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Getting Married in Las Vegas

Well over a hundred thoUSAnd marriages are performed in Las Vegas each year. Having a Vegas wedding has become a byword for tongue-in-cheek chic, and there are indeed drive-thru chapels where bride and groom do no more than roll down their car windows before being serenaded on their way by Elvis himself.

Las Vegas Wedding Chapels
A horde of independent Wedding

What's more surprising, however, is that most marriages in the city seem to be deeply formal affairs . Both the casinos and a horde of independent wedding chapels compete to offer elaborate and expensive ceremonies with all the traditional trimmings, from white gowns and black limousines, to garters and boutonniers. The happy couples are more likely to have saved and planned long in advance than to have succumbed to a spur-of-the-moment impulse.

A hyperactive craving for thrills and glamour.

Wedding chapels claim to charge as little as $50 for their most basic ceremonies, but at that sort of rate even the minister is regarded as an "extra" costing an additional $40. Reckon on paying at least $100 for the bare minimum, which is liable to be as romantic a process as checking in at a hotel, and to take about as long.

The full deluxe service ranges up to around $600. Photography in particular can be expensive; many chapels won't let you bring a still camera, let alone make a video. When you pay for the services of their own photographers, you're not usually buying the right to keep the negatives, and may have to pay exorbitant rates for each individual print.

What the visitor wants, the city provides.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau provide full listings of wedding chapels on their website, as well as details of operators such as Las Vegas Weddings and Rooms (tel 1-800/488-6283) that offer all-inclusive wedding packages. The busiest days in the calendar are New Year's Eve, which gives American couples the right to file a joint tax return for the entire preceding year, and Valentine's Day.

Many chapels, both independent and in the casinos, also offer gay or lesbian "weddings ," which lack any legal force.


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