Vegas wedding ceremonies are walk-in, drive-through

Nearly 9,600 couples exchange vows every month in Las Vegas — or an average of more than 300 weddings a day.

Ceremonies range from no-fuss nuptials at the Clark County Courthouse to kitschy affairs officiated by Elvis impersonators. Many couples keep it even simpler by hitting the city’s drive-through chapels.

Couples who like that kind of convenience, but have something traditional, yet affordable, in mind, are in luck. The Strip’s many casino hotels have on-site chapels, wedding planners and catering departments to handle everything from the nuptials to the reception. They’ll also take care of the flowers and music.

“Most of the things a traditional bride wants, the Las Vegas bride wants, too,” says Maxine Pipkin, wedding chapel manager at Treasure Island hotel. “For the most part, people go very traditional. The bride wears white; family and friends are there.”

Treasure Island handles an average of 200 weddings a month at its two chapels. The Forever Grand Wedding Chapel at the MGM Grand also offers two chapels to accommodate up to 60 guests, while the chapel at Bellagio ensures each couple has use of the entire facility for the duration of their ceremony.

“It’s very private,” says Jacqueline Montoya, director of the Bellagio’s wedding chapel.

Hotel chapels generally include private dressing rooms for the bride and groom to use before the ceremony. Couples also have a choice of photo and video services. Wedding photos are usually ready the following day; videos may be ready immediately after the ceremony. And given Las Vegas’ reputation as an entertainment capital, it’s not surprising that hotels have state-of-the-art video-editing facilities at the chapel.

Although couples can turn up to get married on a whim — MGM Grand wedding manager Cory Keenan says they can do walk-in ceremonies on two hours’ notice — most couples plan a week to eight months ahead. This allows plenty of time for all the details, as well as for guests to make travel arrangements for the big day. In fact, that’s another bonus for a Las Vegas wedding — far-flung guests can easily arrange transportation from just about anywhere.

A basic wedding package at Treasure Island starts at $399 midweek. That includes the ceremony, a half-hour of chapel time, use of the bridal dressing room, the bride’s bouquet and groom’s boutonniere, a choice of music and a keepsake garter. MGM Grand’s packages start at $599, and ceremonies at Bellagio begin at $1,010. Couples also can opt for more deluxe packages that include pre-ceremony spa treatments.

Because Las Vegas is a fantasy town, theme weddings are a definite option. At MGM Grand, a couple could invite 250 guests to a disco-style wedding at the resort’s Studio 54 club. The bride even descends from the ceiling.

For Treasure Island’s “Enchantment Package,” the couple exchanges their vows on the HMS Britannia, the replica of a British naval frigate that dominates the hotel’s entrance. The captain performs the ceremony.

New York-New York offers a Roller Coaster Wedding. Fantasy weddings at MGM Grand and Treasure Island run $2,121 to $5,000.

Even Bellagio has a lavish theme wedding that’s in keeping with its Northern Italian ambience. The “Cosa Bella Wedding Package” includes two hours of chapel time, customized floral decorations, champagne for 20 guests, a tandem massage and two nights in a penthouse suite overlooking the hotel’s man-made lake.

“They’re treated like million-dollar players,” says Montoya of the affair, which carries a $14,000 price tag.

You can have a Jewish ceremony for a lot less. Bellagio’s Ani L’Dodi Jewish Wedding package is $5,800, complete with a bride’s bouquet and groom’s boutonniere, chuppah decorations, a walkway of fresh petals for the bride’s processional, Kiddush cup and prayer shawl, a mazel tov glass keepsake, wedding music, a photography package, spa passea, a video and more.

At Caesars Palace, the Simcha package offers a chuppah/prayer shawl, Kiddush cup with wine, rabbi services, personalized video, live pianist, bottle of champagne and a one night’s stay in a spa room. Cost for an indoor service is $2,500. Add another $500 for an outdoor event.

And although it doesn’t offer a Jewish wedding package, The Four Seasons installed a kosher kitchen within its catering department a few years ago.

There are some practical reasons for the booming wedding industry: Nevada is the easiest place in America to say, “I do.”

Marriage licenses, obtained from the Clark County Courthouse, cost just $50 and require no blood tests or waiting period. To make things even more convenient, the courthouse is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays, closing at midnight on Sundays. Mondays through Thursdays, it’s open 8 a.m. to midnight.

For brides or grooms marrying for the second time, no proof of divorce is required. But they should supply the date of their final decree, plus the city and state where the divorce was granted.