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TRAVEL: Gambling on wedded bliss in Las Vegas

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Frank Basile

Katrina found the dress at a boutique in Tucson, Ariz. I offered to buy it, but she said no.

Unknown to me at the time, she picked up the card from the sales clerk and later bought the dress by phone. She later told me she knew it would be her wedding dress, but she didn’t know if the wedding would involve me or someone else—depending upon when I got around to proposing!

Luckily, I did. And the dress was packed when we headed for Las Vegas. See, since Katrina and I had both been married before, we did not want a traditional wedding. So we went to the traditional home of non-traditional nuptials.

Even before we crossed into Nevada’s airspace, we knew it was going to be an interesting trip. On the Southwest Airlines plane en route, the guy sitting next to Katrina discerned we were getting married, promptly told the flight attendant, and soon we were presented with a unique gift: a roll of toilet paper decorated with our names scribbled on it. And candles.

Er, thanks.

They also served us a free mixed drink of our choice and gave us a bottle of champagne as we left the plane.

Definitely thanks. These days, about-to-be-weds are unlikely to get such perks, but it was certainly a pleasant way to start our trip.

Upon arrival in Vegas, we took a taxi to the courthouse to obtain our marriage license. There was a long line, though not as long as the divorce line. I understand that divorces and weddings are the second-most-lucrative industry in Vegas, next to gambling. (At least, the second-most-lucrative legal industry.)

People-watching in the marriage-license line helped pass the time. We saw men with women who could be their granddaughters. We saw scantily clad women. We saw people who were clearly intoxicated and others who appeared to be suffering from hangovers.

To fill out the marriage-license application, there was a bowl with small pencils without erasers, like those at golf courses. Five people with computers were processing applications. For $10, you could get a certified copy of the license. The lady behind the counter recommended that we get two copies, “one for each of you, just in case, to hedge your bets.”

One couple behind us asked how long we had known each other and I said, “Five years.” I asked the near-bride of the pair the same question.

“Last night,” she answered, telling us it was love at first sight—which might have seemed romantic if the poor guy didn’t look so out of it. He never uttered a word.

The couple in front of us? They were from Baltimore. We said that one of our favorite restaurants there was Phillip’s. Theirs, too. We told them we also enjoyed the Horse You Rode in On Saloon. They did, too. And it looked like we had made new friends … until we told them where we now lived.

“You people stole the Colts!” barked the suddenly hostile groom-to-be.

Some hurts die slowly.

As we departed the courthouse, license in hand, there were people hawking various chapels, not unlike those promoting clubs as you walk down Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I jokingly asked Katrina if she wanted to be married by Elvis. She responded without hesitation, “If Elvis shows up, I’m marrying Elvis!”

The site we ultimately chose was the venerable Church of the West, the only building in Las Vegas to be designated a national historic landmark. The minister at the church—and the former head of the Salvation Army of Las Vegas—Paul Alexander, delivered a brief, but uplifting, message with enthusiasm.

For one package price, we received a nice video of the ceremony along with the certificate and several photographs. The price also included flowers, church rental, and rice, as well as the services of Rev. Alexander and two witnesses. Since the couple scheduled to be married before us did not show, we scored bonus time with the minister and the photographer took extra photos.

Back at the office the following Monday, my boss, Gene Glick, asked what I had done over the weekend.

To his shock, I told him about the leap Katrina and I had taken. 

What else happened in Vegas on this trip stayed there!•

__________

Basile is an author, professional speaker, philanthropist, community volunteer and retired executive of Gene B. Glick Co. His column appears occasionally. Basile can be reached at Frank_Basile@sbcglobal.net.

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