Sure bet of love at the chapel

Ex­chang­ing or re­new­ing vows in Ne­vada’s fa­mous gam­bling city is as easy as a driv­ethrough or­der, writes Fiona Gil­lies

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - USA LAS VEGAS -

THE wacky Mickey Mouse ears and bri­dal veil perched on the head of the woman be­hind the counter are at odds with the rather grim ex­pres­sion on her face as she sorts through my pa­per­work.

Surely it must take ef­fort to ap­pear so grumpy: It’s New Year’s Eve in the party town of Las Ve­gas. We’re at the Lit­tle White Wed­ding Chapel and my hus­band of 18 years and I – with two teenagers in tow – are about to re­new our mar­riage vows at the Tun­nel of Love Drive-Thru. That’s right, the cer­e­mony is ac­tu­ally con­ducted at a ‘‘ take­away’’ win­dow while you re­main in your car. How could all that not put a smile on your face?

Maybe Mickey Mouse lady is sim­ply ex­hausted – and has seen it all be­fore. About 120,000 cou­ples marry each year in this wild Ne­vada city, known as the wed­ding cap­i­tal of the world for its no-fuss, no-wait nup­tials. It’s not clear how many Aus­tralians are among them, but 12 per cent of peo­ple mar­ry­ing in Ve­gas are for­eign vis­i­tors. On top of the wed­dings are the thou­sands of com­mit­ment cer­e­monies and vow re­newals, like ours, which are not of­fi­cially recorded.

Mar­ry­ing here re­quires a $ US60 ($ A69) li­cence, avail­able on the spot. Re­new­ing your vows is even eas­ier. We didn’t even need to pro­duce our mar­riage cer­tifi­cate. And there are hun­dreds of wed­ding chapels and ser­vices from which to choose.

Be­ing New Year’s Eve, tonight is even busier than usual. Even though I rang and booked the Cherub’s Char­iot Pack­age ($ US179, tax not in­cluded) be­fore we left Aus­tralia, there’s a queue at the Tun­nel of Love and we have to wait in line while other love­birds ex­change their vows.

At least we have plenty of time to re­lax in the back of the white stretch limo that col­lected us from our ho­tel. It was all part of the pack­age, along with a long-stemmed red rose, lacy garter belt, schmaltzy keep­sake poem and a disc of pho­to­graphs of the event.

We ad­mire the tun­nel’s Sis­tine Chapel-like ceil­ing, dot­ted with cheru­bim shoot­ing ar­rows of love, and even though no for­mal doc­u­men­ta­tion is needed for a vow re­newal, there are still forms to be filled in and fi­nal pay­ments to be made, hence my meet­ing with Miss Grumpy.

But in no time it’s our turn at the win­dow. It feels a lit­tle like plac­ing an or­der at KFC, ex­cept we’re stand­ing on the seats in the back of the limo with our heads poked through the sun­roof.

A plump, rather oily in­di­vid­ual beams out at us and in­tro­duces him­self as Pas­tor Tony May­berry of the Or­chard Bap­tist Church. No sooner has he ex­plained what will oc­cur dur­ing our cer­e­mony than he is thrust­ing an en­ve­lope into our hands into which we are ex­pected to place our tip (‘‘$ 40, $ 60 or $ 100 are the sug­gested gra­tu­ities’’).

DRESSED UP: Stu­art Parker and Fiona Gil­lies dressed for the oc­ca­sion and the Lit­tle White Wed­ding Chapel in Las Ve­gas.

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