Las Vegas, 1993

Twenty years ago, Las Vegas was not a playground for the spoiled and wealthy, and the Rat Pack glamour had long since faded. 1993 was one of the in-between years, when old folks dodged the Glamour Girls of Glitter Gulch on the sidewalks and everything was just a little rough around the edges.

In other word, Vegas had personality.

Like most little girls, I had dreams if my perfect wedding while growing up. My dreams didn’t involve a poufy white dress, though. My dreams were of Vegas. I thought a wedding presided over by an Elvis impersonator would be ideal.

Las Vegas Amrak Station, circa 1970

I had time to ponder these dreams as I sat on Amtrak’s Desert Wind, the train that used to run from Chicago to Los Angeles, with stops along the way in Galesburg, Illinois (where popcorn was invented), Creston, Iowa (where the train depot is a national landmark), Omaha, Nebraska (famous for the Union Stockyards and Boys Town), Denver, Salt Lake City, and what felt like a million other small towns rife with Americana before reaching Las Vegas.

The beautiful art deco train station in Vegas had been demolished in the early 1970s, and when I arrived, the station–such as it was–consisted of a concrete walkway next to a chain link fence separating it from a parking lot.

Las Vegas Amtrak Station, 1993

When the train arrived it was morning, and I was tired, having not slept a lot during the journey from Chicago. But mostly I was excited. I walked down the three little steps from the train, looked up, and saw my love, my future husband, waiting for me. We had been apart for only a week or so, having traveled to Vegas separately, but it felt like it had been much longer. Seeing him standing there is a picture that is as vivid in my memory as any I hold. It was and will always be one of the most special moments in my life.

Bally’s, 1993

We went and checked into our hotel room at Bally’s, and armed with just an address, set off for the County Clerk’s office to get a marriage license. The interwebs were still fairly new, and so these things had to be done by hand. Some photo ID and a few forms later, we had permission from the Great State of Nevada to get hitched.

The only place in Vegas that has not changed

Next up was a venue. Because Vegas was still a walkable town, we found the section of the strip that had an abundance of wedding chapels and started strolling. When we saw The Little White Chapel–where, the sign informed us, Michael Jordan had gotten married–we went in. Inside, we learned that Judy Garland, Paul Newman and Joann Woodward, and Mickey Rooney (twice) had also said their vows there. There were a bunch of options for a marriage ceremony, including a drive-thru window, and they did have an Elvis impersonator available, but he only worked at night on certain days. And we wanted to get married in the morning, because going out for breakfast had become one of our favorite traditions and that’s what we wanted to do to celebrate. So we made an appointment for the next morning and continued on our way.

Next we needed rings. We went into several shops, and eventually found the ones we wanted in a little off-the-beaten-path store. They’re classic southwest style, silver with turquoise and red stones. Not traditional wedding rings, but we’re not exactly a traditional couple.

February 26, 1993

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening wandering around, from Fremont Street and up the strip, wagering a few bucks and winning nothing, but having fun. The next morning, we got up fairly early, got ready, went back to The Little White Chapel, and got married. Then we had breakfast.

I mentioned that we’re not a traditional couple. By rights, we probably never should have even met. We’re from different continents and generations. Our lives before we met could not have been more like night and day. But we were meant to be together. Through the good times and the difficult ones–and there have been plenty of both–we’ve shared just about every emotion human beings are capable of experiencing.

Sometimes when I get scared or angry or frustrated, he will look at me, right into my eyes, take my hand, and say, “hey, we’re in this together.” We truly are, and for that, I am more grateful than I’ll ever be able to adequately express.

So on the twentieth anniversary of that wonderful day in Las Vegas when we made a commitment that has held strong ever since, we will celebrate together, and I will tell my husband just one more time that I love him with all that I am, and all that I ever will be.