Las Vegas; the real city of lights and a lot else, but what’s it really like? The Wedding Guy went to check it out with a view to hosting a wedding ceremony there.
First of all its big and loud, ‘the strip’ as it’s known runs for 7 kilometres and it is within this relatively small space that all the hotels and casinos are condensed into. Mostly linear along this incredible stretch of road are packed in a whopping 62,000 rooms and boasting 15 of the worlds 25 largest hotels by room count. So take a minute to absorb that!
The main airport McCarren is situated right behind this area and a taxi will have you whizzed into the middle of the action in around 5-10 minutes depending on the time of day you land. In fact the departure flight path takes you right over the strip so when you’re leaving try and get a seat on the right hand side of the plane as you’re boarding for an incredible last view, but we won’t talk about leaving Las Vegas just yet!
The city boasts an average incredible 90,000 weddings each year and it’s hard not to run into a wedding party every few minutes all along the strip or in your hotel.
The hotels are massive, the MGM which was once the largest hotel in the world boasts 7000 rooms, It has since been dwarfed only in terms of height by many rivals including the 3000 room 60 story Cosmopolitan, whose elevators by the way have buttons for 70 floors just in case they decide to build up! The Cosmopolitan has an unrivalled view over the famed Bellaggio fountains which erupt in a music and light show every hour (45 minutes on weekends).
The number of 5-6 star hotels here is on the rise and include The Ariel, Wynn and Mandalay Bay. Every hotel boasts at least one wedding chapel with the lager ones having up to six each for multiple ceremonies. Weddings are big money earners here.
Size matters in Vegas, there is of course a wheel ‘The High Roller at the Linq, (attached to a hotel & Casino obviously) which is taller than the London eye and offers spectacular views of the metropolis which is currently America’s fastest growing city. In 2014 it was the tallest wheel in the world but since lost that title to Singapore. However it does remain the worlds largest clock. It dwarfs the surrounding high rises and is not for the faint hearted and yes of course you can get married up there! The trip takes 30 minutes and you can reserve a private cabin for your wedding vows. High Roller Weddings information
In fact in Vegas you can practically get married just about anywhere, there is even a drive through wedding chapel, with a taxi man telling us one night he has brought couples through in his cab.
This drive through is located in the older part of the strip, the area between the new strip and the old downtown Freemont Street, which is the original Las Vegas and the area we used to see in all the movie classics and home to the famous ‘Marlboro Man’ & the ‘4 Queens’ Casino.
You may notice in the above photos that there seems to be something covering the street and you would be right! Of course the good people in Vegas decided to only go and completely cover the entire street. Yes all 1500 feet or the length of 5 football fields is completely covered by not just a roof but the worlds largest screen which blasts a fantastic light show every half hour and not only that, you can now Zip Line down the entire length of the street right under the apex of the dome. As of yet it is one of the few places you can’t get married, but that could change.
This side of the city is home to most of the oldear more traditional wedding chapels and coincidently it is in these where most celebrities choose to get married, while the tourists opt for the news flashier hotel chapels. These independently owned chapels are very intimate, have lots of character and manned by some big fun personalities, you can even get married by Elvis! Packages start from around $500 and can be bought to include everything on site from photographer, limo, flowers, in fact everything you need. Most also offer an Internet streaming service so those back home can join in on the fun.
Couples from outside the United States can be married in Las Vegas, regardless of gender, creed or sexual orientation.
A couple who are unrelated and are both at least 18 years old may be issued a marriage license in Clark County Courthouse. Proof of age may be required. Both must appear at the Marriage License Bureau in the County Courthouse, at 201 Clark Avenue.
Before travelling to the US you must both contact The department of Foreign Affairs & Trade which has all the information required. You will need to meet all the legal requirements of the country in question & obtain a ‘Certificate of freedom to marry’, the Department issues this and information can be obtained below. HERE https://www.dfa.ie/travel/our-services/marriage-and-civil-partnership-
When you get home most countries will want a certified copy of your marriage certificate and an Apostille from the Nevada Secretary State. The Nevada Secretary of State can send the Apostille and certified marriage certificate copy directly to your government for you. Ask your wedding venue about organising this.
Famous Wedding Chapels
If you want to get married where Britney Spears, Sinead O Connor and Bruce Willis & Demi Moore got married then head to ‘The Little White Wedding Chapel’, it was also the chapel featured in “that” episode of Friends; the one when Monica & Ross got married. It is also the afore mentioned chapel with the “drive thru”.
Everything here is over the top, sparkly, tacky bright and fun so if this is not how you want your wedding then stay away.
Some of the bigger hotels have slightly more elegant wedding rooms like Paris Hotel & Casino where outside they have built a replica Eiffel Tower. At first glimpse inside is similar to other casinos, loud and flashy but there are some areas like the hotel check in & reception area which is reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles and I found out on inspection that the wedding chapels are not too offensive, but again will not be to everyone’s taste.
At the opposite end of the scale are places like The Wynn, if you have a spare $5000 to spare and no more than 10 family/friends you can indulge yourself in their latest wedding room offering; The Zen package.
The ceremony takes place in the Tranquility Hall inside the Encore Spa, during off hours. The room has an Eastern theme with Buddha statues, golden Moroccan inspired decor and plush Persian carpets. There is only enough room for a handful of guests (10) to take part in your ultra exclusive ceremony making it a once in a lifetime memory for all involved. If you are having difficulties digesting this amount of money you could sell tickets at $500 a piece to 10 of your closest family & friends!
When in Vegas you can easily spend your entire time on the strip, it’s designed to do this as a handful of corporations own almost all the mammoth hotels/casinos on the 7k stretch.
I’ve selected two resorts built for those who don’t want to spend all their time in that time warp which by the way can get very tiring after 2-3 days depending on your temperament.
The Hilton Lake Resort
Situated outside the city proper on a lake edge this resort built in what they call a Mediterranean style is slightly reminiscing of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence; yet a million miles away. They have however beautiful serene outdoor areas for wedding ceremonies.
Red Rock Reaort
If you’re an outdoor enthusiasts this is the spot for you. Situated beside Red Rock Canyon just 15 miles & a 20 minute drive from Vegas it is an activities paradise and has access to some spectacular scenery. Yes it’s a big hotel & Casino but has the advantage of being miles from the city.
It also has its own shopping mall, cinema, fitness centre, spa & Theatre for shows so you’re not going to get bored; but what won me over is their outdoor offerings for weddings. They will even organise a wedding outside the venue if desired, and with a backdrop like that what more could you ask for.
If you’re getting the impression that I like this place you’re right.
Top Twenty Tips (+1) when visiting Las Vegas
- Bring Money, lots of money. Vegas is slowly getting more & more expensive. Set a budget and try to stick to it.
- Do not use ATM’s in the hotels or casinos, each establishment charges €8 for the pleasure with a dreadful exchange rate and that’s before your own financial institutions transactions add their fees and foreign currency charges. When coming home if you have cash left over (HA) do not bring $100 dollar bills back, due to forgeries banks here in Ireland will not accept these bills but will lodge them to your account and it will take 5-6 weeks to clear as the bills have to be sent back to the States to be authenticated. Sigh!!!
- Expect to tip 15-20% everywhere you go, it’s expected and asked for at times. Not tipping here is not an option, you will either be followed by an outraged server or publicly berated.
- Wear comfortable shoes. This may seem an odd one but this is a walking city, and you will easily spend all day walking so it is not the place to break in new shoes, save those for the wedding day.
- When dressed up get taxis everywhere even if it seems like no distance away and you can see your destination, these buildings are huge and what seems like close by can be half an hour walk.
- Hotel & Casino gift shops.. AVOID!! If you smoke, do not buy cigarettes or anything for that matter in the hotel/casino gift shops. Expect to pay $15 per pack (usually $5) and €5 for a bottle of water. There are large CVS and Walgreens convenience stores around, use them even for buying alcohol for your room, most hotel rooms have fridges, use them.
- Avoid room service, it’s overpriced and poor quality across the board, there’s also a service charge and you will be asked for a tip as well. We spend A LOT on tea and toast one morning for 4 of us!!
- When checking in ask if there’s an upgrade available, it’s always worked for me and it won’t hurt to say that you are getting married.
- When planning your visit do a bit of research and make sure there’s not any huge sporting event happening. Room prices skyrocket for these, conventions don’t really effect them as they are always happening. The last weekend I was visiting there were four different conventions taking place.
- Do not fall victim to crime; this is Sin City. Be aware of your surroundings and your valuables. Use the safe in your room and don’t carry unnecessary cash or items.
- Expect to pay for Wi-Fi everywhere even if you’re a resident. To date the only hotel/casino I found with free WiFi is New York New York.
- Carry ID with you always, you will be asked for it when making purchases with your card and no matter what age you are at some establishments serving alcohol.
- In shopping malls avoid getting caught by those trying to give you samples, it’s a sales pitch and THEY WILL drag you in and waste your time trying to convince you to buy expensive creams. Top Tip, when you see them approaching cough into your hands loudly and they will just turn away, it works believe me!
- Eat at buffets, there are some incredible buffets with mile long counters serving every imaginable type of food. Some are bad while others are incredible value and top class, remember sometimes you get what you pay for. My favourites; The Rio for its Seafood Counter and The Wynn for sheer decadence.
- Do take the City bus tour on the first day, it gives you a good grasp of where everything is and most stop at Freemont Street at the end; do not go without visiting this end of town.
- Remember you are in the dessert and during winter it can get very cold at night so pack appropriately.
- Do visit the Venetian and take a gondola trip on the canals built inside and around the Reaort.
- Do the High Roller for a birds eye view of the city, best at night and avoid paying extra for the free bar Pod, it’s always packed and you won’t see anything while alcohol is relatively cheap anyway or free if you’re gambling.
- In your hotel/casino get a players card as soon as you check in and use it every time you play; if you gamble. You accumulate points for free plays and gifts.
- Do not go expecting to do serious shopping, the malls are full of big brand names with big prices. Remember it’s all about the money!
- If Flying from Dublin airport and using the US immigration pre clearance buy your duty free before you go through. Remember once you go through immigration you are technically in the US and there is no duty free available even on the flights!
And finally, go once in your lifetime. It has to be experienced to be believed. Take it for what it is, let go and just enjoy the madness. It would be hard not to.