By Ricardo Torres-Cortez Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas’ proud title as the “Wedding Capital of the World” has been fortified by a rich history — and more than five million nuptials.
Locals, but more often tourists, tie the knot here in traditional ceremonies, while some, for example, have Elvis impersonators oversee their nuptials.
Themed affairs or not, the city’s wedding chapels have been instrumental in keeping the Las Vegas wedding destination reputation afloat.
“With more than five million ‘I do’s’ and counting, each year Las Vegas conducts more destination weddings than any other place on the planet,” according to Clark County’s marriage bureau. “For well over 70 years a ‘Vegas wedding’ has captured the public imagination as the ultimate quick, stress-free, fun, glamourous wedding destination.”
For the upcoming 70th anniversary since the London Daily Herald first declared the city the “Wedding Capital of the World” on Sept. 23, 1953, Clark County that month is planning a mass vow renewal ceremony at Caesars Palace.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal, for its part, has compiled a list of some of Las Vegas’ historic chapels.
But first, here’s a fun fact: The July 1909 wedding of Grace McGee and William C. Bright was the first recorded marriage here, just shy of two years before the city of Las Vegas was incorporated.
Chapel of the West Algiers (1966-2003)
Located at the site of the soon-to-open Fountainbleau resort on the Strip, the chapel was originally themed around the “Little Church of the West.”
Before closing, it twice rebranded, to “All Religions Chapel” and “Candlelight Wedding Chapel.” Notable brides and grooms included Bette Midler, Barry White and Michael Caine.
In 2017, officials moved the structure to the Clark County Heritage Museum.
Graceland Chapel (1923-present)
The building, built a century ago, was originally the house of Ollie McKee, who turned it into a wedding business in 1939.
She originally named it “Gretna Green” after a Scottish town where “marriage by declaration” was popular in the previous century, according to a Clark County report on the wedding industry.
Elvis Presley once showed up unannounced for a tour of the chapel, prompting the owner to change the name in his honor after the artist’s death a decade later, according to the chapel’s biography.
According to Graceland Chapel’s website, notable celebrities who wed there include “The King himself,” Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Leno, Salma Hayek and Leslie Mann.
Hitching Post (1923-1990s)
Also originally a private home at 514 Las Vegas Blvd. South, the building was repurposed as a wedding chapel in 1934.
The chapel’s steeple was built in the 1950s, and in the following decade, the building was painted all white.
The property was demolished after the block was sold and redeveloped.
An unrelated “Hitchin’ Post” wedding chapel still operates inside the Circus Circus.
Little White Chapel (1955-present)
Located at 1301 Las Vegas Blvd. South, the chapel strives to be innovative in its wedding offerings.
That includes the first ever wedding drive-thru — conducted in a classic pink Cadillac convertible.
The chapel touts its appeal to celebrities, and its website lists the marriages of Mickey Rooney, who wed there twice; Mary Tyler Moore; Brittney Spears; Michael Jordan; James Caan and the late Sinead O’Connor, among others.
Famous couples that wed there include Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.
Chapel of the Bells (late 1960s-present)
The chapel, originally built in 1955, has hosted weddings since the late ’60s at the now Fun City Motel, 2233 Las Vegas Boulevard.
It’s been featured in blockbusters such as Honeymoon in Vegas — starring local celebrity Nicolas Cage — “Indecent Proposal,” “Mars Attacks!” and “Vegas Vacation.”
Its famous weddings include those of Kelly Ripa, Jenny Jones, Leslie Nielsen, Mickey Rooney and Mark Consuelos, according to its website.
Chapel of the Flowers (1955-present)
Located at 1717 Las Vegas Blvd. South, the chapel was one of the first where weddings were officiated on the Strip.
It’s been remodeled over the years, including the recent addition of a “Married in Fabulous Las Vegas” sign at which couples can pose like they do at the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign a few miles north on the tourist corridor.
Notable nuptials include those of 1990s power couple Carmen Elektra and Dennis Rodman.
Ronnie Vannucci, the drummer of Las Vegas darlings The Killers, worked there as a photographer while the band recorded its breakthrough album, “Hot Fuss.”
“We’d rehearse in the day and I’d go off to work at night time,” he told music journalism outlet NME.