Dale and Jessica Kass are a Texas couple who are now happily married. But putting their wedding together last year was almost too overwhelming to handle.
“We were planning a traditional wedding in Houston, but the stress of a big wedding and other factors actually made us break up,” says Jessica. “When we got back together, we went to Vegas for the Punk Rock Bowling music festival and figured, why don’t we just get married here?”
The idea made sense. Dale is a nurse. Jessica is a makeup artist. They lead busy lives and the idea of getting hitched in Vegas seemed to eliminate the stress, long-term planning, and high cost of a lavish wedding ceremony. “We spent $2,500 as opposed to $25,000,” says Jessica.
Their quickie ceremony still packed plenty of punch and excitement. With about 20 friends and family members in tow, they rented a party bus and headed to the Little White Wedding Chapel, where they exchanged vows in the back of a pink cadillac that would have made Elvis proud. From there, they went to the Neon Museum — with an outdoor “graveyard” dedicated to vintage Vegas signs and marquees — for a photo session and celebrated their reception with a dinner at Lillie’s Asian Cuisine, before heading back to their hotel, the Golden Nugget on famous Fremont Street.
Of course, the options are limitless for a wedding ceremony in Las Vegas. Wedding chapels seem to be everywhere. You’ll find them in casinos, hotels and even places like Denny’s, Taco Bell or a mini golf course dedicated to the rock band KISS.
Start with a Marriage License
So can you just walk in off the street and get married? Not quite. Vegas wants you to be spontaneous, but not that spontaneous. For anyone to get married, both participants must go to the Clark County Marriage Bureau at CIty Hall in person and get a marriage license. It costs $77 and only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. No blood test needed. “It’s a very, very quick process,” says Clute. “It is definitely one of the forms of government here that runs very smoothly.”
You Can Walk to a Chapel
At that point, there’s no waiting period. You can literally walk a few blocks from City Hall to a chapel down the street, such as Vegas Weddings, which has its own drive-thru window.
Clute was recently a guest at a quickie wedding for one of her friends. “They got their license, and we headed on down to the chapel,” she remembers. “It was very nice and it was very sweet, but it was also a very quick process. It was about three to five minutes for the ceremony. The whole thing total from the time they got their license to the time they were married and had a few photos was about an hour.”
Or Take a Limo From City Hall
To make the whole process even more convenient, a lot of chapels have representatives outside City Hall eager to put the happy couple in a limo and whisk them away to a chapel on the spot. “You may find the location you’re going to just by taking a few steps outside City Hall with your marriage license,” says Clute. If you don’t want to go anywhere, just stick around and get married at City Hall itself.
Or Skip The Chapel Completely
You can skip a chapel altogether and get hitched on the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel, on an outdoor terrace in front of the Bellagio fountains or underneath a massive shark tank at Mandalay Bay.
“It can be kind of laughable as to how easy and quickly you can be married here,” says Paulina Clute, a Las Vegas wedding planner. “You can really get married anywhere. If you like a mural in Downtown Las Vegas, there’s no reason you can’t step in front of that and say your vows there as well.”
Maybe Head to the Desert…
Actually, you may not have to worry about that stuff at all. A new trend is emerging called desert elopements, in which companies like Cactus Collective arrange quick and simple ceremonies in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Valley of Fire State Park, Bonnie Springs, Eldorado Dry Lake Bed and other natural environments that are still in the Las Vegas area, but far away from the chaos of the city. The service makes sure any needed permits are in order and will provide everything from an officiant and champagne toast to live musicians and of course, a photographer.
“You get so many great photos and you have this beautiful scenery as the backdrop,” says Clute. “It’s something I highly recommend if you’re coming to Vegas and want it easy and simple, but don’t want that stereotypical quickie wedding.”
…Or Rent a Spectacular Space
If you still crave the neon glow of the Strip without the chaos, Clute is a big fan of renting out an upper level suite or penthouse. She recommends MGM Sky Terraces, The Cosmopolitan and Palms Place, which all have options with open-air balconies.
For those who prefer offbeat options, The Doyle is a vintage downtown event space while the Historic 5th Street School is a city-owned landmark that’s recently become a popular spot for weddings. “They have a beautiful, adorable courtyard,” says Clute. “They also have a gymnasium, so if you have a larger group, you can do your ceremony outside and reception inside.”
Is It Legal?
Despite the fast-and-easy nature of the ceremonies, Vegas takes its marriages seriously. While the ceremony itself can be done virtually anywhere, the officiant must be registered with Clark County. So don’t think a random friend, family member or weed dealer can do it.
The job carries some serious responsibilities. In addition to performing the ceremony and making sure the couple exchanges vows, the officiant also handles the duty of registering the marriage and completed union with the county afterwards. If that person doesn’t flake out, your proof of marriage should be visible online within 10 days.
Is It Tacky?
Simple, easy, convenient. It’s easy to see why a quickie wedding might appeal to career-oriented people in today’s no-fuss environment. But are Vegas weddings tacky? Do you really want to get married in a place where noisy slot machines and busy casinos are around every corner? Depends on your perspective. “I think when you’re so high off the energy of being married and around your friends and family, all of that is just background noise,” says Jessica Cass. “If anything, it’s overwhelming visually.”
One more thing: “You have to be okay with the smell of cigarettes everywhere,” she says with a laugh.
Is It The Right Time Of Year?
No matter what kind of wedding you choose, pick the right time of year. During the summer months, the temperature in Las Vegas can easily top 100 degrees F., and in winter it can fall as low as the mid 20s. Spring is a crapshoot with notoriously unpredictable winds, leaving fall as the safest bet. “Those first three weeks in October are the best weather here,” says Clute. So buy that plane ticket now and start your planning — but not too much planning.