Waking Up Married in Las Vegas

You’ve seen this story line over and over. Woman (or man) wakes up next to a stranger, a ring on the finger, and can’t remember anything except the party, the lights, the music, the booze.

“How did I get here, in this room, in this bed?”
Guy scratches head. “Hell if I know.”
Then she notices the wedding ring on her finger.
“No! It can’t be.”

And you know what? She’s probably right.

First, it is possible to wake up married in Las Vegas. I do it every morning. But quickie marriages between two oblivious (or dead drunk) people is difficult. True, no blood test is required in Nevada. There’s no waiting period. Chapels still exist with ready-made flowers, witnesses, clergy. What those chapels don’t have is that pesky little thing called a Marriage License. You get that at a government office after showing picture ID, filling out an application, and paying your fee of seventy-seven dollars.

Both of you—in person. Over 18. Not married to anyone else.

Okay, maybe you can do all that drunk, but if you’re so out of it you can’t remember anything the next day, you may not be able to correctly answer all the questions on the required application form or get yourself to an office to get this done. For your convenience, there is one office that stays open seven days a week until midnight. It’s about six miles from the Strip. I’m thinking those unusual office hours may be the impetus for all those plot lines, along with chapels that stay open all night.

There’s also another significant problem. The Clark County Marriage License Information page has a big warning block, telling you to make sure the person who officiates at your wedding has been licensed to do so by the State of Nevada. In other words, you can’t bring Uncle Ted who’s an ordained minister and can marry people in his state or your best friend who got his certificate on line. Apparently there have been people acting as licensed officiants who weren’t. Now that might be a good plot line for a book.

Let’s say the hero and heroine in the film or book were functioning drunks, did everything required, and had a legitimate ceremony, only to realize (in the morning while nursing the mother of all headaches), they don’t want to be married.

Good news. In Las Vegas, if you both agree on all issues, you can be divorced in 30 to 45 days. Nobody needs to know. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Right?

Wrong. Marriages and divorces are public records, available to anyone who wants to look them up. And you have to be a Nevada resident to get that divorce, which means you have to stick around for at least six weeks before filing.

While unremembered marriages might be popular in fiction, the fact remains Las Vegas is still one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world and the reason is affordability. Wedding chapel packages start at $199 (plus the $77 for the license). Most hotels have wedding venues, hairdressers, restaurants for the reception, and their slot machines will happily entertain any of your guests who arrive early.

And if you want a themed wedding (Star Trek, Elvis, Vampires), all you have to do is ask. Everything’s available—for a fee.

1 thought on “Waking Up Married in Las Vegas”

  1. Wow, Pam, you could build an entire RWA talk, workshop or presentation around this info…talk about the realities and the limits, give examples of plot lines that WOULD work, have some fun with themed weddings.


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