Fashion and Style

Las Vegas Celebrates 70 Years of Weddings

Las Vegas has long been a stage where reality dissolves into fantasy. In the heart of the desert — a place where the Eiffel Tower, Egyptian pyramids and medieval castles all beam on one glamorous strip — the entertainment is virtually unlimited. It’s no wonder, then, that a city built on the promise of pleasure and escape has remained a popular destination for weddings.

According to the clerk of Clark County, Nev., about 80,000 couples exchanged wedding vows in Las Vegas in 2022, including some celebrities: Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker, and Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Clark County also issued its five millionth marriage license in 2022.

On Sept. 23, Las Vegas celebrated its 70th anniversary as the “Wedding Capital of the World.” It was first recognized as such in the London Daily Herald in 1953, the same year that Frank Sinatra began performing at the Sands Hotel and Casino, which bolstered the city’s popularity as a tourist destination.

She added that the Clark County Marriage License Bureau, which distributes about 219 licenses a day to couples, is open from 8 a.m. to midnight, 365 days a year. Many chapels are also open until midnight, with no appointment required, making it easy for couples to grab their license at the marriage license bureau, make a quick stop at a chapel and then celebrate on the Strip.

“If we got married back home, we probably would have spent 10 times as much money, and you spend the rest of the time pleasing the guests,” Mr. Moran said. “We wanted it to be for us.”

After the wedding, the couple headed back to their room at New York-New York Hotel and Casino to drop off their marriage certificate. They then went to the Skyfall Lounge in their wedding clothes.

“Part of me wants to get this off because I’m not somebody to be looked at,” Mr. Moran said, pointing at his suit. But Ms. Hudson was excited to wander around the Strip in her Converse sneakers and wedding dress.

“We’re not really party people,” he said.

She added, with a whisper: “But tonight, we’re going to party.”

On a Friday afternoon in September, Ron DeCar, dressed as Elvis, burst through the doors of Viva Las Vegas Weddings, a chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard, in a pink Cadillac, shrouded by a billow of smoke, singing “That’s All Right.” A couple sat in the back seats, holding hands and smiling.

Mr. DeCar has been an entertainer in Las Vegas since 1981. When he started doing Elvis weddings in the mid-’90s, he said he knew only one other Elvis impersonator who officiated weddings.

Mr. DeCar estimated he does about 150 to 200 Elvis weddings a month. “He’s part of the Las Vegas identity,” Mr. DeCar said.

Brian Mills, the president of Las Vegas Wedding Chamber of Commerce and the lead minister at Little Church of the West, said that about 15 percent of the 2,500 weddings he officiates each year are Elvis weddings. He said he has worn his hair slicked back, like Elvis, every day since 2006.

When asked if he ever gets sick of Elvis weddings, he said, “Absolutely not. My voice and my hair bought me my house.”

On a Friday night in September, Mr. Mills was exhausted after a long day. He had started at 10 a.m. and was officiating his 16th wedding that day. He had one of his Elvis costumes on, which included a glittering gold jacket.

Cristina Chitel, who renewed her vows with David Chitel in front of their two sons, walked out of the chapel after the ceremony. Before stepping into her limo, she turned to Mr. Mills and said, “Thank you so much, Elvis. What’s your real name, Elvis?”

“Brian,” he said, and they shook hands.

“We don’t always have the time for the best customer service, but when we do, it’s great,” he later said in an interview with The New York Times.

The following morning, he packed a duffel bag with his speaker and officiated a vows renewal in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. Onlookers, who were standing in a long line to take their pictures in front of the sign, recorded the scene: an Elvis impersonator singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” in front of a slow-dancing couple.

Among those waiting was another couple who renewed their vows earlier that day at Graceland Wedding Chapel for their 23rd anniversary, with an Elvis officiant. Lynn Haygood, a 60-year-old interior designer, and David Haygood, a 58-year-old computer networker, met 25 years ago in Raleigh, N.C., when he bought a couch from her furniture store. “When you come to Vegas, it’s the thing to do — to have a wedding done by Elvis,” he said. “We’re big fans,” she added.

Pamela Jarrin, a 37-year-old blogger, and Stan Cichy, a 43-year-old construction company owner, married at the museum in front of a sign that reads, “Lady Luck.” The sign had advertised a hotel that closed down in 2006, and at the center there is a big red heart. Forty guests traveled from Ecuador, where Ms. Jarrin’s family is from, and Milford, Conn., where the couple live.

“We’re just very low maintenance,” Ms. Lindsay said. “I hate to say ‘low maintenance,’ but we just like being together and being with our family. It just checked all the boxes for us.” They played some blackjack, saw a hockey game, walked up and down the Strip and soaked in the action, as newlyweds.

“I love that city,” Mr. Brendel said. “It’s like an adult theme park dropped in the middle of the desert.”

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