied the knot in a Vegas ceremony.
However, saying your vows here certainly isn’t something exclusive to the rich and famous. Weddings in Sin City have become a popular – and economical – choice for everyday Brits.
After all, at the Marriage Capital of the World, you can easily acquire a marriage licence the same day you want to get spliced. Then, there’s the cost. While the average cost of a wedding in the UK in 2021 was £17,300, according to the Hitched National Wedding Survey, here you can get wed for as little as £100.
Like Kourtney and Travis, Jane Worthington-Cobb and her husband Matt were married by ‘Elvis’. Is Vegas tacky? ‘Cripes yes’, she laughs. ‘But it’s the most fun place ever.’
It was Jane and Matt’s second marriage. They were both widowed young, and had dream weddings the first time around.
The 51-year-old lawyer from Warrington says: ‘We chose Vegas because I love Elvis. And we just wanted to do something completely mad. Our first weddings were perfect. They were absolutely lovely. We had exactly the weddings we wanted, and we didn’t want to do anything similar this time.’
So in February 2020, they packed their bags, along with their four children, Emily, William, Lizzie and Alex, and flew to the States, where they were married by the King in a fun, yet romantic, ceremony.
‘It was so cool, the whole day was just a blast,’ Jane remembers. ‘After the ceremony, we went to Fremont Street and we went to the Heart Attack Grill where you get spanked by nurses if you don’t finish your meal.
‘You have to put on medical costumes because the place is really unapologetic about how calorific the food is. It was really good fun as we were in our wedding clothes, with hospital
gowns on top. You weigh yourself before you go in. We all piled our food onto our eldest son, 18-year-old Alex’s plate so he got the spanking. The little-uns laughed their heads off at that.’
As part of their bag day, the family strolled down the strip in their finery; Jane in her wedding frock, the girls in bridesmaid dresses and the boys looking like Peaky Blinders in bowties and tweed jackets.
Their favourite wedding picture is the six of them posing with a nun with her boobs out and an adult baby in a nappy. ‘It was bonkers’, remembers Jane.
‘Matt and I did a twin zip wire all the way down Fremont Street through all the neon lights. I don’t think people are used to seeing brides flying through the air because people are quite precious about preserving their wedding dresses. But I just thought – I don’t care. Life is for living now. That’s what we learned through being widowed.
‘It was the best day ever. I love my family dearly and I loved our first weddings, but it’s quite stressful when you’re getting married. And the idea of getting our elderly parents to Vegas… They would have hated it. So it was just the six of us – our little tribe. It was amazing. Vegas is the best place to get married. Everybody should do it.’
According to Diana Gomez, if you’re clever about it, a Vegas wedding can cost you nothing – and she should know, as Diana and her husband Jason Burns managed to pay for their whole trip through the winnings they made in the casinos.
‘The hotel, the food, the drinks, the car hire; all our expenses were covered by our winnings. Every day we made a little bit of money and used it to pay for something,’ she says.
The pair stayed in a suite at the luxurious Venetian Resort Hotel where they got upgraded thanks to the hotel being empty due to Covid and spent thousands on the day, all of which they won back through playing dice. ‘My husband is really good at craps’, adds Diana.
The couple decided on a Vegas do, after Diana ‘proposed’ to Jason at a tube station in 2020 when the nation was in lockdown and her American musician partner had to go to the States for a gig. She was worried he wouldn’t get back into the country, due to visa and Covid restrictions, and that she wouldn’t be able to get out to see him.
She spontaneously suggested they get married as she kissed him goodbye, and by the time he had arrived at Heathrow and was ready to fly. Diana flew out to meet him later.
Diana, a fashion and celebrity photographer from London says they had Vegas as their own personal playground; the normally bustling city was deserted because of Covid.
Rockers Diana and Matt met at a music festival in 2017 and the pair have music in their DNA. Jason makes musical instruments www.blastcult.com and both are big Elvis fans, so their obvious choice was to get married at the Graceland Chapel by the King of Rock and Roll himself.
The happy couple wore black leather suits inspired by Elvis’ 1968 comeback and their only guests were two friends – one of whom came from France, the other was already out there – and the whole day was a party.
‘It was the most fantastic wedding,’ recalls Diana. ‘We had a big limousine and we partied at the Venetian hotel afterwards. The beautiful thing was that there was no one around.
‘The casinos were open, but the shows weren’t. Public spaces were still shut. We just stayed there for four days, had loads of fun, and then I flew back and we had a marriage certificate straight away.
‘It was four incredible days. Very short and sweet. No hassle. No-one knew that I was getting married. I didn’t know either, until the last minute. We had an improvised hen night with my
friends at the pub in London on the Friday. We flew out on Saturday morning and it all fell into place. It was no fuss and no stress. It was great and we had an amazing time.
‘I love Vegas anyway, but when it is empty, it is pretty amazing. And then flying back it was a relief because Covid was such a hard time for everyone, but we did what we wanted to do; we escaped in a very rebellious and fun way.
‘I am not a person who had this dream of the big white wedding. I just wanted it to be fun; a great party. It was an amazing day. Really memorable. It was the most fun you could ever have in Vegas because we were there for such an incredible reason.’
Jo and Steve Berry went to Vegas to get remarried after everything that could go wrong in their first wedding in the 90’s – did.
The catalogue of disasters included tension between relatives, a guest proposing to another guest and then announcing their news that same day, and another wedding party stealing all the wedding gifts.
To top it all off, the photographer pulled out at the last moment. Jo’s dad scrabbled to find a new one and came through with someone – whose day job was taking pictures of bodies at the morgue.
Not ideal when, Jo jokingly admits, ‘when I get photographed, I look like a corpse anyway.’
While on the day, the stand-in took great pictures, and the couple were left with really happy memories – Joand her husband Steve wanted a do-over to get their perfect wedding day, and decided Vegas was the perfect location.
They renewed their vows in the famous Little White Wedding Chapel in 2015, having booked the whole thing online and paid the $150 cost up front, which included the trip to the chapel, a ten-minute journey in a white stretch limo.
It was a huge departure from their first wedding, which cost £8,000. Even the bridal gown was world’s away from her original choice, with kid’s movie reviewer Jo wearing a white £50 Asos lace maxi dress, which she got altered and still wears today.
Talking about their special day, she says, ‘It was just me, my husband and our son Danny.
‘I loved my first wedding but actually this was almost nicer. It was just us. There was no fuss.
‘My son was 10. And he started to cry and I didn’t know what happened and it was just because he was so happy. That was so sweet. Of course the one person that’s normally not at your wedding is your child. So it was really lovely to have the two most important people there.’
Jo loves Vegas, but admits it’s an ‘odd place’ like a ‘grown-ups’ playground,’ although the vibe is ‘fun, light hearted and very chilled.’
‘That’s what I like about it,’ she adds. ‘I mean, you know you can walk down the street and pass somebody in an evening gown and the next person is wearing a bikini and a pair of flip flops.’
Getting re-married in the same room that Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow were wed was ‘kind of cool’, she says. ‘On the day, we were completely sober. It wasn’t like we had just ploughed in there like Ross and Rachel from Friends.
People might think it is tacky and frivolous and silly, but the chapel was really pretty. We said our vows off the cuff because it was just the three of us. And I just loved it because I was with the two people I love most in the world.’
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