Las Vegas, Spanish for "the meadows", was founded as a city in 1905, with just 45 hectares of land being auctioned. Gambling was legalised when six licences were issued in 1909. Divorce laws were liberalised in the state of Nevada, residency was easy to attain and quick marriage terminations took only six weeks of living there. Dude ranches were set up for short-term residents and these became the forerunners of the sprawling Strip.
There's no doubt the city deserved its reputation for many years of being tacky, sleazy and tasteless, but how it has changed! More than 37 million people visit Las Vegas each year and this year it's having year-long 100th-birthday celebrations. To see how the city has matured and shrugged off most of the not-so-good publicity, the entire Getaway team travelled there to join the party.
Viva Las Vegas
At the end of the Strip are Viva Las Vegas Villas, which offer a very different way to spend a night. While they have run-of-the-mill rooms, the owner has added themed rooms to go with themed wedding chapel packages.
Choose between Gangster, Blue Hawaii, Egyptian, Camelot, Cupid, Gothic, Victorian and Disco-themed rooms nestled behind the wedding chapel.
The Elvis and Priscilla suite is all gold lamé and hot pink, with loads of memorabilia from the King's early career. Blue Hawaii has a tiki hut bath, island scenery and palm-tree bed posts. Camelot has a drawbridge bed across a painted moat and lots of medieval touches. The Gangster room is all black and white with some touches of grey, very 1930s Chicago.
There must be something in the desert air that makes people feel so romantic they just have to get married. Having the most liberal marriage laws in the US might have something to do with it too. Couples and there are 200,000 weddings a year just walk in to a place licensed to unite people in marriage and within minutes, walk out man and wife. No blood tests. No cooling-off period. You do need a licence. They cost $55 and the bureau is open on weekdays until midnight and on Fridays, weekends and holidays for 24 hours. Those under 18 years of age require parent/guardian written consent. Marriages performed in Las Vegas are perfectly legal in Australia.
Catriona visited the Little Church of the West, the oldest chapel on the Vegas Strip, having opened in 1942. The pretty chapel is freestanding on a half hectare of beautiful landscaping. Many, many celebrities have tied the knot there, but not all lasted the distance. Betty Grable and Harry James were the first celebrities in 1943. Zsa Zsa Gabor married George Sanders here, plus it has seen nuptials for Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Dudley Moore, and Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford.
Nevada in the US.
Viva Las Vegas Villas themed rooms are around $165 a night.
Little Church of the West weddings start at around $100.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.
Viva Las Vegas Villas
1205 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas Nevada
Ph: 0011 1 702 384 0771
Las Vegas Marriage Bureau
200 S 3rd Street, 1st Floor
Las Vegas NV 89155
Ph: 0011 1 702 455 4415
The Little Church of the West
4617 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89119
Ph: 0011 1 739 7971