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Opulent wedding stomped the Las Vegas Strip

After pulling off two uber weddings in a few weeks, one featuring a 9,000-pound elephant, Las Vegas wedding planner Tory Cooper feels safe in saying, “I think we are out of the recession.”

Saturday’s was a mammoth undertaking: It was the finale of a weeklong $8 million to $9 million extravaganza that started in Houston and included the groom, from India, riding an Asian elephant up the Bellagio driveway.

An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 awestruck onlookers lined the driveway as Bellagio’s dancing fountains played “Viva Las Vegas,” “Luck be a Lady” and “Overture of All That Jazz.”

Cooper said she believes it was the first wedding on the Strip featuring an elephant.

A week earlier, Cooper handled planning duties for the Talia DeMartino-J.J. Erlichman wedding, which included Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand among the invitees.

Neither made it; Dion had a commitment in France and Streisand was a late dropout. “Something about flying,” Cooper said.

DeMartino is the daughter of Anna DeMartino, Dion’s personal manager, and Erlichman is the son of Streisand’s longtime manager, Martin Erlichman. Their reception was held on the stage at Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

The stars of the Bellagio wedding were groom Pankaj Malani, 31, and bride Avnie Patel, 29, a physician’s assistant.

One of the most iconic Las Vegas photos was taken in the 1950s when Frank Sinatra, dressed in an Arabian costume, christened the Dunes by riding a camel on what is now the site of the Bellagio.

The logistics for the Bellagio wedding were as staggering as the cost:

■ According to Cooper, a charter jet flew about 200 of the 600 guests into town from Houston, where it all started, Cooper said. Six buses and two limos delivered the charter flight guests to the Bellagio.

■ The tab for the floral arrangements alone for the poolside wedding ceremony came to about $150,000.

■ The 47-year-old elephant named Tai cost $10,000 to rent and was transported from Have Trunk Will Travel, based in Perris, Calif. Well-known for its appearances in numerous films, it is known as “Hollywood’s biggest star.”

■ Friday’s party at Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan cost about $500,000, according to Cooper. Guests also celebrated at Hyde Bellagio, which overlooks the dancing fountains, and in Marquee nightclub’s library room. Brunches were held at the Bellagio’s Jasmine and Prime restaurants. All of the above were buyouts.

■ A 10-tier cake created by Bellagio pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury required two weeks to construct. It was in the shape of a temple.

■ The groom had to take out a lot of insurance due to the potential risks involving the elephant. Engineers had to conduct a study to see if the Bellagio driveway could support the weight of the elephant.

SIGHTINGS

Jackie and Tito Jackson, backstage with Meatloaf after taking in his Rocktellz &Cocktails show at Planet Hollywood Resort on Saturday. They are obvious candidates to join producer Adam Steck’s future lineup. … Mike Tyson, posing for photos with Pia Zadora after her show at Piero’s Italian Cuisine on Saturday. … Jim Belushi, at a VIP table at Lavo (Palazzo) on Friday.

THE PUNCH LINE

“Donald Trump is on the program tonight. We are very lucky. It’s almost impossible to get this guy in front of the camera.” — David Letterman

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more information at www.normclarke.com. Follow @Norm_Clarke on Twitter. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.

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