Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine's Day Update on Getting Hitched in Sin City

Barbie has relented and is taking back Ken.

George Bush boo-hooed on The Today Show this morning while reading love notes to Barbara.

Camel's milk chocolates are the must-have for really pretentious couples.

Hotels across North America lured visitors by placing flowers and bottles of cheap champagne in their rooms. 

And in an act of filial love, Prince William has named Harry as best man for his upcoming nuptials.

So that's the day in love, this Valentine's Day.

But the story that I think may be most indicative of the state of coupledom in this country, came from The Associated Press about the crash of the wedding industry in Las Vegas.  According to author Cristina Silva, the city is experiencing a "love recession" with the number of couples marrying falling to fewer than 92,000 (a number not experienced since 1993); and the income to the city for wedding licenses plunging to $5.5 million, down from $7 million in 2004. Las Vegas' troubles reflect a sharp drop in the number of people getting married at all in the US.

So what does all this mean for folks who are still, er, romantic enough to want to get married in Vegas? I'm guessing it'll be a lot easier to play "let's make a deal" for wedding expenses.

Which are already quite low in the city. The average wedding in the US costs upwards of $20,000 according to most bridal sources. In Las Vegas, a quickie drive-through ceremony hovers at just $100 and that includes a rose for the bride!

Of course, everything you add to the basic ceremony--photos, bouquets, Elvis impersonators--also add to the cost. But with the insider info about Vegas' woes, I'm wagering you'll be able to play one chapel off against the next to get a better rate, as all desperately need your business right now. (Plan a midweek wedding to save the most.)

The one exception will be the Viva Las Vegas Chapel, a personal favorite of mine. Run by a former Vegas show dancer who has a flair for dramatic and creative ceremonies, its been able to increase its take in the last year by holding renewal of vow ceremonies and ceremonies for gay couples. Don't try to bargain there, as they'll likely turn you down.

But there are dozens of other places to consider. Here are a few of my favorites (I wrote a book on Vegas called Pauline Frommer's Las Vegas and visited every chapel within the city limits):
  • A Special Memory Wedding Chapel: Maybe the prettiest chapel in the city, designed to look like a classic, clean-lined New England church. Nice staff, too. 
  • Little Church of the West: On the historic register, this is where Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Angelina Jolie, Dudley Moore and Richard Gere all made vows (for marriages that didn't last, but don't let that deter you). It looks like it was lifted right out of the pages of Little House on the Prairie, with redwood walls and Victorian lamps. As close to classy as Vegas gets.
  • Graceland Chapel: Home to the famous Elvis, Elvis, Elvis wedding (in which three Elvi--young, middle aged and fat and old--marry you at once). Lots of rockers, including Jon Bon Jovi, favor this handsome chapel.
All of the major hotels will also perform ceremonies, but apparently, they haven't been as hard-hit by the drop in marriages as the free standing chapels (and likely won't be amenable to haggling).

To all those getting hitched today: best of luck!

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