Thursday, June 21, 2007 | 7:17 a.m.
If marriage is a gamble, an unprecedented number of couples are hoping for improved odds in finding seventh heaven by getting married in Las Vegas about 77 hours after Independence Day.
Wedding chapels are reporting record bookings for 07-07-2007 - which reduces nicely to the lucky 7-7-7 for the superstitious among us.
Clark County, which recorded 122,000 marriages last year, could host 3,000 or more weddings that day at its 40 or so wedding chapels - maybe 10 times the average. On a normal Saturday during the summer , the Clark County License Bureau says , it issues 300 to 500 licenses at $55 a pop.
Among those who have booked a chapel for July 7 are Las Vegans Bobby Schuman and Betty Mattish.
The two 47-year-olds are among seven couples - strangers to one another - who will marry in a group ceremony at 1:07 p.m. at the Little White Wedding Chapel. The package deal is priced at, well, $77 a couple.
The opportunity to marry on 7-7-7 is too novel to pass up, Schuman said. "Besides, it will be real easy to remember my anniversary date," the truck driver and 36-year resident of Las Vegas said.
Charlotte Richards, who operates seven (really!) chapels, including the Little White Wedding Chapel, says July 7 will be her busiest day in 48 years in the marrying business.
She has booked 400 weddings so far for 7-7-7 and thinks her staff of 75 may hitch more than 700 couples. Her record to date: 300.
"I'm just awestruck," said Richards, an ordained minister who will employ 14 other ministers on July 7 to help her get the job done. "I never thought I would live to see so many people get married in one 24-hour period."
Getting married on 7-7-7 might actually make psychological sense because such number combinations help establish order in an otherwise chaotic world, UNLV sociology professor Simon Gottschalk said. "We like predictability. We need predictability."
Seven has always been considered a lucky number, deeply rooted in religion, superstition and gambling.
Lining up three sevens on a slot machine wins a jackpot. Sevens also are good on come-out rolls at craps, unless you bet the don't come line.
There are the Seven Seas, Seven Wonders of the World, seven deadly sins, seven continents, seven days of the week, seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer and seven sacraments.
The ancient Babylonians celebrated the seven sacred planets, not realizing that down the road someone would find an eighth.
The book of Genesis says God created heaven and earth in seven days (which included a day to rest).
Among the sevens that will be in evidence on July 7:
Infatuation with lucky sevens doesn't appear to be spilling over into wedding plans at churches. There is no July 7 wedding bubble.
In fact, there's not a single wedding planned for July 7 at Community Lutheran Church, said its wedding coordinator, Caroline Conway.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas said there is no indication that its area churches will be any busier with weddings on July 7.
That church goers are not playing the numbers game does not surprise church officials.
Conway said people who marry in churches usually do so for reasons of faith and spirituality, and are not driven to the altar because of a superstitious or lucky date.
Diocese spokeswoman Rachel Wilkinson said although the church and parishioners recognize sevens as a "sign of perfection," as with the seven sacraments, the number doesn't translate in wedding planning.
Although the wedding chapel business will be bursting at the seams, the hotel business doesn't seem to be feeling any effects of the calendar.
Caesars Palace spokeswoman Alyssa Bushey said there has been no spike in requests for room numbers that include a seven.
A spokeswoman for MGM Grand reported the same disinterest.
Soon-to-be groom Schuman says he is a superstitious gambler who is careful not to step on cracks when he enters a casino. And on July 7, he said, he's going to create his own luck.
"On July 7, I will hit the sevens when I marry Betty," he said. "And I won't even have to go into a casino."