Couples flock to wedding capital for no-frills ceremonies

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Gary Anderson and his fiancee spent a lot of time preparing for their wedding. They flipped through a Las Vegas chapel guide on the airplane and picked one.

''We didn't want to go through the stress of all of it,'' Brenda Jevning, 56, of Minneapolis said as she and Anderson waited in line at the Clark County Marriage License Bureau.

Selecting a wedding chapel on short notice is no problem in the wedding capital of the world. The city's 50 chapels do swift business come Valentine's Day weekend, ushering couples in and out of ceremonies in assembly-line fashion.

''We're scheduled about every 15 minutes up until midnight,'' Margaret Johnson, co-owner of Graceland Wedding Chapel, said Saturday.

The line leading to the Marriage License Bureau stretched into the street. Some 2,483 couples said ''I do'' during a three-day period last Valentine's Day, and officials expected at least that many this year.

''Don't do it,'' one woman walking by the line yelled at the couples.

Weary workers worked round-the-clock to issue licenses to couples sure that Las Vegas is the best place to wed. The city has the most liberal marriage laws in the country - no blood test or waiting period for the $35 license.

''What was your mother's name before she married your papa, when she was a little girl?'' Cheryl Vernon, manager of the bureau, asked a waiting groom.

Dawn Goldring, 29, of Burleson, Texas, was frantically trying to get everything in order before she reached the front of the line with her soon-to-be groom, Will Richards.

''This is actually my divorce decree,'' Goldring said, holding a file folder.

And, since it's Las Vegas, some weddings have to border on the bizarre.

At the Elvis-A-Rama Museum, couples marrying on Valentine's Day will receive a souvenir copy of Elvis and Priscilla's marriage license along with a museum tour and show. The Golden Nugget hotel-casino downtown planned a mass wedding ceremony for 24 couples brought to Las Vegas by a St. Louis radio station.

If marrying next to wax figures is your style, Madame Tussaud's inside the Venetian hotel-casino is the place to be. The museum will host group ceremonies on Monday. One couple will marry aboard a ship in front of the Treasure Island as pirates and sailors look on. Yet another couple will ride motorcycles down the Strip after they wed at the Harley-Davidson Cafe.

But for Californians Ruth Camacho and Antonio Dorame, they want something simpler.

''We want a Christian ceremony,'' Dorame, 73, said.


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