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It’s Still Happening in Vegas

HarperCollins published my first book, Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide, several years ago.  But this book review by Betty Jo Tucker from Author’s Den and Movie Addict Headquarters on blogtalkradio is new!

Thank you, Betty Jo.

bigbooksmlLas Vegas Weddings: Book Review

By Betty Jo Tucker

Author Susan Marg deserves kudos for her impressive research in connection with “Las Vegas Weddings: A Brief History, Celebrity Gossip, Everything Elvis, and the Complete Chapel Guide.” It’s an entertaining read packed with fascinating information about how Vegas weddings intertwine with the history of the town itself.

It’s also fun reading for movie addicts like me, mostly because Marg highlights the nuptials of so many film stars who got hitched in Las Vegas. What a treat to find out the revealing facts behind weddings of such glamorous actors and actresses as Angelina Jolie, Michael Caine, Judy Garland, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, Nelson Eddy, Bette Midler, Joan Crawford, Richard Gere, Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley!

And speaking of Elvis, Marg includes an entire chapter titled “What’s a Wedding without Elvis”? She writes, “While there is an impersonator for any celebrity…it is the King that couples clamor for.” There are hundreds of Elvis impersonators in Vegas, of course, and it’s no problem to hire a fake Elvis to escort the bride down the aisle and to serenade the newlyweds after the ceremony. The book also features a chapel guide that helps prospective brides and grooms plan their own wedding festivities in Vegas.

It’s no wonder Vegas and Hollywood seem like a perfect match, so I’m pleased that Marg mentions various films about Las Vegas — including Honeymoon in Vegas, Vegas Vacation, Viva Las Vegas, Fools Rush In, and Ocean’s Eleven. She points out that movies like these have played an important role in making Vegas weddings so popular

Despite the massive amount of information in Las Vegas Weddings, it flows seamlessly. Marg has a breezy, appealing style that draws us in and keeps us interested. Her book also presents some rare photographs of celebrities. I especially love the one of Michael Caine and his beautiful bride as well as the photo of Elvis and Ann-Margret dancing together while filming Viva Las Vegas!

I think this book would make a wonderful holiday gift for movie fans.

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70 Years Ago in Las Vegas: Little Church of the West

Roy Rogers would still feel comfortable at the Little Church of the West seventy years after he ushered at the first wedding held there.  Although the buckskins draping the windows have been replaced with lace and brocade curtains, the small chapel still exudes a rustic charm reminiscent of pioneer days on the range.

The historic building was originally part of the Western theme park at the Last Frontier Hotel.  It is an exact, half-size replica of a church built in a California mining town in 1849, right down to its shingled roof, redwood interior walls, and nineteenth century hanging lamps long since converted from gas to electricity.  To the right of the entrance there is an antique Davenport desk circa 1860 atop of which a desk lamp with a green glass shade emits an antique, golden glow.  Across the aisle, as modern needs dictate, there is video recording equipment.  The hardwood benches look just as uncomfortable as they have always been, but Las Vegas wedding ceremonies rarely last long enough for that to make a difference.

As Las Vegas casinos and hotels have gotten bigger and condominiums have taken over any empty space, the Little Church of the West has been forced to move three times. Today it is located past Mandalay Bay, so far south it is almost off the Strip.  Yet this location affords it an attractive setting surrounded by green grass and trees, enough land for an outdoor gazebo, and plenty of guest parking.  Presumably, the traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard fifty feet away can’t be heard when the chapel doors are closed.

It wasn’t the first place to welcome out of town guests looking for a place to tie the knot.  That honor goes to The Wedding Chapel at 513 South Fifth Avenue, before Las Vegas Boulevard was so named, in 1933.  It was the residence of the Reverend J.D. Foster, the man behind the idea.  Offering convenience, Foster promised in an interview, “We [will] never close.”

Today, contrary to popular belief, most chapels are not open 24 hours a day seven days a week. Even on weekends, most of the freestanding ones lock their doors at midnight, if not earlier.  The Little Church of the West is no exception.  Business just isn’t what it used to be.   But the chapel accepts reservations for every half hour from 8 AM to 11:30 PM.   Don’t be late, or you’ll miss the 20-minute ceremony.

To put you in the mood – for fooling around or getting serious – listen to Mark Nevin sing “This Little Church,” on his music video, a collage of wedding scenes, movie clips, and singing nuns.  It’s corny, but classic Vegas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2IXpeupIbc

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved