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 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.