View Full Version : "No you don't' to wee-hour 'I do's'

08-22-06, 02:05 PM
"No you don't' to wee-hour 'I do's'
By Tony Cook <tony.cook@lasvegassun.com>
Las Vegas Sun

Clark County could have saved Britney Spears a lot of grief if it had cut the graveyard shift at its marriage license bureau 2 1/2 years ago.

After a night of clubbing at the Palms, the pop singer infamously married a childhood friend from Louisiana about 5:30 a.m. at the Little White Wedding Chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard. After catching up on sleep, Spears had the marriage annulled two days later.

For better or worse, getting hitched on the spur of the moment is a long-standing tradition in Las Vegas, where weddings have been no exception to the city's 24/7 lifestyle.

But as of next week, spontaneous late night I-do's will become just another footnote in this town's fabled history.

Citing a tight budget, Clark County commissioners last week granted County Clerk Shirley Parraguirre's request to reduce hours at the Marriage License Bureau, eliminating the office's weekend and holiday midnight-to-8 a.m. shift.

Starting Aug. 30, the bureau will be open from 8 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.

Some people already are losing sleep over the change.

"You are talking to one unhappy girl right here," said Charolette Richards, president of the Little White Wedding Chapel.

The chapel is one of a few in Las Vegas still open 24 hours daily. For those who eschew big church affairs and don't want to bother sending out dozens of wedding invitations, the chapel offers packages ranging from a $40 "Drive-Thru" knot-tying affair to a $275 "Elvis and Pink Cadillac" deal.

The chapel also offers a free limousine ride to the downtown marriage bureau - a service Spears and her 48-hour hubby used when they showed up in the early morning hours of Jan. 3, 2004, without a marriage license.

Richards, who lived in the back of the chapel during her first years as owner, fondly recalls another celebrity marriage - when actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore were wed after midnight in 1987.

"What a sweet little couple they were," Richards said. "That's another thing. Movie stars don't like to come out when there are a lot of crowds."

The stars, however, will have to come out before midnight starting next week.

The county will save about $200,000 with the cuts, which will do away with the four clerks needed to staff the bureau during the post-midnight hours.

County officials downplay the cuts' impact.

"Less than 4 percent of marriage licenses are issued during those hours," Parraguirre said.

In 2005, that would mean about 4,900 of the 122,259 licenses issued came during the office's graveyard shift.

"We are just doing it for economic reasons," Parraguirre said.

"They can still get married 24 hours a day. They just have to plan in advance if they want to get married during those 16 hours during the weekend."

Parraguirre said the cutback is necessary because District Court judges have announced their intention to take over the clerk's court-based duties. While Parraguirre would maintain oversight of the marriage license bureau under the plan, she would lose about 200 of her 270 workers, who rotate in and out of the licensing office.

Nevada marriage licenses cost $55 and are valid for 12 months after they are issued.

County spokeswoman Stacey Welling said local chapels were notified of the proposed change in July. The county received no opposition from the wedding industry and expects no economic impact on Las Vegas wedding chapels, she said.

Richards, however, said the change would probably have a negative effect on her business.

"I am really hurt and disturbed about it," she said.

She's also not looking forward to turning away out-of-town couples who come knocking on the chapel's door after midnight.

"I think it's an unjust thing to people who come in from other places. They think this is a 24-hour town," she said. "People are going to come here expecting the marriage license office to be open."

Still, Richards is not relinquishing her resolve to give folks cheap weddings on the fly.

"Just because the marriage license office closes doesn't mean we're going to," she said. "They are just going to have to get their marriage license before midnight."