My husband and I celebrated our anniversary yesterday. Fourteen years ago, on 05/05/05 at 5:05 PM, we did the deed in a Las Vegas drive-thru. Yep, we took it seriously, and yes, obviously we are still together.
We dated for fourteen years before we got married, too, so we are getting pretty close to 30 years into this relationship. Vegas is not just for the young, or the inebriated, it can be a wedding destination of many sorts.
I had been to the world-famous Las Vegas Strip years before with my Mother, but this was hubby’s first trip. It wasn’t, however, a whim, we had actually semi-, well almost, planned it. We knew we were coming home married.
What we didn’t know, was how easy it was to get a license, and how many chapels there were to choose from. No need to worry, if you are researching your own trip to Vegas, they give you a typed-up list of chapels with the license. (I wish I would have saved that!)
There are so many choices, it can be a destination wedding, the real deal, long white dress, beautiful flowers and a dozen maids-of-honor, the whole “dad walks you down the aisle” thing, if that is what you want. These people have weddings down pat. (www.ClarkCountyNV.gov/Clerk lets you book a civil ceremony online! www.weddingchamber.vegas has a list of churches, chapels and officiants.)
We chose the drive-thru. Or drive-by, as Arick calls it. We got the Number 5 off of the Drive Thru menu, add 1 extra picture, please.
We decided to stay downtown on Fremont Street, in order to see the “Experience”, which is a beautiful overhead light show. There is a tunnel type invisible screen overhead, and it is truly an experience. The Golden Nugget oozed old glam, it was so different than all of the new, more flashy, skyscrapers on the strip. We really felt like we had the old-school Vegas trip. I half expected to see Dean Martin in the elevator and Ole Blue Eyes himself crooning in one of the bars.
Vegas is walker-friendly in general, but sort of in 2 parts. If you are downtown, that whole experience is walker-friendly, and the strip is just a short cab ride (or Uber) away, and it is again walker-friendly.
Back to the elopement…we arrived on 5/3, rented a car at the airport, enjoyed a great dinner, then realized 5/5 was coming, and it would be hard to forget our anniversary, if it was all 5’s. So May 5, it was. I am the goofball that had to push it a little farther with the 5:05 part, of course. (We actually had to sit in the parking lot for 5 or 6 minutes waiting for the time to hit, praying that no one else pulled up in front of us!)
So, on the morning of the 4th, we decided to look for the Clark County Courthouse, where marriage licenses were doled out like parking tickets. (He was driving the rental car-our own personal wedding-mobile), so, of course we did not ask anyone, we just drove around until we found it.
He likes to get up at the crack of dawn, and this occasion was no different, so I hopped out of the car to go see what the hours were…there were none, the swinging doors were a swinging…it was open!
I motioned for him to park and come on in, as I headed in the door to look around. I figured there must be some kind of brochures or wedding-y stuff in there. Something to give it that special “romantic” feel. I don’t know why I thought the tourism bureau would have made a wedding spectacle out of their official courthouse, but I did. And they didn’t.
Arick tucked his head in the door and spotted me, standing there, the only person in the big concrete and tile room, and there was a wall with a line of barred windows, something like you would see in the bank of an old western movie, or the police department of Hill Street Blues. No fanfare at all. This right here is the place where you sober up. (If you need sobering up, that is. We didn’t.)
We looked at each other and walked up to one of the windows, and Arick told the lady we wanted to get married. She asked for our drivers licenses and Social Security numbers, and $75 (now it is $77, and you can even apply online!) We gave them to her, and she gave us a form to fill out with our parent’s names,etc., and then quickly entered it into their system. (If you are divorced, I was, you have to know the date of your divorce.)
Within less than 5 minutes, our eyes were glazed over, and we had “the papers” in our hands, and were back in the parking lot. It was a brief, but very pleasant experience. It was real. We were about to get married.
For a minute or so, I wished our Moms were there, but their health would not allow that, and I wished my kids were there. It’s not like we had never talked about, and even planned a wedding before. We had actually purchased marriage licenses at home in Louisiana a time or two. I daydreamed about all of my friends being present, about us all-kids and everybody-saying a bunch of romantic stuff at the altar in front of everyone that mattered in our lives. Unity candles, the whole 9 yards. The stuff that little girl’s dreams are made of. Didn’t happen. Years kept passing by, and we just never got around to it. So, here we were, in Vegas, and it was happening. The legal part, anyhow.
I imagined the singing Elvis officiant that is so famous on TV shows, and that the whole thing would feel like a mockery of the sanctity of marriage. That, I didn’t want. Well, mostly I didn’t. I did consider for a moment getting married above the city in a hot air balloon…then I remembered that I am afraid of heights….anyway, we stopped and ate breakfast on the strip, and walked around seeing the sights before bringing out our slip of paper to choose a chapel.
We drove past the first one, and it made me feel uneasy. We kept going. Then a second one didn’t “feel” right. Then I saw it. “A Special Memory” Wedding Chapel. That’s what I wanted, if I wasn’t having the big traditional wedding, I at least wanted the “special memory.”
I must admit, at this point, I was thinking that we were going inside, that they would tie a fake dress on me, kind of like the ones that they tie on you to take those old fashioned photos at the amusement park. They would loan him a suit, I would rent a bouquet, and walk down the aisle to my waiting groom.
Not. Nope. Didn’t happen. We drove slowly past A Special Memory Wedding Chapel. It was a nice, clean, well maintained “respectable” building. Beautiful landscaping. It was perfect. “Pull in”, I said, as he slowly drove past. “Look, there’s the drive-thru”. he said, as we edged into the next block. “Turn around, we have to plan. I’m sure we can’t just show up tomorrow and get married! They have to know we are coming. What if they are booked?” That is me worrying. Yep. Typical stuff. I am a planner.
“They have a drive-thru.” he looked at me as if I was being irrational. “We’re driving through?” You have got to be kidding me! was what was going through my mind, but no words would come out. He kept driving.
The next day, we piddled around waiting on 5:05. Why in the world did I think that was important? LOL…(I forget everything, but haven’t forgotten that, so I guess it worked!) We watched the fountain show outside the Ballagio, eyeballed the $100 steaks in the window at Gallagher’s glass meat locker, and had a juicy prime rib at the Top of Binion’s Steakhouse.
At around 4:30, we decided to head that way, in our regular old street clothes, so we would be there at 5:05. We got there at around 4:45 and sat in the parking lot. We were too far away to read the menu in advance, but we rolled on up to it at 5:00.
I still could not believe we were about to get married at a drive-thru window, but it was one of those drive thru’s like Burger King…no way to turn around. We were there.
We actually chose the Appetizer package and the No.5, photo, and rolled on up to the window and rang the doorbell. A female with long black hair, probably in h er 50’s, leaned out the window as she was pulling on an “official” black robe. “Can I help you?” She asked. “Yep. We want to get hitched.” Arick replied. I was speechless. Giddy, but speechless, if there is such an emotional state. “We’ll take the Appetizer and a picture.” he added.
I was trying to act like this was all in the midst of a regular day…driving through, getting married, you know. Everyday stuff. I am the responsible type, I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for real, right? Eek!! “Do you have your license?” The two of them were having a conversation across the car as she zipped her robe. “Yep. We have it right here.” He grabbed it from the dash and handed it to me, and I handed it to her.
“Looks like everything is here, let me get my things together, I’ll be right back.” She closed the window and then opened it back up. “You sure you only want one picture?” “Yes, one will be fine.” I laughed, and off she went again.
Arick and I laughed at ourselves until she returned, just a couple of minutes later with a clipboard and some papers for us to sign. We did and handed them back through the window. We exchanged cash, and it was moving forward like the bank drive thru.
“Let me get the picture first”, she leaned out the window an pointed an old Polaroid Instamatic inside the car window. Flash, once, then twice, and she zipped the prints from the bottom of the camera, waving them in the air to dry. “Are you ready?” she nodded our way. “Bout as ready as we’re ever gonna be.” Arick replied. I kinda liked this “take charge” attitude he had, lol. I am usually the one who takes care of business…then she started.
“Marriage is a sacred ceremony, not to be taken lightly.” (We were in a drive-thru window line, did I mention that?) she said a few more words, I think I may have zoned out a little before she directed her attention to Arick. “Do you realize that it will be your responsibility to support her from this day forward?” She asked. “I’ve been doing it for 15 years, don’t see no reason to stop.” He replied, so quick witted that one.
“And,” then she looks down at the intake form to get my name, “Terri, do you wan me to say obey?” “Obey?” I asked. “To honor, cherish and obey?” she grinned. “Well no. I have not for the past 15 years, and do not plan to start. Let’s leave out the obey.” I shook my head and giggled.
“Terri, do you promise to love, honor and cherish Arick, till death do you part?” “I do.” I nodded at he, then turned to him and smiled. “Ok. Let me see if your picture is dry. ” She closed the window again, returning a minute or two later. “It’s not quite dry, but here you go. I took you an extra. Here’s your commemorative frame. You can put it in when the picture dries.” She handed me a little pink plastic frame in a clear plastic wrapper.
“Is that it?” Arick asked. “Yes. that’s it.” she said. “Ok, then. Thank ya.” he drove on out of the parking lot.
We were halfway to Hoover Dam (his surprise honeymoon trip to me, went over like a turd in a punch bowl…we flew to Niagara Falls the next day.) before I asked where we were going. “It’s a surprise.”
And there you go. Our wedding story. Do I regret it? No. It is our story, and so typical to the type of things that we do. I don’t think any other ceremony would have been as special.
Are you thinking of eloping to Vegas? If so, I have a few updated links for you:
(Check out the Clark County “To Do Sheet” for more current info: www.clarkcountynv.gov/clerk/Documents/How_To_Say_I_Do.pdf (You don’t get your Marriage Certificate right away, the officiant has 10 days to file it. If you are still in Vegas (what???) you can pick up your certified copy in person, or contact them to have it mailed to you. There is even a self-service kiosk to pay now. Expect to pay another $15. You can find marriage information on social now, too. www.facebook.com/clarkcountyclerk and they are on Twitter @vegasweddingcap)