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Las Vegas Weddings Are... Different - 2003-09-20

The average American wedding costs between $20,000 and $30,000. But getting married doesn't have to be a big expense, especially if you get married in the gambling capital of Las Vegas, Nevada. Despite the smaller price tag, there isn't necessarily a shortage of fanfare.

In Sin City, you can get married in an instant. Literally. You've probably seen or at least heard of fast food drive-up windows. In Las Vegas, there are drive-up wedding chapels. You and your partner don't even have to turn off the car. It's that fast and convenient. Drive-up weddings are usually only a few hundred dollars, and are legally binding.

Some of the hotels in Las Vegas have small wedding chapels next to their casinos, so you can quickly return to gambling once you're officially husband and wife.

Las Vegas is a great place for a quick, low-cost wedding, and it's also where you'll find the most... unique types of weddings on the planet as well.

"We do everything from an Elvis Blue Hawaii, where you get married by Elvis with showgirls or hula girls," said Shannon Maning, who manages the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, one of the area's leaders when it comes to… unique.

"We have Camelot weddings where you get married by King Arthur or Merlin, Gangster Weddings where you get married by the God Father, 60s with Austin Powers, Disco with John Travolta, Victorian, Gothic Weddings where you get married by the Grim Reaper. Good 'old Grim," adds Shannon Maning.

In case you were wondering, they do take requests at Viva Las Vegas. "From time to time we get risqué brides who want to be naked or in sheer gowns," she said. "Gothic wedding where they wanted Tom Jones to be there and Elvis. Grim Reaper did the ceremony and both Tom Jones sang and Elvis sang," recalls Shannon Maning.

And if the Grim Reaper or Tom Jones isn't quite your style, the chapel has other celebrity impersonators on call to perform as Marilyn Monroe, Donna Summer, Cher and many others.

Gary Alexander usually presides over ceremonies here as Elvis Presley. "Usually the people who come here to do an Elvis wedding or any of the themed weddings are here to enjoy themselves," he said. "Everyone laughs and has a good time with it. We try to keep it serious enough to where there's some meaningful commitment, but we like to have good time with it. Look how I'm dressed!"

With his sideburns, slicked-back hair, extra large sunglasses, and massive gold belt, he looks just like an older Elvis - albeit in better shape than the King of Rock and Roll was at that time.

The Elvis Blue Hawaii wedding ceremony begins with Gary's rendition of Can't Help Falling in Love, as Hula girls escort the bride and groom into the chapel.

"We close the ceremony with a nice little thing," said Dary Alexander. "I usually ask them, 'Do you promise to adopt each other's hound dogs; to never wear you blue suede shoes in the rain; to always be each other's teddy bear and to give each a hunk a hunk-a burning love? By the power vested in me - The King - I now pronounce you husband and wife. Thank you very much.'"

With that, Gary sings the Elvis standard Viva Las Vegas, the wedding party and the hula girls dance and the smoke machines add a nice touch to the ambiance.

Newlyweds Ian and Pamela Cutis-Otter are visiting the United States from Australia. They chose the Elvis Blue Hawaii theme wedding not only because they're fans of the King of Rock and Roll, but because they wanted the celebration to focus on them rather than on their families.

While they say that saving money on the wedding wasn't the biggest consideration, it did allow them to stay in the United States longer and see more of the country.

Ian: This is both our first times to America and we're enjoying it.

Pamela: We're honeymooning in Hawaii. We're going to San Francisco as well and LA and...

Ian: We're about a month away on holidays.

Friends and family members who can't be there in person for the wedding, can still enjoy a Viva Las Vegas ceremony. The chapel has webcams and microphones that capture every moment, to broadcast live on its website. Ian Cutis-Otter said he invited his family to celebrate by throwing confetti at their computer screens back home in Australia.

Photos courtesy - Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel