Last week I wrote about our every-seven-year tradition of renewing our wedding vows. Our second wedding unexpectedly took place on a spring weekend in Las Vegas – unexpected because I never thought my prim German wife would agree to be married in the tackiest place on earth. But her mother had been a huge Elvis Presley fan, and I think that might have had something to do with it.
I had initially hoped to find an Elvis Presley impersonator to officiate at our wedding, but I was unable to do so. I attempted instead to find a package that included a ceremony at the tackiest chapel possible, just to have a story like this to tell. Vegas was more than happy to comply.
It was really a terrific package: limousine pick-up at our hotel for transportation to the license bureau; then transportation back to the Shalimar Wedding Chapel; an officiated ceremony by a licensed minister; serenades from an Elvis impersonator; and then transportation back to the hotel. We didn’t really need a license, given that we were already married, but if Vegas is a show town, so we decided to play along.
The wedding industry in Vegas is a little different than the wedding industries elsewhere. There is less catering involved, fewer flower arrangements, fewer elaborate dresses, and probably smaller cakes. What it lacks in pomp, it makes up for in flexibility. For instance, the Clark County marriage license office is open from eight a.m. until midnight.
(Funny story about our first marriage license: we went to the Superior Court building in San Jose, grinning and holding hands, and the guard inside the front door immediately directed us downstairs. “How did you know where we were going?” I asked. “People only come into this building for two reasons – to get married or to get divorced,” he said, “and you can always tell which one it is when they walk in the door.”)
We sensed our Vegas ceremony was going to be slightly different when the limousine driver called our hotel to confirm our pick-up time. He asked, “How will I know you?” I found this an exceedingly odd question, but I answered, “I’ll be in a tuxedo, and my fiancée will be in a wedding dress.” This was back when we could still fit into them.
The reason why the limousine driver didn’t think his question was odd revealed itself when we arrived at the license bureau. We looked like lost extras from a movie. Vegas may have a wedding industry, but we were the only – only – people in that line dressed for a wedding. The woman in front of us was dressed in denim cut-offs and oh by the way looked like she was actually going to give birth right there in line. We might as well have been in line at McDonald’s.
When we arrived at the chapel, I must tell you, I congratulated myself on my choice. This was not just tacky – it was beyond tacky. It wasn’t even a free-standing chapel. It was a room inside the lobby of the Howard Johnson’s. It was adjacent to a Mexican restaurant. It couldn’t have been more Vegas, especially since the minister was from somewhere in the Middle East, and the Elvis impersonator was none other than Eddie Powers, who’d been in the Matthew Perry-Salma Hayek film Fools Rush In. He sang that song, and of course, Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. He autographed his scarf and gave it to Monica – it’s still around the house somewhere. As tacky as it all was – and believe me, I grasp the irony of saying this about an Elvis impersonator – Eddie was completely genuine, even when we were lying by pretending this was our first marriage.
Eddie couldn’t be fooled. At the end of the ceremony, when we were congenially taking pictures, he said, “You two sure get along well. Are you sure you’re not already married?”
We only smiled knowingly and got back into the limousine. It was, after all, Vegas, where anyone can put on a performance of their own.
Middle Age Cranky at 100: Fine Whines & Muddled Memories, a compilation of the first 100 columns, is now available as an e-book at Smashwords and other digital bookstores.