Love, luck get hitched

RENO -- Fred Botero went to great lengths to ensure he could get married at precisely 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011.

The Macon, Ga., man and his bride put down a deposit of $1,111.11 to reserve the slot nearly a year in advance.

"We knew it was a big day and a tough day to get. We didn't want to take a chance and booked the wedding early," the 53-year-old purchasing manager said moments before their ceremony began at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel.

Stephanie Joseph, a supervisor in the Clark County Marriage Bureau in Las Vegas, said about 1,700 licenses had been issued as of mid-day Friday for 11-11-11 weddings, second only to the 2,598 licenses issued for 7-7-07 weddings.

"We think it'll be our second biggest day ever," she said, adding that the licenses issued Thursday and Friday surpass the 1,396 licenses issued for last year's 10-10-10 weddings.

A record 235 weddings were booked at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, owner Ron Decar said, noting that the figure surpassed its previous high of 160 weddings on 10-10-10.

"It's the biggest day in history for us," Decar said. "I think it could be because we're running out of triple-digit days and 12-12-12 will be the last triple-digit day for some time."

Charlotte Richards, owner of A Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, said nearly half of her chapel's record 400-plus booked weddings Friday involved veterans who also wanted to get hitched on Veterans Day. Business also was brisk at her drive-up windows.

"Today has been absolutely unbelievable," she said. "Since 7 a.m. it's been one couple after another. This is the first time I've had to use all 17 of my ministers. I've been in the business for 53 years, and this is the first time I've been so overwhelmed by weddings."

One of her chapel's customers, Ralph Duran of Clovis, Calif., was among those who took advantage of its traditional offer of free weddings for military veterans.

"My bride and I liked it because of date 11-11-11 and the symbolism of Veterans Day," said Duran, 34, who served two tours of duty in Iraq and was a sergeant in the Marines. "We wanted a day where we would not only be able to celebrate with family and friends our wedding anniversary, but our service to our country."

What organizers hailed as the world's largest wedding reception was scheduled Friday night at the Tropicana Las Vegas hotel-casino. The roughly 3,500 people involved in Sin City weddings on Friday were invited to the unique nightclub party, to be capped with a champagne toast at 11:11 p.m.

In Reno, the Washoe County Marriage Bureau had issued 125 licenses as of mid-day and was expected to issue roughly 100 more licenses for 11-11-11 weddings, supervisor Karen Erickson said. That compares with 437 licenses issued for July 7, 2007 weddings.