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четверг, 6 апреля 2017 г.

Beer & betrothing in LAS VEGAS!

At the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, couples can get hitched in eight minutes from just $40. Britney Spears and Demi Moore have done it – and so will thousands of Brits this year. We take a peek behind the scenes...
Music courtesy of the King

Girl meets boy, girl likes boy, they have a few drinks - and 17 hours later, they're hitched. That's what happened when Nick Bond, 30, wed Alex Gabrielson, 23, in Vegas in April.

Alex and Nick's speedy nuptials made headlines
Their super-speedy nuptials made global headlines, but they're just one of 110,000 couples who tie the knot in the Nevada Desert every year. In Vegas - nicknamed Sin City for its 24-hour bars and casinos - you can be married by Elvis, with Elvis or even astride a Harley. Tacky? Maybe. Good fun? You betcha!
We arrive just before 8am on a Saturday in June, and wait for the infamous Little White Wedding Chapel to open. It's set back from the road - opposite a sign flashing 'NUDE $10 lap dancers' - and surrounded by a white picket fence. Dominating the building is a 15ft replica of a singing Elvis swinging on a pendulum, while inside, there are five separate chapels with six ministers. Elvis impersonators are on tap, along with lamé tuxedos and Hummer limos.
Up to 100 couples can be married at this chapel in any one day. There's no need to pre-book; just pitch up, choose a package from the menu at the door - such as the simple Lover's Package that costs $229 (£153), or one based on the wedding of basketball star Michael Jordan costing $519 (£347) - then get in the queue and wait to say "I do".
No frock? No problem! There's everything from minidresses to size-30 meringues to hire in the wedding shop. No witnesses? You can hire them too. But rest assured, what happens here in Vegas will stay with you for a lifetime.

8AM The infamous Little White Wedding Chapel
8AMThe doors open and we're greeted by the receptionist. Inside the tiny waiting area, it's all quiet until Ave Maria is switched on and the carpet's vacuumed.
8.05AM"Can we get married now?" asks a groom in his early 30s. His bride is also waiting, and they're both dressed casually in jeans and T-shirts. "I've got to be in work in half an hour." Talk about a rush job! But they don't have a $60 (£40) licence from the town hall - the only prerequisite for getting married in Vegas. They're told to come back again tomorrow.
8.15AMNext up is six months pregnant Jennifer Salezar, 25, and her groom Adam Rodrigez, 27, from Chicago, flanked by Adam's brother Albaro and his wife.

8.15AM Jennifer and Adam at their "romantic" Vegas wedding
The guys are wearing T-shirts printed with tuxedos, while Jennifer hides her bump in a $20 (£13) white dress from Target, the American equivalent of Primark. They've paid $170 (£114) for their service, which lasts eight minutes. "We couldn't afford anything more expensive," says Jennifer, an administrator.
The room, decorated with shiny wallpaper, is filled with fake flowers spilling out from two giant golden pillars either side of the gawdy altar. This is the chapel where Britney Spears tied the knot with childhood friend Jason Alexander in 2004. Their nuptials were annulled just two days later.
Jennifer looks set to fare better. "The ceremony was very romantic," she smiles, flashing her gold wedding band.

10.30AM Shannon and Jim say "I do" at the drive-through
10.30AMOutside it's now 35°C as a group pulls in for a drive-through ceremony in the Tunnel of Love. This enables bikers to exchange vows without leaving the saddle, or for couples to tie the knot through the window of their limo. With packages starting at just $40 (£27), it's the cheapest option.
Divorcee Jim Burrows, 50, and his fiancé, legal secretary Shannon Miller, 40, from California, roar up on their Harley-Davidson in jeans and T-shirts. Jim, a builder, said their wedding cost about $300 (£200). "It's better than spending $15,000 (£10,000) and it not working out," he bellows as he kicks up his Harley. We guess he's referring to his previous marriage!
12NOONCharolette Richards, the chapel's owner, arrives. At 74, she's been looking after weddings Vegas-style for 51 years. "I've had brides throw up on me, grooms faint and brides in labour who just managed to say their vows before dashing to hospital to give birth," she says. "One time, when I said: 'Do you take this man?' the bride turned around and said: 'No'. She told everyone the groom and her best friend had been having an affair, threw her flowers at her friend, and stormed out!"
And, of course, there are the times when a bride or groom is jilted. "It does happen," says Charolette, who's married over 800,000 couples. "I had a bride who turned up three times and the groom never came. Another time I was about to marry a couple when I heard a loud smack. The groom had hit the bride. I refused to marry them."
11.30PM Love me tender: Alex and Tara get hitched

They're not the only ones. The chapel won't marry anyone who seems drunk or under the influence of drugs, and gay weddings are not legally recognised in Nevada. (Charolette won't marry you to your dog either, as she was once asked!)
Originally from Minnesota, Charolette found herself in Vegas in 1959 aged 24 with three children, after her husband left her. She discovered the chapel was for sale and raised $50,000 (£33,400) to buy it - and in six months she'd paid off all her debts. "Vegas weddings are popular for many reasons, one being the cost," she says. "Some couples want to marry quietly, and Vegas has a certain appeal: the history, the romance."
As the chapel of choice for many celebrity nuptials, Charolette has come into contact with more than her fair share of stars. "Britney was as sweet as can be," she recalls. "She cried throughout the entire ceremony. I had no idea who Bruce Willis and Demi Moore were until afterwards. And Joan Collins, who married her fourth husband businessman Peter Holm in 1985, gave me a huge hug for keeping it secret."

12.20PM Ashley calls her missing groom
12.20PMA drama is unfolding in the waiting room. Ashley Jacobsen, 25, from Oceanside, California, is waiting anxiously for her groom, Paul Yoder, 23. The couple forgot their paperwork and Paul was sent back to the hotel to find it 20 minutes earlier. Now he's not answering his mobile. Dressed in a traditional white gown, Ashley paces up and down, calling Paul constantly. "He really irritates me," she seethes. The couple have been together for four years and have a seven-month-old son, Damien. "I'm avery forceful person," she says. "I basically told him we we're getting married."
1.00PMJust as it looks like the wedding's off, Paul arrives, an hour late. Ashley sees him and her face relaxes. There's no time for explanations when they come face to face at the altar. Their ceremony - complete with plastic palm trees in the L'amour Chapel - goes without a hitch.
On hand is wedding planner Rose-Ann Henry, 57, who was on duty in August 2008 when Peaches Geldof got married. "She was a little brat," Rose-Ann says. It was Rose-Ann who found the chapel's first Elvis in 1995. "We've had some pretty rotten Elvises over the years," she says. "They can turn into such divas. They should feel lucky to have a job. I mean, they're playing a dead guy."

4.00PM Elvis enters the building with Janet and Amy
4.00PMA large family group arrives. Janet and Kent Wellish, both 49, from Vegas, and Janet's brother Steve Edberg, 45, and his wife Amy, 47, are here to renew their vows in a surprise ceremony organised by Janet and Kent. "It wasn't until we were driving over that we told them what we'd arranged," says Janet. Luckily, last-minute arrivals can take advantage of the chapel's collection of over 300 wedding dresses, as well as make-up artists and hairdressers.
4.30PMIt's 40°C outside, but there's no stopping the crowds of couples as a long queue snakes through reception. Rhonda Bell-Jones, the chapel's organist, gets ready to play for the next wedding. The 86 year old provides musical accompaniment twice a week. "I offer the bride and groom a choice of traditional, gospel, country, classical or showtunes," she says. "Yesterday I had a guy ask for AC/DC. I said: 'Honey, I'm not even allowed to play Metallica.'"

7.00PM Mark and Jessica say their vows
7.00PMAs the sun starts to go down and the neon signs light up the strip joint across the road, another group of bikers arrive outside on Harleys. Julie Boswell, 49, and Larry Wilfret, 51, drove the 1,748 miles from Chicago for a $40 (£27) ceremony. They disappear into the sunset and are quickly followed by Marines Mark Damm, 28, and Jessica Coco, 29. The pair say their vows standing through the sunroof of a white stretch limo. Jessica's outfit consists of a white basque and tight jeans. "One month ago Mark said 'Let's get married,'" reveals Jessica. Mark grins: "I was drunk."

7.00PM Jessica shows off her bridal basque
8.30PMIt's dark and things at the chapel are slowing down. Elvis - real name Paul Casey, 42 - strums his guitar while he waits. "I'm an actor, not an impersonator and there is a difference," he insists.
10.30PMNext to arrive are four women from Texas and their doctor husbands, all slightly worse for wear. They're about to renew their vows alongside Elvis, who launches into Suspicious Minds. It's a strange song choice, but the couples don't seem to notice.
11.30PMThere's another King in the building when Alex Conteh, a 34 year old from Liverpool dressed as Elvis, struts in. He's followed by his wife Tara, 34, AKA Marilyn Monroe, and his cousin Tom Kelly and his wife Louisa, who have come as the Super Mario Brothers. After picking costumes in a fancy-dress store downtown, Alex and Tara decided to renew their vows, three years after their wedding day. As they hold hands and look into each other's eyes, you easily forget the silly costumes. "I love you so much," says Alex. "You are my best friend. Thank you for everything," replies Tara.
11.30PM Tara and Alex travel Vegas style

1.00AMThe seedy side of Vegas lurks outside, as a prostitute walks by in pink thigh-high boots and hot pants.Cockroaches dance on the pavement and the temperature settles above 38°C. Almost 60 couples have been through the doors today to marry or renew their vows. How many of these unions will last is hard to say. But as each couple says "I do", you can't help but be filled with optimism.
2.00AMThe lights are dimmed and the vacuum cleaner comes out. But the giant Elvis continues to swing outside because here, the King never leaves the building.
Celebs who gambled with love in Vegas

Demi Moore and Bruce Willis
After dating for just three months, Demi, then 24, and Bruce, then 32, tied the knot in November 1987. They divorced in 2000 and have three children together.
Britney Spears and Jason Alexander

In January 2004, pop princess Britney and her childhood friend Jason, both 22, married in a 5am ceremony. Wearing jeans and a baseball cap, Spears was walked down the aisle by a hotel porter. Just 55 hours later, the marriage was annulled.
Peaches Geldof and Max Drummey

In August 2008, 19-year-old Peaches wed Max, 25, a musician in the band Chester French. Six months on, they announced their union had ended amicably, with Max later admitting he'd married for publicity. Peaches' parents, Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, also tied the knot in Vegas.

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