A Perfect 10/10/10: Pastor expects one of the busiest wedding days of the year

A young bride and groom exchanged their vows in the cockpit of a whirlybird as they hovered 1,000 feet above the Strip’s bright glow.

The Rev. Jim Hamilton sat behind the couple and pronounced them husband and wife — a phrase he has uttered thousands of times — through the buzz of a helicopter headset.

During the 12-minute flight, Hamilton sounded more like a tour guide than a man of the cloth as he pointed out the famed bright lights of the Las Vegas skyline.

As the pilot swooped near the top of the Stratosphere, the newlyweds locked lips, and the 72-year-old pastor giggled in delight with a toothy grin that stretched from ear-to-ear. It’s clear Hamilton enjoys uniting couples in matrimony.

"This is kind of a neat way to spend my retirement years," he said. "It keeps me in good health and keeps my mind alert."

The grandfatherly Hamilton discussed his passion for weddings during an interview in a small coffee shop. In the parking lot sat his "office," a small white Hyundai. A gray blazer hung in the back, and Hamilton pulled out a stack of wedding licenses he needed to turn in to the county.

Today, that stack of wedding licenses will grow larger, he said, as the wedding industry buzzes about one of this year’s most popular days to get married: 10/10/10. On this day, Hamilton will be responsible for more than 30 weddings at the Valley of Fire, the Grand Canyon and night flight weddings over the Strip.

Hamilton sipped at the hot coffee and told a story about dueling Elvis impersonators during a wedding at the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign. The rivaling Elvises were trying to outdo each other. One had a megaphone; the other, a microphone.

His 50-year pastoral career, which began with his ordainment in Wichita, Kan., at the Church of the Nazarene, is full of such anecdotes. Life’s ups and downs came along the way: run-ins with celebrities, two movie roles, his own divorce, a second marriage and a one-year sabbatical to re-examine his career.

He resigned from the Las Vegas Church of the Nazarene, where he served for eight years. He was going through a divorce, and the church didn’t allow for a divorced minister, Hamilton said.

He re-established his pastoral career in 1982 and formed Sunrise Community Church in Henderson.

Hamilton spoke about meeting Nicolas Cage in 1992 during his cameo as the reverend character in the final scene of "Honeymoon in Vegas."

"He called me over to talk about the wedding industry," Hamilton said, in between sips of coffee. "I’ll never forget, he was reading a book about alligators."

In the 15-second scene before the credits, a darker-haired Hamilton peers over his glasses and delivers a short monologue about marriage. Then he pronounces Cage and co-star Sarah Jessica Parker as man and wife.

The credits roll.

In 1996, Hamilton also played a small movie role during a funeral in "Bogus," which starred Whoopi Goldberg. He recently received his occasional residual checks for his appearances: $12.91 for "Honeymoon in Vegas" and $0.96 for "Bogus."

He even appeared on television talk shows with Joan Rivers and Jenny Jones in the early ’90s to discuss Vegas wedding culture. Rivers dubbed Hamilton "The King of I Dos. "

Tough economic times have more couples saying "I do" by themselves rather than planning large weddings with their families and friends, Hamilton said.

He would know. He has signed more than 63,000 marriage licenses in Clark County.

The county averages more than 100,000 weddings annually. Those numbers have fluctuated as the county’s economy rebounds from the recession. According to the county’s marriage bureau, weddings peaked in 2004 with 128,250 marriage licenses issued. Just three years later, that number had decreased by 20,000.

The wedding boom nationwide has slowed in the past five years by about 200,000 weddings. In 2009, the country saw an estimated 2,152,000 weddings, according to WE TV Networks Wedding Report, which tracks market research and industry statistics.

Megan Powell is marrying her fiance Scott Frost on this day because she calls it a "once in a lifetime opportunity to get married on 10/10/10."

"That day will never happen again," Powell said. "We’ve had parties since it was 05/05/05, and we’ve had huge celebrations every year since."

On 06/06/06 she threw a devil-themed party, and on 07/07/07 the couple had a patriotic and slot machine-themed party.

"It’s perfect because this year we have all of our friends waiting for our biggest party yet," Powell said.

Las Vegas long has been a destination city for weddings. Elvis married Priscilla in May 1967 at the Aladdin. Brandon Reed, general manager at Graceland Wedding Chapel, said the city is the No. 1 destination in the country to get married with its more than 40 wedding chapels citywide.

On a hot summer day, about 15 people from Wisconsin packed into the tiny downtown chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard South near Bonneville Avenue and watched as a bride and groom promised their "hunk-a hunk-a burnin’ love" to one another. An Elvis impersonator clad in a black jumpsuit with red and gold sequins presided over the 10-minute wedding.

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll peered over a pair of thick, gold aviators and made the bride promise "not to step on the groom’s blue suede shoes, treat him like a hound dog or leave him at heartbreak hotel," all classic Elvis song titles.

Las Vegas weddings have become world-class hotel and fine dining packages, though more affordable wedding packages are still offered, Reed added.

Reed said he has seen many changes throughout the industry, including the use of technology. Five-dollar cassette recordings from the chapels have become free Internet streaming of the ceremony.

"We’re a viable option for people looking to save money," said Reed, who added the average wedding costs between $20,000 to 28,000. "In our economy, people are more cost-conscious than ever before. It’s simple to pitch Las Vegas. It takes very little effort to convince someone to come get married here."

Some chapels offer online package deals for as little as $350, an enticing price for those looking to save money but still have a Las Vegas wedding experience.

Reed flies to Europe to recruit clientele, which he said has boosted his chapel’s business by about 30 percent. His globe-trotting started after casino hotels began offering their own chapels, forcing him to get creative to stay competitive in the industry.

"It’s a huge thing for us these days," Reed said. "As far as the wedding business in Vegas, I can only speak for us, but all of those people that were planning big grandiose weddings at the country club or far off exotic places like Bali are canceling their plans and coming to Las Vegas. Even if they don’t speak English, you say ‘Las Vegas,’ and their eyes light up."

The Internet changed the industry, and Hamilton noticed a difference in business immediately when his eight helicopter weddings a month became 80.

"We’ll marry you anywhere you stand still for five minutes," he joked.

Valentine’s Day in 1996 was his busiest day ever. Hamilton presided over 85 weddings — one at a time — beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at midnight at the old Candlelight Wedding Chapel.

Some of his marriages have lasted longer than others. Hamilton acknowledges that about half will end in divorce such as celebrity couple Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie, whom he married in 2000. In a scrapbook photo, a much younger Hamilton stands to the right of the happy and casually dressed couple. Thornton is wearing a John Deere hat. Hamilton pasted a copy of their marriage license on the next page.

The picture is posted among Hamilton’s other celebrity wedding memories, including those he married and others he met in the bridal parties.

In Hamilton’s scrapbook is a copy of golfer John Daly’s marriage license and photos of the preacher standing next to Pee-wee Herman, Frankie Valle, John Wayne Bobbitt and other public figures. One of his most memorable weddings was Steve McPeak, a daredevil who married his wife on high wires at Hoover Dam. Hamilton spoke to the couple with a walkie-talkie.

After decades of treating weddings as a religious venture, Hamilton said he struggled with realizing his practice was now more about profit rather than faith.

"You’ve got to come to grips from a spiritual aspect that it’s a business, and you’ve got to recognize that," Hamilton said. "I’ve seen a lot of ministers come and go, and that’s really why they didn’t last. It was a tough transition."

In the end, it was his religious faith that prospered him, he said.

"God has been really good to me," Hamilton said. "They say you make your own breaks, and I think that’s true, but I’ve worked hard at it. But there are certain things a man can’t do that God does."

Contact Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Ceremony Recognizes Refugee Students, Graduates
Rosy Mibulano, a graduate of Las Vegas High School who came to America from the Congo in 2015, was recognized in a ceremony for refugee students in Clark County. Like many other students relocated to Las Vegas from countries around the world, Rosy had a challenging high school experience, from learning English to adjusting to American customs and taking care of her family. On top of that, she wants to go to school to become a nurse so she can take care of her mother, who suffers from diabetes. The annual Refugee Recognition Ceremony celebrates the enormous lengths these young adults go through to create a new life for themselves. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Water leak at Mandalay Bay convention center
The convention center area of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas experienced major flooding Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Melinda Cook
Hollywood Memorabilia Up For Grabs at Las Vegas Auction
Elvis Presley's car, Marilyn Monroe's bras, Han Solo's blaster, and Jerry Lewis's "Nutty Professor" suit are just some of the items that are up for auction at Julien's Auctions at Planet Hollywood June 22 and 23. The auction's viewing room at Planet Hollywood is open to the public 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Saturday at Planet Hollywood. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Springs Preserve Exhibit Shows Off "Nature's Ninjas"
"Nature's Ninjas" arrives at the Springs Preserve, in an exhibit and live show featuring critters that come with natural defenses, from armadillos to snakes, poison dart frogs to scorpions and tarantulas (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CrossRoads of Southern Nevada psychiatric urgent care to open in Las Vegas
Jeff Iverson, who operates the nonprofit sober living facility Freedom House, is opening a private addiction treatment center that will operate a detoxification center and transitional living for substance users trying to recover. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser gives update of officer-involved shooting
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser provides an update about an officer-involved shooting at Radwick Drive and Owens Avenue in the northeast Las Vegas on Thursday. A robbery suspect was shot and killed. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Wayne Newton surprises burglars
Wayne Newton and his wife, Kathleen, arrived at their southeast Las Vegas home shortly before midnight on Wednesday to find two burglars inside their house. The burglars fled and were seen heading north through the property. Las Vegas police quickly set up a perimeter and launched an extensive search of the area, but the suspects were able to escape. It was unclear if the burglars got away with anything of value. Several items, under the watchful eyes of the police, were seen on the ground near the home's main driveway. Neither Newton, nor his wife, were injured. The Newtons were not available for comment.
Police Officers Turn Off Body Cameras
In four separate body camera videos from the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting released Wednesday, officers in a strike team are instructed to turn their body cameras off and comply with the request.
Debra Saunders reports from Singapore
Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent talks about the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.
How long will North Korea's denuclearization take?
In Singapore, Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent Debra Saunders asks President Donald Trump how long North Korea's denuclearization will take. White House video.
LVCVA purchase of gift cards hidden
A former LVCVA executive hid the purchase of $90,000 in Southwest Airlines gift cards in records at the agency. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, said the money was for promotional events and did not disclose that it was for gift cards. Lawson also instructed Southwest employees to submit invoices without mentioning the purchases were for the cards. More than $50,000 of the cards cannot be accounted for. The convention authority is publicly funded . Lawson recently resigned.
Kim Jong Un visits Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his entourage visited the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore briefly Monday night, local time. (Video by Philip Chope)
Coca-Cola Bottle Purse Has 9,888 Diamonds
Designer Kathrine Baumann and jeweler Aaron Shum set the Guinness World Record for most diamonds (9,888) set on a handbag. The Coca Cola bottle-shaped purse was on display at the Coca Cola Store on the Strip. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sentosa Island a pleasure resort with a pirate past
The site of Tuesday's U.S.-North Korea summit is known for theme parks and resorts. But before that, it was known as a pirate island. (Debra Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Judge Sandra Pomrenze's comment about girl's hair
Nevada Races Full of Women From Both Sides
It's already been a historic election season for women in politics. Record numbers of women are running for political office all over the country - including Nevada. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
East Las Vegas home damaged by fire
Clark County Fire Department crews responded to a house fire in east Las Vegas Thursday morning. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
911 call: Mom tries to get to son shot at Route 91
A woman stuck on the interstate during the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, tries to get to her son. 911 call released by Las Vegas police.
Las Vegas 911 caller reports people shot on Oct. 1
A 911 caller on Oct. 1, 2017, reports several people shot at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.
911 call from woman under stage in Las Vegas shooting
A 911 call from a woman underneath the stage at the Route 91 Harvest festival during the Oct. 1, 2017, Las Vegas shooting.
LVCVA facing scandal over gift cards
LVCVA is facing a growing scandal over airline gift cards. LVCVA bought $90,000 in Southwest Airline gift cards between 2012 and 2017. Now auditors can’t account for more than $50,000 of the cards. CEO Rossi Ralenkotter and his family used $16,207 in gift cards on 56 trips. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, was responsible for buying and distributing the cards. He recently resigned.
Siblings separated in the foster care system get a day together
St. Jude's Ranch for Children and Cowabunga Bay Cares program partnered to bring 75 siblings together for the day to play on the water slides and in the pools at the Henderson water park. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People flee the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Las Vegas police released footage from a camera on Mandalay Bay of the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Aaliyah Inghram awarded medal of courage
Aaliyah Inghram, a 10-year-old girl who was shot while protecting her 18-month-old brother and 4-year-old cousin during a shooting on May 8, awarded medal of courage. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Las Vegans Pack Public Lands Open House
A crowd filled the Clark County Library conference room Tuesday afternoon where Clark County officials hold their first -- and possibly only -- public meeting on plans to open almost 39,000 acres of federal land for development just outside the Las Vegas metropolitan area. County commissioners are set to vote June 19 on a potentially controversial resolution seeking federal legislation that would set aside tens of thousands of acres for conservation while giving Nevada’s largest community more room to grow. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police search Henderson Constable's home and office
Las Vegas police served search warrants Tuesday at Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell's home and office. The investigation was sparked by a Las Vegas Review-Journal story showing Mitchell wrote himself $70,000 in checks, used ATMs at casinos and video poker bars, and traveled to places his adult children live. All using county funds. Police refused to comment but Mitchell's attorney said he did nothing wrong.
Vegas Golden Knights fans shows his colors for community
Vegas Golden Knights superfan Lynn Groesbeck has wrapped his new truck with Knights logos and images. He loves how the Golden Knights are bringing community back to Las Vegas. People stop him on the street to take photos and share his support. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like