Eloping Tips: Vegas, Baby, Vegas
Charolette Richards, Las Vegas community activist, wedding innovator, and owner of the famous Little White Wedding Chapel, is a legendary figure in Sin City. In the world of weddings, she's joined Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney (twice!), Elvis Presley, and Michael Jordan, and more recently En Vogue's Dawn Allen and The Soporanos' Christopher Constantini, with their betrotheds in holy matrimony — during her more than 45 years in the biz. It's safe to say she knows a thing or two about eloping in Las Vegas. Here's the inside scoop on getting hitched in the wedding capitol of the world.
THE KNOT: How many people get married in Las Vegas every year?
RICHARDS: More than 125,000 couples got married here in 2002. When it comes to our city incomes, gambling is of course No. 1, but marriages is No. 2.
THE KNOT: Why is it so popular?
RICHARDS: Getting married here is easy in every way. Our marriage licenses don't require a blood test or a waiting period. Our marriage license bureau is open 24 hours a day Friday and Saturday (until midnight Sunday night), 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday -- some weekends there are just lines and lines of limos.
Our chapel is open 24 hours a day and the ceremony itself can take as little as 15 minutes. You can arrange everything at one location -- one stop or one call does it all. For example, at the Little White Chapel, you can get fitted for a gown and tux in 20 minutes, get your hair and make-up done in one hour, and select flowers and even your rings from our nice selection.
Last but not least, the price is right: Marriage in Vegas is such a competitive market that it's almost always cheaper to do it here than in most people's hometowns, especially on the East Coast. In fact, you can drive -- or walk! -- up to our exclusive drive-thru Tunnel of Love and tie the knot for only $40. I think many couples get married in Las Vegas, then go back home and have a party and celebrate their marriage without all the fuss and worry and expense.
THE KNOT: What's the classic Vegas service?
RICHARDS: That would involve Elvis walking the bride down the aisle and serenading her with "Love Me Tender." The ceremony would end with a "Viva Las Vegas" sing along! But there are many different packages you can choose depending on your denomination and style. Some places are pretty cut and dry: "We gather here today ... Do you? ... Do you? ... Kiss the bride, have a good day, don't gamble it all away!"
Classier options also exist. For example, our basic service is a candlelit ceremony with traditional music, an ordained minister, and round-trip limousine service from your hotel to the license bureau to the chapel and back. We also offer a la carte services such as massages, facials, professional photographers and videographers. And now, they have made processing of photos a half-hour process so that you can leave with wedding photos (and your negatives!) in hand.
THE KNOT: Where else can a couple tie the knot?
RICHARDS: The sky's the limit -- literally! I do more traditional weddings for the most part, but we have married a couple in front of their favorite slot machine. After being pronounced husband and wife, they put $3 into the machine and hit the jackpot! We also did one at the top of a ride called the Stucca at the Wet 'n' Wild water park here in town. After "taking the plunge" they almost took me down the slide with them!
We also do a "Weddings on Wheels" ceremony for which a minister will travel to your fantasy spot. We've arranged weddings in airplanes and helicopters, on boats, in hospitals, on horseback, in the mountains, on a roller coaster, in a gazebo, and even under water!
THE KNOT: What are the latest wedding-day adventures The Little White Wedding Chapel has dreamed up?
RICHARDS: There's the Tribute to Elvis, where guests can ride around in a pink convertible cadillac with, who else, Elvis and cruise down Las Vegas Boulevard as he serenades you. It's so hot; everyone just loves it! Then there's the very elegant Excursion Extravaganza, where a stretch SUV limo will pick you and your guests [maximum: 12] up and drive you to wherever your hearts desire -- even if it's to marry in front of the Bellagio. The best part about this is that your whole party stays together from start to finish.
THE KNOT: Exactly how spontaneous can a couple be?
RICHARDS: Between arriving and getting married, a couple should allow at least four hours -- you never know how long the line to get a marriage license will be. For weekend weddings, you should make reservations for the chapel; planning at least a week in advance is usually fine. Mid-week, you can often just walk in. If you plan to wed when Comdex (the annual computer convention in Vegas -- the largest convention of any kind in the world) is in town or on Valentine's Day or New Year's, you should reserve at least eight months in advance.
THE KNOT: What's the most common mistake altar-bound couples make in Vegas?
RICHARDS: I've seen couples lose all their money before they get married and max out their credit cards. This kind of stress is a bad way to start one's life together.
THE KNOT: Of all the celebrities you've married, which was your favorite and why?
RICHARDS: One of my favorites was Judy Garland's wedding. She was so sweet and sincere that you could tell she was really in love.
THE KNOT: Do you have any words of wisdom for couples thinking about getting married?
RICHARDS: Don't marry the person you can live with, marry the person you can't live without!
THE KNOT: In one sentence, convince us why couple's should consider saying I do in Vegas?
RICHARDS: "We are the one-stop wedding center. We do it all for you."
KNOT NOTE: Besides the Little White Wedding Chapel on the Strip, Richards offers a Little White Wedding Chapel in the Sky (a wedding-themed hot-air balloon in which you can squeeze up to 10 people), the Tunnel of Love Drive-Thru (an idea inspired by a handicapped couple that was having trouble getting out of their car), the "We've Only Just Begun" chapel at the Imperial Palace Hotel, and a chapel by the courthouse if you're really in a hurry!
*Source: Clark County Recorder's Office