Las Vegas lore is filled with stories about people getting married in Vegas. Falling under the tagline “whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” quickie weddings and secret marriages keep up the public’s curiosity. And for the most part, it’s worth the effort by inquiring minds.
The Rich and Famous Who Get Married in Vegas
You can find little else to connect such public people as Kelly Ripa, Shia Laboeuf, Richard Gere and Jane Fonda than the fact they had weddings in Vegas – some in successful unions and some ... well ... not-so-much. Tabloid readers have been keeping up with these revolving door-style weddings for decades.
One of the earliest Hollywood examples and one of the entertainment industry’s most enduring marriages took place in Vegas – Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in 1958.
One of the best-known brides (eight times) was Elizabeth Taylor, who married Eddie Fisher in a Jewish ceremony at a Las Vegas synagogue in 1959.
In an interesting backstory, Taylor had just converted to Judaism the year before, after her beloved husband Mike Todd died in an airplane crash. According to the Daily Beast in an article about an Andy Warhol exhibition in the Jewish Museum, the 26-year-old Taylor was seeking support while mourning the death of Todd, whose birth name was Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen. Rabbi Max Nussbaum oversaw her conversion and officiated at her marriage to Fisher.
The 1960s saw the most famous Las Vegas wedding couple, Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu, hold a ceremony at the Aladdin Hotel in May 1967. In the same decade, others included Roger Vadim and Jane Fonda in 1965 and Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra, who tied the knot at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in July 1966.
The legends continued to fill the altars at Las Vegas chapels and hotels. Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson held one of their two marriages in Las Vegas in 1976. It lasted six months and they remarried in 1989.
Bruce Willis and Demi Moore became an official power couple at the Golden Nugget Hotel in Las Vegas in 1987 and divorced in 2000.
Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos were married in 1996 and Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford united in 1998.
Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton brought in the new millennium with their union at the Little Church of the West Wedding Chapel in 2000. Leah Remini and Angelo Pagan had a poolside ceremony at the Bellagio hotel in 2003.
Though it’s not a record for the shortest length of a marriage made in Vegas, Britney Spears and Jason Allen Alexander rang in the new year with a wedding in Las Vegas in 2004 and stayed hitched for just 55 hours. Of course, she pretty much eschewed tradition with her wardrobe – a midriff-revealing T-shirt, ripped jeans and a baseball cap.
“Entourage” star Kevin Dillon and Jane Stuart, a professional model, said “I do” in 2006. They made it a Vegas classic with an Elvis impersonator who did several performances at their ceremony.
Pamela Anderson and Rick Salomon married and began their demise in Vegas when they reportedly began fighting about his poker debts. That was their first marriage (2007). They married again in 2014 and divorced again in 2015.
Shia LaBeouf and Mia Goth began their two-year marriage in 2016.
Fast forward to today and keep watching. On May 1, 2019 Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner got married in Las Vegas after the Billboard Music Awards. More hasty marital decisions are sure to follow.
What Happens in Vegas Wedding Preparations?
We’ve heard a lot of the stories, but the best ones don't come from sources like The Knot or Pinterest. And the best storytellers are people who've seen it all up close, so they really know how to get married in Vegas.
A writer for Cracked online got inside information from a former Vegas wedding chapel employee who dishes all kinds of facts about the quirky choice of Las Vegas for marital beginnings. When it comes to how to get married in Vegas, this woman has seen it all.
Its reputation as an ideal city for impulsive marriage decisions actually began in 1928 in California, when the Golden State passed a “gin law” which made engaged couples take three days before issuing them a marriage license. It was an effort to limit people from entering marriages while drunk, but what it did, of course, was send people over the border, increasing the number of couples going to Nevada for Las Vegas weddings.
You won’t find Las Vegas leadership complaining – it’s a cash cow and keeps tourism high. The county’s marriage license bureau is near the Sunset Strip and the city’s agency office stays open until midnight every day of the year – even Christmas.
It typically doesn’t even take an hour to get what you need, which includes your marriage license and certificate, costing you about $93. When crowds are few you can get married for less than $100 and in less than an hour’s time.
As you may or may not expect, like a favorite bar or hangout, even Vegas has “regulars.” The chapel employee remembered one man who got married in April, then again two weeks later, and her chapel married him to other women another two times the same year. Each time he produced annulment papers so they could reissue him a license.
What happens when someone under 18 attempts to get married in Las Vegas?
According to the article, it’s hard to stop them, because they can lie about their age. It’s up to the bureau to catch them and if someone underage gets married in Vegas, the marriage is illegitimate until the parties are both 18 or over. At that point, it automatically becomes legitimate unless the parents got the marriage annulled somewhere along the way.
People from all over the world come to Nevada thinking they understand how to get married in Vegas, but sometimes they misunderstand the protocol. They assume there’s little-to-no paperwork involved, that it’s just like the movies –an Elvis impersonator calls you “husband and wife” and bada-bing-bada-boom – you’re married.
How to Get Married in Vegas
If you’re a Nevada resident, want a quickie wedding, or if you simply think it would be a fun venue for your invite list, getting married in Las Vegas makes sense. Lucky for you, the steps are simple!
1. Go online and complete the Clark County Marriage License Pre-Application form. The county clerk receives your completed form and it is saved in their system for a year. You have to include a social security number (though there’s an option if you don’t have one). It asks how many times you’ve been married, and you don’t even have to know the exact date you received an annulment or divorce.
The form has a hot link to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce where you get information on every related service you can think of.
Some of the businesses advertising there to gain access to new applicants are:
Bootlegger Italian Bistro; The Sugar Factory; and Las Vegas Weddings.
Make sure you are eligible: You must be 18 years old, and minors 17 or 16 must get the consent of a parent or legal guardian. To avoid bigamy charges, both individuals must be legally single to get married.
2. Pick up your marriage license at the Clark County Marriage License Bureau, which is located at 201 E. Clark Avenue Las Vegas, Nevada, 89101. It is open from 8 a.m. -12 midnight. Each bride and groom needs to present a valid form of ID.
3. A witness is required during the wedding, but if you’re alone the chapel may provide a witness for you. To choose a wedding chapel, consult online reviews.
If you have a crowd coming, there are plenty of venues online with packages to include your party, rooms and food. Some of those include:
The Little Neon Chapel –three locations, where you can have free VIP night club access and show tickets
Viva Las Vegas – where you can experience the Hound Dog Wedding Package or the Elvis Pink Caddy Package
Wee Kirk O’ the Heather – opened in 1940 and offers destination weddings including helicopters and Las Vegas Sign ceremonies
And, believe it or not, getting married in Vegas doesn’t have to involve a little chapel. There are numerous outdoor venues as well.
Getting Married in Vegas Saves Money
When you’re just starting out, finding cost cutters may be essential to your survival. Just because you have a Vegas wedding doesn’t mean you take divorce lightly, and since surveys reveal that money is the number one topic leading to divorce, you want to minimize the friction by addressing it.
An article in the Business Insider says that particularly in the first and third years of marriage, money causes more conflict than the spouses’ families, children or religion. They found that when couples bring debt into their marriage it causes a great deal of unhappiness. Those with $20,000 to $50,000 of debt have the lowest satisfaction in marriage, according to studies.
Most of us know it’s an important topic to discuss before tying the knot – whether you get married in Vegas or not. But about one-fourth of couples studied admitted to avoiding those conversations.
There was a study by American Express that showed fewer than 50 percent of married couples actually talked about money before they got married, but results were higher when they just polled affluent couples and young professionals. More than 10 percent of married folks claimed they had never discussed finances with their spouses.
“Budgets are Sexy” money blogger Andy Prescott explains in Business Insider how he saved money getting married in Vegas.
“I got married in Las Vegas for $500, and if I had to do it all over again I would do it exactly the same,” he says. “I understand it's not for everybody, but for the right people it's a great way to save thousands of dollars.”
The first thing Prescott does in his writeup is help you determine if you’re, in fact, least likely to be happy with the decision to get married in Vegas.
First of all, if you dreamed of a traditional, elegant affair, you probably won’t like what you get with a Las Vegas wedding. And if you have family who want the same for you, it’s not a best bet possibility.
But if you have conflict within the family, or if you don’t want them showing up – hosting a Vegas wedding is a great idea. If something short, sweet and cheap is at the top of your priority list, then it’s a good choice as well.
The writer points out that you can get married in Las Vegas for as little as $55, but you may not get Elvis for that. Prescott’s wedding ceremony cost $300 at the Golden Nugget, which amounted to a simple affair in a pretty nice hotel. They were married by a Roman Catholic priest who recited a traditional speech and it included a wedding planner and photographer.
Your Financial Decisions after Getting Married in Las Vegas
You’ve got to get home, one way or the other. If you flew to Vegas, but don’t have a return flight, consider buying a car.
It sounds crazy, but many residents of Western states such as California find they can save money by purchasing wheels out of state. Because the population is lower in Nevada, you can often find individuals who are more desperate to unload their used cars because there isn’t as big a pool of car buyers.
Or you may be in the market for a particular RV or a vintage vehicle with a long list of specs – and if you find it in Nevada you can drive you and your newlywed partner home.
It’s not smart to be completely impulsive about it, but it’s something to consider.
If your CPA wants you to find more tax write-offs this year, you can donate a car to charity and there’s an added financial benefit. You can swing through Valley Auto Mall after Elvis pronounces you “man and wife” (or whatever) and you get the luxury of a new set of wheels plus an easy way to unload the car that’s parked in your garage.
When you make a car donation to charity you don’t really have to do much. A call to Cars2Charities, or a donation online means a towing professional comes to pick up your donation vehicle – at a time and place that’s convenient for you.
The only other effort you have is to choose the 501(c)(3) nonprofit to obtain proceeds from the car donation. Cars2Charities completes all the paperwork – even the title transfer.
This could very well be the best year of your life. If you’re getting married in Vegas, it’s the beginning of a lifelong journey, which you can expand to be so much more. How about a honeymoon at Graceland?