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Allure of weddings keeps chapel humming

Cricket chirps fill the gazebo outside the Little White Wedding Chapel — at least they do in between the whooshing of vehicles along Las Vegas Boulevard. The chapel’s first bride and groom of May 16, 2009 face one another.

“Tremaine, I want you to go back to that very first time you met,” minister Thomas Johnson urges.

That was three years ago in their hometown of McKinney, Texas. Tremaine Mitchell was the tool repair tech at Home Depot, Erin Dunn the head cashier.

Johnson continues: “She was walking down the aisle and you said, ‘Ooh, is this girl good.’ “

The line between tradition and the untraditional tends to get washed out in the midnight glow of huge signs reading “24 HR. DRIVE UP WEDDING WINDOW.”

Trouble brews in the lobby. Best man Beamer Tailfeathers has invited Andrew Weaselmoccasin next door for drinks. But Charolette Richards won’t allow it. The chapel owner says she won’t marry anybody who has had alcohol.

“Really?” Tailfeathers replies. “You married Michael Jordan and he must have been drunk.” (Jordan and Joan Collins are both name-dropped by the glowing sign.)

Weaselmoccasin, 30, and Natalie White Quills, 36, step onto the fake-grass patio to calm their jitters another way — with their last smoke as a single couple. Together for eight years, they had planned to marry in September at home in Alberta, Canada. But they’re on a retreat with staffers for the Blood Indian clinic that White Quills manages. And this is what couples are supposed to do when they find themselves in Vegas and in love, right?

Their private conversation is interrupted by unsolicited advice whooshing by at 50 mph.

“Don’t get married!” screams a passenger in a red pickup.

Ian and Melissa Gilbert wait in the drive-through chapel for Roddy Ragsdale, who lives in a nearby apartment. Ragsdale is paid to croon “Love Me Tender” and three other songs for couples who purchase the $325 “Tribute To Elvis” package.

This groom, 31, wears a puke-green satin shirt with pink cuffs that match the hotpants of his bride, 26. Pink also is the color of the Cadillac they’re itching to sit in. (Richards makes it available to all Elvis package customers.)

The Gilberts were married back home in Paris three years ago today. But they wanted a Las Vegas wedding so badly, they considered divorcing just to make this more official.

“It was too complicated,” Ian explains in broken English.

At 12:45 a.m., Richards flips the sign on the main chapel door to read “wedding in progress.” Weaselmoccasin and White Quills have decided to ignore the advice of the screaming motorist.

The Gilberts spot a golden figure walking north on Las Vegas Boulevard.

“Oh my god!” Melissa screams.

Elvis is entering the building.

Contact reporter Corey Levitan at clevitan@review journal.com or 702-383-0456.

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