As most of you know we had an Elvis wedding while in Las Vegas. I have received a lot of questions about the how-to's of getting married in Vegas trough the years. The internet is full of information on the subject, but I know it is always different hearing it from someone directly. And as people were asking I thought I'd make a post on the subject. I had this planned for our first anniversary when all details were still in fresh memory. Now a few years later I was wondering if things have changed but a quick glance on ze world wide web showed me procedure is still pretty much the same.
The first question I always get is: is it a real marriage? Is it legally binding or do you have to do it again at home for it to count?
The answer is Yes, it is a real marriage. But it requires some paperwork.
A couple that we knew were in Vegas the same time as us and when they heard that we got married they asked if we had gotten married at home in the registration office first. When I said no they were all "ah, so this is just more of a commitment then, you will have to do it for real at home you know".
Not only was this a very annoying thing to say at that moment but also not true - it is an actual marriage right away. Taken it that you actually got wed by somebody who is entitled to do so of course. Perhaps those places also exist where you get drunk and wake up with some random new spouse you married in a drive-trough like they do in the movies, but for you to actually be able to get married in Vegas you need a little planning ahead: you need to get a marriage license first.
The license allows you to get married in the state of Nevada. Without a licence a ceremony may be performed, but then it is indeed just a “ personal commitment” or something done just for fun. It does not hold legally anywhere. You get the marriage license from the courthouse; the Marriage License Bureau (which I've also seen called "Clark County Marriage Bureau".) You both have to go there in person to get it, but you can do a pre-application online that saves you a lot of time, and then just pick it up. It's a busy place and the wait can take some hours otherwise. As we did it online at home first we were in and out in about 30 minutes. There was a huge line of people queuing for a license (in the line that had not pre-ordered), but it was fun to watch - so many different nationalities and languages, some couples in sweat pants and tank tops while others in their wedding attire.
The license is 60$.
Also note that Vegas is not exactly pedestrian friendly, to get to the building you will need to take a cab, unless you have a car rented or manage to get on a bus that takes you there.
The Chapel had deals with limo services but we had some friends along so we booked a mini bus via the hotel.
Other things folks wonder about :
Can you just pop in somewhere to get married? Will Elvis perform the ceremony?
The groom waiting for the bride. Or, for Elvis actually.
Whilst you perhaps can just pop in somewhere (when you have your license) we booked our wedding about a month in advance, which is my recommendation, at least in our case when we had a schedule for the day (this was during the Burlesque Hall of Fame) and friends attending. We got the day we wanted but not the time we first had planned as they were already booked then. So chapels are busy.
There are different packages for the ceremony including different things at various Chapels. We had an Elvis wedding at Graceland Chapel with a (great) Elvis that walked me down the aisle, hanged out at the wedding and sang some songs.
(I don't know if there are Elvises that actually perform the ceremony; if there is an Elvis guy that is an officiant and licensed to do so in Nevada then perhaps? ) We had a officiant/minister performing the ceremony that the chapel automatically provided. As with all civil marriages you will need a witness. We had some friends with us which solved it, but it could as well be that cab driver that got you there. If you go to a registered wedding chapel they will sort out a lot for you (they sent a lot of info to us before the actual wedding), and the officiant will do the registration of the wedding to the (officials afterwards. The people at the chapel were very service minded, they know what they are doing as they do it a lot.I think we paid about 300 all in all for our ceremony with Elvis and my flowers. The minister performing the ceremony was paid separately in cash, in this case it was 60$ . There was a photographer present on behalf of the chapel and we paid for the photos later (one was not allowed to take photos during the ceremony). The price was reasonable and we got a link to download the pictures.
Also when planning the day it might be good to know that the actual ceremony was over in about 10 minutes and the whole thing in less than 30, so it is short and sweet.
So, what happens then?
Even though your marriage is registered in the US they will not send out any info to wherever your location is. Once you get home you will need to take a certified copy of the Marriage Certificate and an Apostille from the Nevada Secretary of State to your Local Registration Office (Maistraatti) to have it registered there. An apostille is a form of additional authentication required for international acceptance of notarized documents (
And this is also the part were we went a bit wrong in the sense that we delayed the paperwork-thing; I can't exactly remember what I did or did not do but in any case I went with my official marriage certificate copy and some other paper to the Registration Office at home where I learned it was not enough (and that I was not the first to do so; it apparently happens a lot) - the APOSTILLE was missing. I had of course checked our local site in advance and it states the marriage certificate should be translated (and it would of course have to be an official translation, not your own printed word document). But no one ever cared about that, it was all just about the apostille.
Because snail mail back and forth between here and there takes some time I asked the official if we could just get married again now at home at the office because it would be quicker. But the answer was that it is not possible as already were married. (So again, back to the first question, it is official but not just officially registered in your home country until the paper work is done.)
Some weeks later I got the big A and went back to the office by myself (spouse not needed) and then it was done on this side of the Atlantic too!
Newlyweds on a parking lot, four years ago.
The wedding pictures in this post, apart from the one from the actual ceremony, are by (our wedding witness) Aino.