After years of fantasizing about eloping in Las Vegas and then years of driving by the little chapels in town, I realized my lifelong dream of exchanging vows in a Sin City chapel wasn't so appealing. Why? Because most of the chapels advertised on the Internet are on the very northern end, or seedier side, of the Strip.
At night, the neon bling of the city conceals Vegas' blemishes, but a daytime wedding at downtown chapels might leave you (and your guests) a little disappointed in the surroundings. Fortunately, the 120,000 couples who get married in Vegas each year have many wedding options that go beyond the casino chapel wedding. They are sure to satisfy (almost) any Sin City wedding fantasy:
Saying "I do" above the lights of the Strip (or at the Grand Canyon) is perfect for elopers. Most packages come with limousine pickup, minister and photographer, flowers and a Champagne toast. Space and weight are limited, but couples can usually invite a few guests. Use a Vegas wedding planner or contact the helicopter service directly. Prices: $699 to $2,550.
Finding a "Get Married by Elvis" package isn't difficult, and some services will even pick you up in a pink Cadillac. The Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel is known for its "Elvis Blue Hawaii" wedding package, and the award-winning Graceland Wedding Chapel, home of the original Elvis wedding, continues to please couples year after year. Who needs Dad when Elvis can walk you down the aisle and sing "Can't Help Falling in Love"? Not good enough? Try a dueling Elvis package at Graceland. Prices: $199 to $1,495.
Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, 1205 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89104; (800) 574-4450, www.vivalasvegasweddings.com; Graceland Wedding Chapel, 619 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89101; (702) 382-0091, www.gracelandchapel.com.
The Little White Wedding Chapel is famous for its Tunnel of Love drive-through wedding chapel. Owner Charolette Richards created the drive-through option in 1991 after seeing a disabled couple struggle to get from their car to the chapel. Cruise through in your own car for $40, or add on flowers, garter belts and Web cams for a little bit more. Fancy a glide-through wedding? Couples who want to get married on a white gondola can do so at the Venetian's Grand Canal for $800 ($900 on weekends), including the bride's bouquet, groom's boutonniere and a few photos. Prices: $40 to $150.
Little White Wedding Chapel, 1301 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89104; (800) 545-8111, www.littlewhitechapel.com; the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, 3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109; (866) 548-1807, www.venetian.com.
Las Vegas "Welcome" sign weddings
The most recognizable Vegas icon is on the very southern end of the Strip. It has been a popular photo opportunity for tourists since it was installed in 1959. Many couples get their picture taken there, but few know that certain wedding packages allow you to say "I do" beneath this adored symbol. Prices: $399 to $899.
Classic Vegas Weddings, (702) 735-1557, www.classicvegasweddings.com.
Las Vegas is not all about the Strip. Escape the kitsch factor and pronounce your vows in nature. Keep in mind that Grandma might not be able to sit through an hour in summer heat that soars above 100 degrees. Consider a small group ceremony at Red Rock Canyon, on a yacht at Lake Las Vegas or with the sky as your altar in a hot-air balloon. Prices start at $799.
The Little Church of the West has been marrying couples since 1942. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been home to celebrity weddings throughout the decades (Zsa Zsa Gabor, Richard Gere).
The Little Church of the West, 4617 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89119; (800) 821-2452, www.littlechurchlv.com; the Little White Wedding Chapel, 1301 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89119; (800) 545-8111, www.littlewhitechapel.com.
Casino chapel weddings
There are wedding chapels in just about every casino hotel both on and off the Strip. These are great options for those who want the fun of marrying in Las Vegas but don't need the hype of Elvis or helicopters.
The Stratosphere's Chapel in the Clouds is on the 103rd and 104th floors, high above the Las Vegas valley. Bellagio offers a stylish elegance to match any non-Vegas wedding. Mandalay Bay's chapel offers a contemporary nonreligious feel, and the Golden Nugget's new chapel overlooks the pool and shark tank aquarium.
Note that on busy weekends casino chapel weddings can be as short as 30 minutes — 15 minutes for the ceremony and 15 minutes for photos.
Lucky 7-7-7 weddings
Most hotel chapels are already booked and running weddings every 30 minutes on this auspicious day (July 7, 2007, a.k.a. 7-7-7), many resorts such as Mandalay Bay and Caesars have added mass-wedding events.
At the Travel section's deadline, Caesars had yet to release the name of its officiant, but the Little White Wedding Chapel still had "Pink Cadillac" packages available. For those with a larger party, try calling some of the lesser-known golf courses or a hotel catering department to have your nuptials and reception in a banquet room.