Ella & Rich; A Neon Nuptial
Rich and I met at the end of my first year at University in Sheffield, in one of the city’s famous dark, dingy nightclubs, in the summer of 2001. We lived some extraordinarily fun-filled years before he proposed to me on the banks of the canal Singel in Amsterdam on our 4th anniversary. Whilst I was thrilled that he wanted to marry me, soon afterwards I got a sense of fear about what the wedding would look like and how these things worked. At the time, we had only been to one wedding each, whilst we were children, so we didn’t have a clue about wedding etiquette and what our different options were. I also felt very young to be getting married, with most of our friends young, free and single, we were going clubbing every weekend still, so we really didn’t want something too formal and traditional.
We took some time thinking about it and felt ever more clueless. I knew I really didn’t want a traditional white wedding, but maybe a beach wedding would be nice. Until we went on holiday to Cuba and caught some Speedo-clad Germans necking a British couples wedding reception champagne on their way back from the pool! We wanted something small, informal, and most of all fun for our friends and family, with hopefully a little sunshine, but what?!
One day my little sister revealed that she had been ordained on the internet “you know, like Joey off of friends”. If we got married in Vegas, she could marry us. ‘Vegas?!’ was my first thought, the town of drunken, tacky, last minute weddings clad in jeans and cowboy hats. But there was something that made me want to research more. We’d always wanted to go to the sin city, and we loved the USA as a holiday destination. Thankfully there are books written for people wanting a Vegas wedding, so off to Amazon I popped. Once that seed had been planted, there was no stopping me. Research revealed that Vegas had every type of wedding possible. If you wanted a traditional extravagant white wedding, whilst the Bellagio fountains serenaded you, it was possible. If you wanted to turn up after a big night out and pay $15 dollars for a drive-thru wedding at a little white chapel, it was possible.
So, we decided a Vegas wedding it was. We set a date for our anniversary in eighteen months time and sent Vegas themed save the date cards out. We wanted to give our family and friends the opportunity to join us if they wanted to, but clearly we couldn’t afford to pay for them all, so we set it far enough in the future that hopefully they would be able to save up to do so.
After lots of research (including my Dad going for a jog around the shortlist of venues whilst he was there on business) we settled on The Little Chapel of the Flowers for our wedding venue, and Maggiano’s as our reception venue. As we were paying for the event ourselves, costs were an important factor to consider and these were pretty much the top recommended venues we could afford with our budget. The chapel had 3 different rooms in which we could get married, depending on look and size and we chose the La Capella, Venetian themed chapel. They offered various different packages for as little or as much as you wanted. We decided to go for the top package, which included the ceremony, flowers, photos, and limos. At the time we benefitted from a great exchange rate so we got all this for little more than some people pay for the wedding cake at an English wedding. They assigned us a Wedding Coordinator, who became a great email buddy over the coming months and who did an amazing job of organising our wedding for us from the other side of the world! We chose Maggiano’s as they were recommended for wedding functions, and had a lovely private room we could use located halfway between the chapel and our hotel. They also assigned us a wedding coordinator who arranged our menu, room and cake for us. We settled on a package which included a family-style banquet with 4 hours of unlimited booze included! This sounded perfect for us.
Once we had got the venues and bigger arrangements organised, it was time to think about the smaller wedding details. This was the bit that hurt my head. I remember sitting in a bar with my friend, who was also organising her wedding in Leeds, and she was worrying about the napkin holders not matching her chair covers. This was so far removed from my wedding plans, where I didn’t have a clue what both were going to look like and didn’t care! We just wanted to have a fun filled day for our friends and family who had invested a lot of time, money and effort to join us. We didn’t have a clue about wedding etiquette and politics, and we decided not to have best men or bridesmaids, as that felt more formal than we wanted. Fortunately, all of our immediate family and best friends decided to save up and come to the wedding. We were thrilled! That meant there would be 25 of us in Vegas together and it would be a proper party. Our dreams were coming true.
Next - wedding dress shopping. This filled with me with an impending sense of doom. I really, really, really did not want strapless or white. I wanted Temperley or Packham, but I could not afford either of those designers. I went to look around a few bridal shops in Leeds, where we had moved upon graduating, and mostly they gave me white and strapless to try on. The sense of doom was taking over. Fortunately I visited Scarlet Poppy in Pudsey, Leeds, and they advised I may want to consider taking a look at their bridesmaid selection if I wanted something more fun and informal. I tried on an emerald green Jim Hjelm creation which fitted the vintage Hollywood look I fancied and fell in love. Emeralds are my birth stone so it even felt a befitting colour. I tried it on with my mum and ordered it straight away – PHEW!
After that, I pretty much forgot about the wedding, concentrating on planning and organising our honeymoon. We had decided to go to South America after the Vegas wedding, and do the Inca Trail in Peru, before travelling around Brazil and Argentina, so this took up a lot of time and in some ways, was more exciting for us than planning the wedding. I had studied Hispanics at University so this was a dream come true to organise, places I had always wanted to visit.
Soon, 2008, our wedding year was upon us, and June quickly came around. I helped Rich choose his wedding attire, a chocolate brown linen suit, which I knew would complement my dress well. We had chosen the flowers, reception menu, and cake online. We selected our wedding music, reception decorations and wedding favours and we were pretty much good to go. We had our rings and outfits and packed them along with all kinds of other clothing to accommodate the various climates we were going to encounter during our trip which encompassed a Vegas summer and an Argentinean winter amongst other things!
When we arrived in Vegas, all we had to do to prepare for the wedding was drop a few things off at the restaurant and ensure the room was to be set up as we liked, which we did by limo! Part of our wedding package was a chauffeur driven trip to the County Clerk’s office downtown to pick up our marriage licence. It was so much fun seeing all the typical Vegas wedding couples turning up in their traditional attire picking up their licence on the way to a chapel, it suddenly made things feel real and so exciting!
On the day, we were getting married at 3pm, so we had a fabulous pool-side brunch with our family, before Rich and I went our separate ways to get ready at different ends of the Paris Hotel, my friend did my hair and I did my makeup.
The limo picked me, my best friend and the female members of our family up and made the short journey down the famous Las Vegas strip, it was only when we arrived at the chapel and I met the amazing pastor Doug that the nerves and adrenalin kicked in. As I walked down the aisle with my Dad, I could hear everyone sobbing into their handkerchiefs already! It was a simple yet fun and emotional civil service, which had everyone laughing and crying at the same time. The great thing was it was being broadcast live on the internet so our friends and family at home were having wedding pyjama parties all over England and felt like they were there with us! So no one really missed out.
Part of the reason we chose the Little Chapel of the Flowers was because of it’s beautiful outside space. It has gorgeous gardens with gazebos, fountains and the chapel itself is so pretty, so we spent some time having photos taken, whilst our friends and family tried to escape the scorching Vegas sun!
Then we all piled into limos and made our way to Maggianos. The room looked absolutely beautiful with its candlelight and wooden panelling, and the table at the end was already laid out with the cakes and desserts NOM! It was bright and sunny but most of all it was private and beautiful so we all got started on the absolutely mammoth Italian feast that we had before us. The food was absolutely amazing and everyone was thrilled that they could be served any drink they liked at their seats free of charge!
We got so involved with enjoying the day with our loved ones that we had to be reminded to do simple wedding stuff, like our first dance (accompanied on guitar and violin by two very cute little old Italian-American guys to the tune of Nat King Coles ‘When I Fall in Love’), cut the cake and me throw my bouquet! We had three very short speeches by my Dad, Rich and me (always got to get the last word in), before piling into yellow cabs to up the Eiffel Tower at our hotel and watch the famous Bellagio Fountains from above. It was a beautiful way to end the day, and we got so many complements and congratulations from everyone in the casino!
The wedding day was everything we wanted. It was simple yet beautiful and the wedding coordinators enable us to forget meaningless (to us) details like decorations and logistics to concentrate on the really important things like our vows, the music, the food and our loved ones!
Everyone still says it was the best wedding they’ve been too, so fun but so emotional. I would really recommend anyone to think about a Vegas wedding, it can be as luxurious or as tacky as you like, and I like to think of the town as Disneyland for adults. We loved it and have already returned with our friends. We had the best honeymoon (although camping for the first time EVER in a tent at the top of the Andes was quite a shock after the luxuries of Vegas) and returned to England after a month away having had the time of our lives and achieved everything we really wanted to.
That was five years ago now, and we’ve had a really emotional few years. A few months after the wedding, my Mum was diagnosed with cancer, something she fought for as long as she could before sadly passing away in 2011. I am so thrilled that we were able to have the wedding of our dreams before she got ill, and I know she loved the week as much as we did. I just feel so sad still that she won’t be able to see my siblings do the same. In early 2012 we discovered I was pregnant and Elliott Ivan was born, all 10lb8oz of him, in November last year.
Elliott has given us all a new lease of life since Mum passed away, and he is certainly the best thing that ever happened to me and Rich. He is a gorgeous funny little fella that has changed and improved our lives beyond all recognition. Now and then though, I still look back to that day in 2008 and think about all the fun we had in Vegas with the most important people in our lives and how it started our marriage perfectly!
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