In Las Vegas, the queen of marriage is no longer at the wedding

Charolette Richards in her Little White Chapel, a reference in the wedding business in Las Vegas, October 7, 2019.
Charolette Richards in her Little White Chapel, a reference in the wedding business in Las Vegas, October 7, 2019. KELIA ANNE MACCLUSKEY / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX / REA

At 85, Miss Charolette thought of hanging up. But the Queen of Las Vegas marriage did not have the heart to end her relationship with her Little White Chapel. Pending a possible retirement, she can count on foreign tourists passing through. This Monday morning, Jonathan and Norah, two young Israeli vacationers, are getting married. She, in a red down jacket. Him, Ray-Ban on the forehead. They parked their rental 4 × 4 in front of the wicket of this marshmallow and rose water haven lost in old Las Vegas, between motels, sex shops and tattoo shops.

An institution in "Sin City"

The little white chapel is an institution in "Sin City". Frank Sinatra, Joan Collins, Judy Garland (with his 4e husband), Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Eva Longoria and Britney Spears (for fifty-five minutes) convoluted under the white steeple, among hundreds of thousands of other couples. How ? Charolette Richards, the mistress of the place for sixty years, did not add up. "I don't care about the numbers, honey. I only remember love. "

Miss Charolette carries her nickname “Wedding Queen of the West” high. She’s the one who invented marriage without getting out of the car, in ten minutes flat. Since 1991, it has performed more than 50,000 ceremonies in the drive-in alone. Couples who are less in a hurry can opt for one of the four rococo salons overloaded with red hearts (no “zombie” themed weddings here, unlike some competing establishments), but the drive-in is more economical (50 dollars against 1,215 dollars for a union celebrated in a helicopter).

And it displays a legendary cap, says the tunnel of love where celestial cherubim painted on the starry sky unroll their promises of love: "I need you"; "I can't live without you" … behind the counter, the official looks like a fast food waiter. "Are you planning to exchange rings? " he asks the fiance. "Do you love him from the bottom of your heart? " Sitting in front of their vehicle, the two young people hold hands. A promise, a kiss, and there they are again, her cheeks a little rosy.

Second activity sector after the game

Nothing is more expeditious than a wedding in Las Vegas, where the wedding industry still employs more than 10,000 people, the second sector of activity behind the game, with around sixty chapels. You just need to be 18 and a license bought $ 77 at the Clark County Marriage Office. Until 2013, you could get married at any time of the day or night. Now the office closes at midnight to avoid drunken weddings and the disillusionment of the next morning.


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