Thursday, May 15, 2008 | 3 a.m.
Each couple coming to Las Vegas to wed has a unique reason.
Whether the ceremony is spur of the moment or needs an Elvis, Gothic or Star Trek theme, this 24/7 town offers a round-the-clock wedding schedule, including drive-through services at some chapels — great for those celebrities in hiding.
An estimated 60,000 couples take their vows in Las Vegas each year.
Restrictions on marriage were eased after the state relaxed divorce laws in 1931, the same year gambling was legalized. A year’s residency was required for a divorce in 1910, but the length was shortened to six months by 1915, and in 1931 the residency requirement dropped to six weeks, making Nevada the place to go for a quickie divorce.
Ironically, the number of weddings in one year skyrocketed after the divorce laws were eased. Clark County records show that 584 weddings were performed in 1930. The next year, 1,048 couples tied the knot.
Weddings became big business in Las Vegas because of the state’s relatively relaxed requirements. Unlike other states, Nevada did not require waiting periods or blood tests. The nature of Las Vegas also allowed any couple to marry at any time, day or night.
Some have said that star power attracts ordinary couples to follow celebrity footsteps down the aisle.
From the city’s earliest beginnings, Las Vegas had the likes of actors Clara Bow and Rex Bell celebrating their nuptials. The actors tied the knot in 1931.
In 1943 actress and “pinup girl” Betty Grable married bandleader and trumpeter Harry James at the historic Little Church of the West, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Las Vegas residents Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme married at the home of El Rancho hotel owner Beldon Katleman on Dec. 29, 1957.
A month later, on Jan. 29, 1958, movie stars Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward said their vows at El Rancho in a private ceremony.
Singer Frank Sinatra and actress Mia Farrow married on July 19, 1966, at the Sands Hotel, where Sinatra had spent more than a decade with the Rat Pack.
Elvis Presley, 32, took Priscilla Anne Beaulieu, 21, as his bride at Milton Prell’s Aladdin Hotel (now Planet Hollywood). It was the first marriage for both, and it took place in the privacy of Prell’s suite.
Singer-dancer Ann-Margret of “Viva Las Vegas” fame and Roger Smith, star of television’s “77 Sunset Strip,” said their vows in 1967 before District Judge John Mowbray at the Riviera Hotel.
Las Vegas legend Wayne Newton, 26, married former airline attendant Elaine Okamura at the Flamingo Hotel in June 1968. Nine years after their divorce, he married attorney Kathleen McCrone at his Shenandoah Ranch.
In 1982, singer Robert Goulet and Vera Chochorovska Novak wed and then rode down the Strip in a horse-drawn surrey to the Dunes Hotel for the reception.
Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton tied the knot on May 5, 2005, at the Little Church of the West.
There were some infamous weddings too, such as Britney Spears and Jason Alexander’s 55-hour marriage and another brief spell of wedded bliss between Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra.
Throughout the decades, the glitz and glitter of Las Vegas has compelled many couples to say, “I do.” No doubt it will continue to draw the marrying sort down the varied aisles (and drive-throughs) of its many chapels.
Las Vegas Sun Intern Bethany Acree contributed to this story.