Two years ago, I got hitched in Sin City on 7 7 7 and was lucky enough to have a pic snapped by an Associated Press shutterbug. Here's the magazine piece I wrote for Casino Player that went along with it.
The notion of whisking a bride to Sin City and deciding to take the plunge on a whim has always been the stuff of pop culture fodder. For pulp's sake, throw in a boozy visit to a local tattoo parlor and you have yourself a bonafide Sin City elopement.
Like thousands of other betrothed couples, me and the future misses figured it would be cool to get hitched on July 7, 2007 -- the so-called luckiest day of the century. No hassles with wedding planning. No big production. No muss, no fuss. Just eight of our best friends and relatives to help us celebrate. Sounds easy, right?
From the moment we arrived in town, it was clear that we weren’t the only couple to fancy triple sevens as an anniversary moniker. And if you were in town on July 7, chances are, it certainly wasn't on a whim. Like the thousands of others, we were in Vegas for only one reason - to sanctify our new marriage with Lady Luck.
We arrived in town on July 4 and instantly made our way to the Clark County Marriage Bureau. Smart move considering the line snaked around the block by July 6. What I thought was going to be the most excruciatingly long part of the journey wound up being the plum easiest. And how silly. I mean, we were in Vegas and after all, Vegas knows weddings. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was expecting the DMV.
Standing in line with all the other couples was surreal. We were all there for the same reason, and in a weird way, it felt oddly peaceful. All shapes, sizes, ages and colors, there was a bonafide unity in the room. An unspoken camaraderie. In between polite nods and innocent "where ya froms?" the line quickly moved. A tame 15 minutes and some 60 odd dollars later, we had a genuine marriage license.
By the morning of July 7, I was pumped. Like De La Hoya on fight night, I was in Vegas to seal the deal. A bundle of nervous energy, I wanted to get down to that chapel as soon as possible. Get in. Get Out. Get drunk. Get on with life. Wasn’t that simple.
We stepped outside of our strip hotel, waiting for the limo who was apparently stuck in wedding traffic. Who knew there was such a thing? After the proverbial "we’re-waiting-outside-in-the-heat" phone call, he showed up. I hoped the rest of the day would be smoother, especially after he kept joking about continually losing our wedding flowers.
As the limo drove up the Strip, one thing was instantly apparent: Las Vegas is almost ugly during the day. Barely a few blocks past Wynn and making our way towards Chapel Row, it hit me. I was with the most important people in the world and I'm bringing them into the belly of seedy Las Vegas without the cushion of neon. What was I thinking? Why didn't we get married on a gondola in the air conditioned mall? This wasn't the Vegas I wanted them to see. Sundry shop Vegas. Postcard Vegas from up high... That's the Vegas I needed.
Where efficiency was the standard over at the marriage bureau, utter chaos reigned at The Little White Wedding Chapel. One of Sin City's most renowned sites after marrying the likes of Elvis, Sinatra and Paul Newman, the building is a landmark. As the limo pulled towards the chapel, ridiculously large Hummers, pink Cadillacs and other wedding vehicles created utter havoc on Las Vegas Boulevard. We weren't allowed into the driveway. Parking lot attendants, sweat drenched and frustrated, demanded limousines drop off their passengers on the street, like cargo. So out we went.
Inside, the staff was just as flustered. As reps tried to contend with the bombardment of brides and grooms, it was clear the chapel was overbooked and understaffed.
The next hurdle? There were no signs instructing couples where to check-in to jumpstart the process. And then, about every minute or so, there was the angry voice screaming, "IF YOU’RE NOT A BRIDE OR A GROOM, PLEASE WAIT OUTSIDE!"
Great. Not only was I a tad nervous about tying the knot, I had to worry whether my 73 year-old diabetic mother would have a heart attack in the Vegas heat wave.
Once we did manage to corner an actual service rep, it didn’t fill me with confidence to see him leaf through a sloppy clipboard to find our names. I kept wondering why there weren't any computers. All I saw were a sea of manila folders. A recipe for disaster. Our 1:30 p.m. reservation for the Crystal Chapel came and went. We were told there was a minister shortage.
Enough was enough. We slyly bamboozled our way upstairs to the chapel and the proceedings began after another long wait. But at least we were away from the craziness below. Our charming pony-tailed Hawaiian minister, a cross between a hippie and shaman, assured us we were next. Fifteen minutes later, I was a married man.
Still, the chapel reneged on a few promises. I understand they were busy, but still, you can't promise things and not deliver. They didn't post our ceremony online and couldn't find our flowers (we brought our own). And while The King sereneded us, Elvis was supposed to walk my bride down the aisle. Blame the massive time crunch. To be fair, they did credit my card when we told them it wasn't online.
We did, however, manage to score the ultimate keepsake. Before the ceremony began, an AP photographer told us he'd be snapping some shots. I figured he'd be capturing all sorts couples and thought nothing more of it. Until the next morning.
Imagine our shock when we landed in every daily paper and news site from Macao to Maryland. I felt like a New year's baby.
With our mugs all over the place, I shudder at the very thought of eloping on the sly without telling anyone.
All I can say is that thank God my mom made the trip. If the exhausting chapel experience didn't almost kill us, she just might've.