The Renewlywed Game

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By John Deiner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 12, 2005

The bride wore pearl earrings, tropical capris, flowered sandals and a billowing veil with ancient cigarette burns. The groom wore a mood ring, knee-length black shorts, a maraschino-cherry-red bow tie and a tatty thrift-shop tux shirt with a yellow starch stain marching down the front.

That's right. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something . . . ewww.

On an unseasonably hot May night in an unreasonably crowded Las Vegas, my wife, Janet, and I stood before God, six of our dearest friends, a minister we'd never met and the King of Rock-and-Roll and exchanged our wedding vows. Again. Almost 15 years to the day earlier, we'd first said "I do" in a ceremony devoid of kitschy jewelry, Tevas and dead pop icons.

No need to make that mistake again. With nearly 350 nuptials held each day in the dozens of chapels lining its streets and nestled within its casinos, Vegas posits itself as the wedding capital of the world. Last year, more than 125,000 couples tied the knot in Sin City. Because a license isn't required for renewals, figures aren't available on the number performed, but chapels report that there's no shortage of marrieds reupping for another tour of duty.

Services, and prices, run the spectrum, from as little as $105 for a license and a civil ceremony at the Marriage Commissioner's Office to splashier theme affairs, like the $3,000 you'll beam down for the 20-minute Admiral's Wedding at the Vegas Hilton's "Star Trek" attraction. The latter includes vows on the bridge of the Enterprise, an "intergalactic floral bouquet and boutonierre" and a choice of four costumed "Trek" characters.

Janet and I were fairly confident we didn't need a Klingon to stand by our side as we became renewlyweds. But Elvis? That was a no-brainer.

We'd decided long ago that our 15th would be the "cheese anniversary," much as the 25th is marked with silver, the 50th gold. And we also knew where the festivities would take place: the Little White Wedding Chapel, as much a fixture on the Vegas nuptial scene as drunken bridesmaids and morning-after regrets. We'd seen the chapel on previous visits, a steepled incongruity on the Strip whose sign proudly proclaims that Michael Jordan and Joan Collins had been married within (though, sadly, not to each other).

Little White Wedding Chapel, Las Vegas, Nevada
Little White Wedding Chapel, Las Vegas, Nevada( - Courtesy Little White Wedding Chapel)
Missing from the marquee is the fact that Ross and Rachel exchanged vows there on "Friends." Demi Moore and Bruce Willis began their storybook union on the spot. Patty Duke, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra: all Little White alums. And in January 2004, Britney Spears wed her childhood pal, Jason Allen Alexander, there at 5:30 in the morning. (Those crazy kids: The marriage lasted a less-than-inspiring two days.)

Janet and I can relate, sort of. We're both 42, but we've known each other for 38 years: She's the first person I met on the New Jersey cul-de-sac where my family moved in 1967. After a whirlwind 23-year courtship, we were married in 1990.

Those nups -- planned over the course of 18 aggravating months -- included a flower-strewn church, 125 guests, a 12-person wedding party and a Hawaiian honeymoon that began a few hours after the band stopped playing. Fifteen years later, we organized our Vegas renewal in 12 minutes at Alittlewhitechapel.com.

The process is exceedingly simple. Decide how much you really love your intended and go from there. For $391, the Romantic's Package includes the chapel, a bouquet and a boutonniere, a bride's garter, 24 photographs, a wedding video and a limo. Michael Jordan's Package, for a C-note more, promises a bigger bouquet, more photos and champagne glasses.

This being a renewal and all, Janet and I went with the Economy Package (since renamed the Lover's Package, but Economy still seems to say it all). Instead of a bouquet, our $191 netted a "Presentation of Roses" for Janet, a boutonierre for me, 12 photos and the limo ride. For $69 more, we ordered a video, under the assumption that the images it captured would be unforgettable, if not downright embarrassing.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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