Travel: Long Haul - Oh for a little heart-shaped bureaucracy
So, the Balinese marriage formalities were too complicated for Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger. If only they'd gone to Nevada
Saturday 23 January 1999
The prospect of a wedding abroad sounds divine, but in many places you have to jump through all manner of legalistic hoops to make sure the marriage certificate is worth the paper it's lovingly inscribed upon. One place you don't is the heart-shaped, lavender-scented city of pink neon: Las Vegas.
We made a point of flying United - when you're getting married little things like the name of an airline seem important to you. We knew we'd landed at the right airport because we could see the outline of a pyramid glinting in the sunshine, close to the runway. We were in Las Vegas; the Egyptian architecture belonged to the Luxor Hotel, and we had 24 hours in which to organise our wedding.
Getting married in Nevada is fun, different - and, most importantly, easy. The wedding breakfast is a full-on American affair - pancakes, waffles, maple syrup, creamy butter and revoltingly weak filter coffee. Las Vegas Boulevard, universally known as The Strip, is where you find almost all of Las Vegas's wedding chapels. At its top are many of the fantastical hotels (where you'll probably be staying) and at its bottom you'll find the County Court, where you buy your marriage licence.
After breakfast we walked its length, checking out the Little Chapel of the West, the Hitching Post, the Little Chapel of Love and many others on both sides of the road. To be truthful, Jerry, the more we saw the less inclined we felt to entrust them with the happiest day of our lives. Many were pretty tacky, full of plastic flowers, fake stained-glass windows and doll's-house pews. But, worst of all, we didn't really take to the people who were running them. Some we wouldn't have bought a second-hand Elvis impersonator from.
About the one activity in America's glitz capital for which you don't need a photo ID is marriage. You just go and buy a licence.
The queue at the County Court wasn't long; with opening hours of 8.30am to midnight, I doubt it ever is. At the counter we paid $35 (about pounds 20, and that was for both of us, Jerry, if you're counting the pennies), and filled in a form. We both ticked the box marked "One" for the question "Number of this marriage". I wonder, what would you put, Jerry?
Our details were typed on to a State of Nevada marriage licence. We were still hotly debating the venue dilemma when our typist suggested we try the register office across the road. Las Vegas seems a long way to come to be married in a register office, but local advice is usually worth heeding and so we took a look.
The building was nothing to write home about; in fact its grey, angular drabness, reminiscent of British civic architecture of the Sixties, was positively off-putting. We were won over, though, by Flora, a friendly, heavily made-up, grandmotherly type who, for another $35, would perform the ceremony - no appointment necessary. Can we get a witness, we wondered? A lady was summoned from the typing pool to perform as both witness and official photographer.
Twenty minutes and a lot of laughter later, we emerged newly wed and headed straight for Binion's Horseshoe Casino - not for a gamble but for a tipple. The place was dimly lit, packed with punters and buzzing with atmosphere. Its claim to fame - an illuminated horseshoe shape stacked with a million dollars' worth of real paper bills - was in the corner. You can get your photo taken in front of it for free; we got two.
By luck, the Moscow State Circus was in town and performing a number of free shows in the covered shopping-arcade outside the casino. As we ooed and aahed with the crowd I fingered my new Russian wedding ring, trying not to attach too much significance to this post-Soviet coincidence.
Come sunset, we strolled back up The Strip. Outside Treasure Island Hotel, we jostled with parents and children to witness the life-size sea battle that takes place at regular intervals from late afternoon to late evening. Among the fireworks, the flames, the screams, the canon-fire and the thickening smoke, we slurped champagne straight from the bottle, and eventually walked on. Next door at the Mirage Hotel the show continued. The waters around its fake volcano simmered, the rocks shuddered, and a deep rumbling noise crescendoed into a highly convincing volcanic eruption complete with polystyrene tectonics. The lava ran, the sky lit up, and we looked at each other. In a Las Vegas sort of way, the earth was moving for both of us.
Try it next time, Jerry.
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