All shook up – An Irishwoman’s Diary on Elvis, weddings and Las Vegas

A big hunk o’matrimony

First, those Also Sprach Zarathustra chords crash and boom over startled celebrants around the chapel. Entwined neon cupids flash pink and baby blue above a mike, replacing the altar. Suddenly, huge doors fling open. A shocking pink Cadillac – rumoured to be Lucille Ball's – shoots through pews driven by the King himself.

And in tightest satin and pompadour, Elvis enters the building!

Or rather, “Elvis”, one soldier in the Las Vegas army of black Elvises, Hispanic “El Vis”, the “Little Person” Elvis and – said to be especially good – “Asian Elvis”, all of them hunka-hunka-hunks o’ burnin’ love.

As the King takes the mike for That's Alright, Mama, pants a-straining, bride and groom beam, leap from their Caddy and start dancing deliriously. We all dance. Can't help ourselves. At the end, Elvis drawls "Any way you doooo", adding the classy "Thank you vurry, vurry much" before turning serious under his pompadour.


“Y’all know as how marriage is a vurry serious institution and as how you should in no way and no how do this wrong. . . ”


Such is his Tennessee twang that it took a while to realise Elvis is paraphrasing those 500-year-old lines “. . . not to be taken unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly . . . but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly . . .”

But then he adds: “And don’t step on my blue suede shoes”. Soon we jitterbug anew. And that’s it – another knot tied, another couple hitched.

One more Las Vegas wedding on Wedding Chapel Row, starting at $350.

October is good for taking the plunge – 300 a day at 50 crazy sites, from rollercoaster to Treasure Island shipwreck, 90,000 a year.

But first, your wedding licence – call (702) 671-0577 for appointment, then visit 330 S 3rd St Suite 660, Las Vegas, NV 89101 with ID and $77.

‘Wedding Capital’

Vegas prides itself on being the “Wedding Capital”, partly because it’s been crawling out of economic woe since 2008. It’s added vows renewal, domestic partnership, hen parties, and (since 2014) same-sex weddings.

We’re touring several other chapels, thanks to Joni Moss Graham, wedding planner at LV Wedding Connection. I ask Joni – (dumb question!) – if she has figures for long-lived nuptials?

Joni replies, patiently: “No. I live in a happy world.”

You can’t undo it next morning either, she adds. It’s signed and sealed and delivered, as Little Stevie can sing at your nuptials.

Joni’s is a crowded “happy place” full of choices. “I do” in a 30-minute rotation of the High Roller Ferris Wheel above the Strip with full bar in your cabin; “I do” at the Drive-Thru Chapel; or gondolas at the Venice canal; or a cowboy wedding in the Valley of Fire or Red Rock; or a cowboy or ghost-town wedding in Nelson, a real ghost town; or a mafia wedding at the Mob Museum’s old courtroom. “I do” in front of the Las Vegas neon sign is popular.

No minister? Gene Simmons of Kiss or Austin Powers or Marilyn will do in a heartbeat.

A chopper over the Grand Canyon with Michael Flatley? No trouble, says Joni, who's hosted one entire Riverdance. If black tights don't turn you on, Joni can loan you a tux and a pair of ruby high heels.

Nor does she care who wears which.

Best-known on “the Row” is the 60-year-old Chapel of the Flowers, where four chapels spin in constant rotation. Weddings start at $350, four photos included.

Behind the front desk couples leaf through day-after photos.

They can also video or Skype absent family, says director Diane Ferraro, leading us from Tuscan Chapel through sparkly Glass Chapel waterfall and gazebo (al fresco for sparkly summer nights).

Tubs of rose petals await in glass fridges.

A wedding party walks past us – a Chinese bride in exquisite white lace, slim as a bird.

We call our congratulations and wonder how she feels. Is she terrified?

And do you feel really married if it’s Vegas? Specially if a gaggle of journalists ask? Maybe you don’t and that’s appealing?

For a semi-formal feel try Alexis Park. Thirty suites and bungalows surround a gazebo and a fountain where plinths permit splashy vows in, er, nuptial Speedos.

A rooftop restaurant with dance floor beckons ($1,350). From 4pm to 8pm is optimum hitching time. Director Jo Ann Richard hosted an Irish wedding here just the other day; the family of 30 flew out and stayed on site.

24-hour chapels

What about spur-of-the-moment “let’s do it” hitchings? Well, 24-hour chapels and drive-thrus spank them through in double time.

Most cheerful perhaps is Harley Davidson Café, with Hogs and Heifers signs, upstairs chapel and signature vroom-vroom of Harleys accompanying Nirvana.

Leathers and studs never go out of style. Nude weddings demand studded G-strings for all including the “minister” — and you can become a minister by mail from the Church of Universal Life.

Weddings in strip clubs are subtly discouraged, however.