When most little girls were creating scrapbooks filled with ideas of long flowing dresses, carriages pulled by proud white horses and bridesmaids dressed in ice cream colored pastels, I was shunning these stuffy formal traditions. I was a child raised on New Orleans rhythm and blues and classic rock. I pulled my first slot machine handle around the time I learned to roller skate. My first car was a 1972 Datsun 240z that had an 8-track player. I have never owned a Barbie doll, and from the age of eight I knew I was destined to be married by Elvis in Las Vegas.   

Almost immediately after getting engaged, the Hubs and I booked our plane tickets for our elopement to Sin City. Many of our friends decided to join us, and the elopement quickly transformed into a de facto destination wedding. This meant we would actually have to plan our nuptials and a reception.  

Thanks to an Internet search, we quickly found the only chapel for the couple who considers themselves to be on the higher end of the lowbrow. A Little White Wedding Chapel has been marrying the masses for over fifty years. Many celebrities have also walked down their very short and very narrow aisle. To quote the Hubs, “If it is good enough for Michael Jordan, Paul Newman, and Slash from Guns N’ Roses—it is good enough for us.”  

After landing in Las Vegas, we took the city bus with tourists, casino workers, and a Gene Simmons impersonator who made balloon animals for children, to the Marriage Bureau near the old Strip.

Within five minutes a state employee, who never bothered to look away from her computer, stamped a piece of paper and granted us our license. On the way out the door, we took note of the sign that read, “We will not grant a license to the visibly intoxicated.”   

The evening before the wedding our guests arrived and we reveled late into the night at Frankie’s Tiki Room, an off-Strip local’s hangout. Many Mai Tai’s were consumed and most stumbled away with a souvenir Tiki mug.  

The next morning, it was time to get dressed. The Hubs wore his best suit. I made my own wedding dress modeled after the dress Elizabeth Taylor wore when she married Richard Burton the first time. It featured an empire waist and was made of shimmery gold fabric. Halfway through the day, I realized that I was leaving a trail of glitter behind me wherever I went and by the end of the night, we had coined it “The Stardust Dress.”   

My “something old” consisted of a bouquet of vintage brooches my relatives had collected over the years. Bridal Brooch Bouquets, a local business, managed to transform them into the most beautiful wedding arrangement I have ever seen. My “something new” was my dress, of course. I borrowed a sixpence from my mother, but was unable to fit it in my shoe. At the last minute, I stuck it in my bra, and changed the old adage to “a sixpence for my boob.” My something blue was the clearance sale sticker inside my right shoe.  

We stepped out of the hotel and the valet led us to our circa 1985 limo. After driving through the dodgy end of the Strip, we arrived and the first thing I saw was our chariot, the pink Cadillac convertible. The second thing I saw was a gang of outlaw bikers. We were led into the office of the chapel.  

We filled out paperwork and paid as the outlaw biker wedding began to sink into some kind of tattooed/leather-induced chaos. Apparently, the groom, who had decided to be a traditionalist the night before the wedding and sleep apart from his bride, had forgotten to bring the marriage license. Just as the bride, who was dressed in leather chaps and the top of a heavily bedazzled wedding dress, was about to cry, the leader of the gang appeared with the proper paperwork. The bridesmaids, who were clad in matching silver-sequined booty shorts, wife-beaters, and knee high leather boots, ushered the bride back into the chapel. As the concierge passed by our party she said, “Elvis will be right with you.” I got goose bumps.  

The King appeared wearing a white jumpsuit and carrying a portable stereo system. He asked us to come to the desk. We signed our license and decided Elvis would sing Love Me Tender and Can’t Help Falling in Love. Everyone walked out to the drive-thru chapel and gathered around the Caddy. We sat on the top of back of the convertible and exchanged vows. Our Elvis was a such a sincere minister that I teared up as I repeated, “I promise to never leave you at the Heartbreak Hotel.”  

As we kissed I heard clapping accompanied by whistles. I looked up to see that a double-decker bus full of tourists had stopped to watch the ceremony. After pictures with Elvis, we returned to our limo and departed for our reception at the Peppermill, just as a parade of Harley Davidsons was exiting the driveway.  

The Peppermill Fireside Lounge is located in the back of a coffee shop on the Strip and is one of my favorite bars in the world. Despite renovations over the years, it still manages to embody the spirit of the mid-1970’s. Neon tubes burn across the ceiling, but all roads lead to a circle of sunken velvet banquettes that surround a fountain that spews fire. Our guests feasted on fried food and drank Blue Hawaiians, Scorpions, and Champagne Cocktails while they played video poker and watched the LSU-Mississippi State game.  

In lieu of a traditional bride and groom on top of our Bavarian cream cake, we elected to have a pair of clay LSU Tigers dressed in their best formalwear that we had found on Etsy. They were able to watch an LSU victory while perched atop the second tier.  

To quote one of our male guests, “It was a good day. There was a wedding. Alabama lost. LSU won. And I could play video poker at the reception.”  

The next day we boarded a plane for our honeymoon in San Francisco. When we got to the hotel, I looked at my marriage certificate for the first time. As it turns out…Elvis’s real name was Chad, but this fact did not make my wedding and the vows I took any less real. I will love The Hubs forever and abide by my promise never to leave him at the Heartbreak Hotel—or any hotel.

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