In the span of an hour or so Thursday at A Little White Wedding Chapel, an Australian couple renewed their vows in the canopy-covered drive- thru, tourists stopped by to take photos outside the chapel, and a couple became husband and wife in the back of a pink Cadillac convertible.
Just another day at the iconic Las Vegas wedding spot, which, after years of marrying couples from around the country and the world, is now up for sale.
A Little White Wedding Chapel, at 1301 Las Vegas Blvd. South, between the Strip and downtown, went on the market last week for $12 million. Buyers would get the business and its acre of real estate from 84-year-old owner Charolette Richards, the so-called “Wedding Queen of the West.”
The volume of marriages in Las Vegas — the self-proclaimed “Wedding Capital of the World” — has plunged from pre-recession peaks. But it’s still a wildly popular place to tie the knot, including at roadside wedding chapels such as Richards’, where you can get married by Elvis.
Savi Realty owner Steven Khalilzadegan, the listing broker, said A Little White Wedding Chapel is “very profitable” — he declined to give details — and performs 100 weddings a day on weekends.
Prices range from $50 for a ceremony in the gazebo or the “tunnel of love” drive-thru, to $1,215 for an in-flight ceremony on a helicopter, according to the chapel’s website.
Richards, a Minnesota native, told the Review-Journal on Thursday that she bought the chapel nearly 60 years ago and wants to retire. She doesn’t move around as well as she used to, and her kids don’t want to take over the business, she said.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” she said of her pending exit from the chapel.
As Richards described it, couples from around the world, including China, France and Africa, as well as from across the U.S., have exchanged vows there. According to its website, the chapel has also “performed or been a part of” weddings for several celebrities, including Mary Tyler Moore, Paul Newman, Michael Jordan and Britney Spears.
Australian tourists Mark and Jocelyn Atmore, both high school teachers, renewed their vows Thursday in the chapel’s drive-thru, their two children with them in a rented Chevrolet Camaro convertible.
The couple married in 2007 and had renewed their vows before, including three years ago in front of the Bellagio fountains. On Thursday, Mark Atmore drove his wife to A Little White Wedding Chapel — which features a sign out front with a mechanical, legs-swaying Elvis — for a surprise renewal.
“This time he thought it’d be a bit cheesier, a bit cuter to come here,” Jocelyn Atmore said.
Her husband said he found the place online when searching for Las Vegas wedding chapels.
He figured it was “a bit quirky … a bit more Vegas.”
Rules of marriage
Clark County issued around 74,500 marriage licenses last year, down from more than 120,000 in 2004, county documents show.
And while out-of-towners might think of a Las Vegas wedding as a spur-of-the-moment drunken decision, Chuck Petersen, a minister at A Little White Wedding Chapel, said couples “cannot get married if they’ve been drinking.”
“It causes nothing but problems,” he said.
County spokeswoman Stacey Welling said people “have to be coherent” when they tie the knot, as they are “entering into a legal contract.”
Under state law, there is cause for annulment if either person is “incapable of assenting” to the union.