Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide


Fast, fun, and incredibly well researched, Las Vegas Weddings is the ultimate guide to getting hitched, Elvis style. Covering everything from the rise of the town to legendary star marriages and an entire section devoted to "The King," it even has a chapel guide to help budding young couples plan their own Vegas wedding getaway. Filled with rare photographs and never-before-heard stories, it also includes:

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Fast, fun, and incredibly well researched, Las Vegas Weddings is the ultimate guide to getting hitched, Elvis style. Covering everything from the rise of the town to legendary star marriages and an entire section devoted to "The King," it even has a chapel guide to help budding young couples plan their own Vegas wedding getaway. Filled with rare photographs and never-before-heard stories, it also includes:

  • Colorful descriptions of the town's funky stand-alone chapels and the Strip's swankiest resorts
  • A unique look at Elvis impersonators
  • More than fifty celebrity weddings, from Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thorton to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
  • Theme weddings, like Star Trek, Camelot, or Elvis's Blue Hawaii
  • And much, much more
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Although Las Vegas is in a county that boasts less than .5% of America's population, it's host to about 5% of the country's weddings. With everyone from Britney to the couple next door getting hitched there, the city's matrimony industry is indeed fascinating and rife with quirky detail. First-time author Marg captures some of the phenomenon, but the book's lack of a cohesive organization often makes it feel as rushed as a quickie wedding. After giving a history of the city and its wedding establishments, Marg presents lengthy stories of celebrities who've married there, complete with observations on their relationships. This kind of chatty commentary wears thin quickly; it's followed by an extensive section on Elvis that seems far too detailed, even for the king of Vegas. Another shift occurs when Marg writes about Ron DeCar, who owns one local chapel. Although DeCar is charming, Marg's abrupt change in writing style from essayistic prose to article format is jarring. Marg does excel in describing the city's wedding history, juxtaposing Vegas's rise as gambling capital with its pursuit of bridal traffic, and the result is compelling. In general, though, readers looking to tie the knot in Sin City will gain more by cruising down the Strip in person. (On sale Nov. 9) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060726195
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/9/2004
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,542,570
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Marg has made many trips to Las Vegas. After beginning to wonder what stories might be found in the city’s many wedding chapels, she undertook the research that culminated in this book. She lives with her husband, the author James C. Simmons, in Del Mar, California. They did not get married in Vegas, but they are planning a renewal-of-vows ceremony with an Elvis impersonator for their next anniversary.

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First Chapter

Las Vegas Weddings
A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide

Chapter One

From Cow Town to Mobster Central

In the Beginning

"Lucky at love, unlucky at cards" goes the saying, and the history of the Las Vegas wedding industry is inextricably linked to the history of Las Vegas itself. The mob has molded it, the movies have shaped it, and celebrities who have played on its stage have glamorized it until its past is mired in myth. Like the stories in the Bible, the history of Las Vegas takes place in the desert. Chronicles of fire and floods, tales of good battling temptation, and accounts of weakness giving in to the pleasures of vice have been told and retold, the town's notoriety for rowdy bars and bawdy broads going back to its beginnings.

Las Vegas is the site of life-sustaining artesian springs. When in 1826 Spanish-speaking traders came across the unexpected oasis the springs produced, they named the area "the meadows." About seventy-five years later, the San Pedro Railroad decided the watering hole was a logical railroad stop, given that it was the midpoint between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. When the last tie in the track was put down, the railroad auctioned off the parcels of land around the station. Hyped by publicity and bolstered by inexpensive train tickets to bring in speculators, the properties sold quickly, some going for as much as $1,750. This was May 15, 1905, a day the temperature reached 110 degrees in the shade, if there was any shade, and the day that Las Vegas was officially founded.

That same year the town's first newspaper, first bank, and even its first hotel, the Hotel Las Vegas, a thirty-room building with a canvas roof, opened. The tent town of saloons, stores, and boardinghouses for railroad construction workers, miners, and cowboys was slowly being replaced with somewhat more permanent fixtures, ones with at least a wooden façade. The Las Vegas Ranch also opened. Constructed on the site of the first working ranch in the area, it was fashioned as a retreat, with a swimming pool and billiard hall, and was a forerunner of things to come. Las Vegas also experienced its first fire, one of unknown and, therefore, suspicious origins. It started in Chop House Bill's kitchen and quickly spread through five nearby buildings, destroying everything in its path.

Not everyone getting off the train was impressed with Las Vegas, and many chose to turn around or head on rather than stay and deal with the dust and wind. A flood in 1906 washed out part of the railroad, discouraging others from staying, although the line was repaired. Still, another hotel, the Nevada, was soon ready for business, followed by the MacDonald Hotel on Fifth Street shortly after.

In keeping with a boisterous frontier town, a rough-and-tumble red-light district grew up where whiskey cost a dime a shot and burros bellying up to the bar did not bother anyone. The parcel of land, known as Block 16, was bounded by First and Second streets, and Ogden and Stewart avenues, immediately north of Fremont. It was the only place where liquor could legally be sold, except for hotels and restaurants, because of an encumbrance the railroad had included in its deeds. Needless to say, bordellos and gambling clubs followed the saloons, and the area was a favorite of anyone with a thirst to quench or an itch to scratch. Predating Nevada's reputation for an independent, devil-may-care attitude, the patrons of the Arizona Club and other concerns of Block 16 were quick to ignore the 1910 state law outlawing gambling, passed as part of a national reform movement, and the later 1919 Prohibition Enforcement Act banning alcohol.

In 1907 Fremont Street got electric lights, and the town continued to grow. When Clark County was founded July 1, 1909, the city of Las Vegas became the county seat. With as few as 19 residents in 1900, Las Vegas was home to 1,500 people when it was incorporated as the first city in Nevada in 1911. By the time electricity was available twenty-four hours a day in 1915, its population had grown to over 3,000 people.

About this time neighboring California first gave young couples or those young at heart and madly in love a reason for crossing the desert, frequently late at night, usually with no forethought and little planning. Wanting to protect its citizens from themselves, the state decreed a three-day waiting period between receiving a marriage license and saying the marriage vows. Referred to as the 1912 "gin law," it was enacted to keep people waking up with a hangover from adding to their misery by learning that they had gotten married while drunk. Without any effort at all, Vegas's incursion into the wedding business had begun, as those too impatient or immature to wait found their way to the other side of the Mojave.

Las Vegas, Be Dammed

The fortunes of Las Vegas were not easily made, however, and the next decade was a difficult one for the town. In 1917 the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad went broke, and the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake line was sold to the Union Pacific Railroad, throwing into jeopardy not only jobs, but the entire commercial viability of the area. Five years later, when the railroad moved its repair shop out of Las Vegas in retribution for local workers' participation in a strike, things looked dire, indeed. The boom times for the mining towns that Las Vegas serviced were over. Rhyolite, Goldfield, and Bullfrog had become ghost towns by the end of World War I. Las Vegas, too, could have become a ghost town. "Without air conditioning Las Vegas is almost uninhabitable in the summertime," historian Hal Rothman has observed. "And there were relatively few people here and relatively little reason for anyone else to come here."

There was some progress. In 1925 Fremont Street, as part of the state highway, was paved from Main Street to Fifth Street, although only down the middle ...

Las Vegas Weddings
A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide
. Copyright © by Susan Marg. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2005


    This book is not just about weddings. It¿s about Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack after dark at the Sands, Howard Hughes buying the Desert Inn, and Elvis Presley playing to sell-out audiences at the Hilton International. It¿s about a town that turned nuclear testing into a picnic in the fifties and created a new identity for itself in the nineties and again in the last few years. And, yes, it¿s about weddings and all the fabulous people who had weddings in this fabulous town. This should be required reading for any one considering getting married in Vegas. I strongly recommend it for all pop-culture enthusiasts, this book is a hoot!

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