Fame does not always live up to reality. The sign at the window promises instant marriage for just over $50. Intrigued by the supposed popularity and ease of the phenomenon, we moved into that drive-thru matrimonial and we ask what it occurs to us to ask, starting with whether everything is really resolved there.
The price is confirmed for the most sober of ceremonies, but the same cannot be said for the simplicity of the process.
We are told that a certificate from the Marriage License Bureau of Clark, the Nevada county in which Las Vegas is located, is required first. When we investigate such a cabinet, we discover how easy it is for any romantic enthusiasm to be undone by the cold bureaucracy.
The government building turns out to be prefabricated, too ordinary to be defined in architectural terms. There is a battalion of vagabonds in the vicinity and the line that separates us from the service approaches fifty meters, gradually increased by Mexicans and immigrants from different origins in a hurry to get married to consummate their legalization or conquer other American privileges .
It's hot and there's a lot to explore in Las Vegas and the rest of Nevada. We refuse to believe that the stars who tie the knot there will submit to such punishment and we have decided that, in those conditions, they don't count on us either. If you trust the numbers, let's be an exception.
Over two million marriage licenses are issued every year in the United States. More than 110K – 5% are sued by Clark and are destined for Las Vegas.
In recent times, the numbers have even dropped, but it cannot be said that due to a shortage of supply, much less due to the lack of imagination of countless promoters.
Virtually all hotels and many of the city's restaurants have small spaces that emulate chapels where they host the ceremony.
But weddings can still take place on the local golf courses, in the more or less conventional chapels of the Wedding District, such as the Chapel of the Flowers and, in gazebo chapels, for bikers, simply drive thru or the truly versatile ones that offer a multitude of thematic possibilities.
Want to get married on Treasure Island surrounded by pirates? Choose your favorite fable and become a part of it? Opt for gothic outfits over the classic white dress? Who knows, marrying off into distant galaxies from the Star Trek USS Enterprise?
Aboard a helicopter, balloon and/or broadcast online? Everything is possible. And it only costs a few dollars more than the 50 base and the phone call to set the desired date.
Elvis has become even more idolized thanks to his regular Las Vegas appearances. "Love Me Tender” was one of the themes that he sang the most and after Priscilla Anne Wagner gave in to the appeal, the couple's union also took place in the City of Sin.
Today, 34 years after his death, The King continues to enrich the imagination of Las Vegas and is seen, sometimes simultaneously, at different points of the long Strip or in chapels that offer weddings in its style like the Wee Kirk o' the Heather or the more luxurious addition of the Hilton hotel.
On one of so many days in Vegas, we decided to check out the official start of the Strip and stopped by the popular “Welcome I'm there Vegas".
We ended up with a professional Elvis impersonator who charges a minimum of $10 to let himself be photographed with his pink Cadillac, and a newlywed couple who insisted that their photo shoot pass by.
At that time, they were the last of many others to give in to the less sinful temptation of Las Vegas, part of a list that has several million betrothed and countless personalities from the showbiz and sport.
In addition to Elvis and Priscilla, they married in Vegas Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton, Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere, Carmen Electra and the exuberant Dennis Rodman.
Also Axl Rose of Guns'n'Roses and another basketball idol Michael Jordan – with their respective wives, not each other.
And, for short, André Agassi and Steffi Graff who, if they so wished, could have had their ceremony on a tennis court. They all got together in Vegas with more or less fanfare and media attention, despite the famous maxim “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas".
Some stars became incorrigible fans of the experience and repeated it without showing any boredom. Actor Mickey Rooney, for example, married Ava Gardner for the first time in Las Vegas in 1942 and returned to the city six times to marry other women.
Their persistence inspired Wikipedia to create a complex table that distributes the descendants by each union.
But Sin City is as expert at sponsoring unions as it is at breaking them up. Along the Strip, an army of destitute-looking Mexicans smack small cards together with both hands and loudly announce: “Girls, girls, girls! Cheap girls!".
The gesture, repeated over and over, produces a tech characteristic recognizable from a distance. And at his pace, the ground around him is full of these letters, rejected by passersby who are already tired of the offer or, right from the start, without any interest.
We note that girls and their services are offered not only to men of all ages but also to couples, women and even children. The few dollars earned by Mexicans for their distribution do not seem to pay for common sense or modesty, much less selectivity.
They just justify the priority mission of getting rid of the small parts as quickly as possible.
As in the old towns of the North American gold rush, here too money abounds and prostitution flourishes. And when it's not about the adultery or paid sex, gambling addiction and the ruin it leads to justify, by itself, the abrupt collapse of thousands of relationships and families.
Las Vegas doesn't matter as long as the profit doesn't stop increasing. If marriages are consummated in three stages and for symbolic values, the city's divorces are not far behind.
One to three days is enough for the judge to define the sharing of children, assets and debts. "The show must go On” and, in Las Vegas, there is always a second chance.