A wedding is a celebration of love and although many couples today use the opportunity to express their personalities through destination weddings, few can claim to have had a more interesting ceremony than Darlene Hielscher and Bryan Porter of Ormond Beach, Fa.
On Nov. 12, 2013, the couple was wed at the stroke of midnight at Smashburger in Las Vegas. The wedding was officiated by Elvis and the six-tiered wedding cake was made entirely of burgers.
It is estimated that more than 2,500 couples were married in Las Vegas on the same day as Hielscher and Porter — all hoping the date of 11/12/13 would prove lucky for them. A sharp rise in the number of weddings always happens in Vegas on dates with repeating or sequential numbers. The most popular wedding date of all time was 07/07/07, when more than 4,450 couples tied the knot in the city.
More than 100,000 marriage licences are issued annually in Las Vegas, making it the wedding capital of the world by many estimates. Part of the allure of a Las Vegas wedding is the ease with which it can be achieved. No blood tests are required and there is no waiting time to obtain a marriage licence. There are also a wide variety of options when it comes to the actual ceremony — from drive-through chapels to luxury resorts.
Almost every casino and resort has its own wedding chapel and couples can celebrate their nuptials with simple ceremonies or elaborate high-end affairs. A ceremony can take place in wedding chapel or almost anywhere else in the city or outside it — including in a helicopter.
In a city with almost limitless options, here’s a look at five of Las Vegas’s most famous wedding chapels. Even if you don’t plan to get married or renew your vows while visiting Vegas, these might be worth checking out — especially if you enjoy visiting celebrity hotspots.
Graceland Wedding Chapel
The Graceland wedding chapel is right on the strip and is home to the original Elvis (impersonator) ceremony.
It has been in operation for more than 50 years and has been featured in several Hollywood films including When Fools Rush In and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Bon Jovi was married to his high school sweetheart at this chapel in 1989. Other celebrity weddings include Billy Ray Cyrus, Aaron Neville and members of the Def Lepard, KISS, Deep Purple and The Thompson Twins.
Little Church of the West
According to the Las Vegas Tourism website, this chapel has been the spot for many celebrity weddings.
Betty Grable, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Dudley Moore, Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere, and many others, have exchanged vows here.
Listed on the National Registry of Historical Places, The Little Church of the West has been in operation since 1942. Originally built as part of the Last Frontier Hotel, the chapel has been moved three times.
A Little White Wedding Chapel
A Little White Wedding Chapel is another popular wedding spot for the celebrity set and has been featured on television and in movies.
Photos of the famous celebrities married at this chapel fill the reception area and include Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Michael Jordan and Juanita Vanoy, Patty Duke with her first and third husbands, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme, Paul Newman and JoAnn Woodward, Joan Collins and Peter Holms, Mel Torme and first wife, and many others.
The chapel does not post stats on how many couples married at the site (celebrity or otherwise) are still married.
A Special Memory Wedding Chapel
While this chapel offers a wide range of wedding options, it is most famous for its drive-through quickie weddings.
Getting married at the drive-through will probably be, as the name implies, “a special memory.” It just won’t be a very long one.
A drive-through wedding costs $199 and includes limousine service, traditional wedding music, a three-rose bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom, seven photos and a “Just Married” bumper sticker.
Chapel of Flowers
This chapel has received numerous awards, including being voted “The Best Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas” by the Las Vegas Review-Journal poll in 2010, 2011 and in 2012.
In operation for more than 50 years, the Chapel of Flowers specializes in vow renewals and customizable traditional wedding ceremonies.
There are three onsite chapels to choose from and the chapel offers guests who are not able to attend to view the service online for free.
Outside the Chapel — Las Vegas adventure weddings
Adventure weddings are one of the hot new trends in the wedding capital of the world and the options seem limitless. If it can be imagined, it can be done.
Hielscher and Porter said “I do” at Smashburger, but some couples have opted for spots on the strip such as Madame Tussauds wax museum, where they can make celebrity wax figures part of the wedding party. The museum will be opening a special wedding chapel in late November to accommodate such events. (www.madametussauds.com/lasvegas).
Outdoor venues are also popular, with Red Rock Canyon, the Grand Canyon and the Valley of Fire being top picks for many couples. (www.aspecialmemory.com/weddings/adventure-weddings-and-renewals)
Getting married in a helicopter is also an option, with marriages taking place while the helicopter hovers above the Las Vegas strip or even above the Grand Canyon. (www.lasvegashelicopterweddings.com)
Quiz question: When and where exactly was Elvis married in Sin City?
Elvis and Priscilla were married on May 1, 1967, in Milton Prell’s private suite at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.
The ceremony was performed by Nevada Supreme Court Justice David Zenoff. Presley wore a black brocade silk tuxedo and western boots, while Priscilla wore a long wedding gown she designed herself and a veil secured by a rhinestone crown.
The eight-minute ceremony was attended by a small group of family and friends. It was followed by a press conference and a breakfast reception and another reception at a later date in Graceland.
Priscilla was 21 years old and Elvis was 32 at the time. Priscilla began dating Elvis when she was 14 years old (he was 25 years old), so their courtship lasted longer than their marriage.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. Follow Debbie’s travels at www.wanderwoman.ca. If you have an interesting travel story you would like to share, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.