Monday, January 03, 2005

I went to San Francisco's City Hall today. Well aware of the old adage, I did not throw a single punch. Instead, I marveled at the building while filing some forms. The previous mayor of San Francisco, seen here:

(he's the guy on the left), was an ostentatious and fancy hat kind of guy, so before he left office, he covered large quantities of city hall in gold.

That last sentence sounds like a joke even to me. Oh that it were.

Anyways, the end result is that city hall is fairly ornate and interesting. Lots of people get married there, and these days most of them appear to be heterosexual. Walking through the main rotunda, I saw three separate couples getting married. It made me fondly reflect upon my own wedding day.

Previously I had written about when I first met my wife.

Well, we dated for several years and before you know it, I was ready to pop the big question. I had a ring that I thought she might like (she had given me some hints in that area), and I was prepared to make an honest woman of her. As they say in the rodeo circuit, I was ready to lasso that filly. After discarding the lasso and the rodeo metaphors in general, I realized that I didn't really know HOW to ask her to marry me.

I wanted to do something interesting, or unique, or funny, but when push came to shove, I had nothing. I couldn't see myself hiring a skywriter, or pulling the ring out from behind her ear, or farting a gaseous version of Here Come's The Bride. So, like many good men before me, in lieu of creative inspiration, I went with an old classic. After a romantic dinner, while taking a lovely stroll, I bent down on one knee, and blah blah blah, next thing you know, we're engaged.

Unsurprisingly, this left us in the unfortunate position of having to have some sort of wedding thing, with the brides and the grooms and the whatnot. I know that I come across as a master of etiquette and a fount of matrimonial knowledge, but the idea of planning and executing an actual wedding ceremony turned my stomach in knots. Thankfully, I had just gotten engaged to someone who found the whole wedding process equally abhorrent.

So, after informing our relatives and friends that we were engaged, we felt them out to see what they would think if the soon-to-be-wife and I eloped. Although there was disappointment across both sets of families and friends, no one seemed determined enough to actually disown us.

A few months later, one Saturday morning at the start of Labor Day weekend, we woke up and realized that we had a three day weekend with nothing to do. Seemed like the perfect time to fly to Vegas and get hitched. After about an hour of planning, we had flights booked for later that day, and a reservation at the soon-to-be-bankrupt (not an omen), fabulous Stratosphere hotel, a Space Needle-esque hotel near the Strip. Rumor had it that they had both chapels and rollercoasters up at the top of the tower. We had visions of this:

We flew in to Vegas later that day and found out that the rollercoasters were not working that weekend, but the chapels were available. We booked some Greco-Roman themed chapel and paid an extra fee for a witness. No Elvises (Elvii?) were available.

Sunday arrived, the day of our nuptials. This was, perhaps, the most relaxing wedding day imaginable. We started off by lounging at the pool while writing our wedding vows. We rested from this vigorous activity by catching a bit of the 49ers game in our hotel room. At this point our wedding coordinator, a term that should be used lightly, called to remind us that we'd need to go to the county courthouse and pick up a wedding certificate. One cab ride later, we were at the courthouse.

The Clark County courthouse in Vegas is a finely optimized machine, designed to crank out wedding certificates with remarkable efficiency. Excellent signage directs you to the ATMs, conveniently located right next to the line, so that you will have your wedding fee ready. The line is a merry place, filled with men in tuxedoes and women in wedding gowns of varying degrees of respectibility. When we finally approached the clerk who would help make our matrimonial dreams come true, she paused us for a moment to address a quick phone call.

"No, sir. You'll need to call a different number for divorces."

And soon, we had our wedding certificate in hand (as well as the number for divorces), and were on our way back to the fabulously matrimonial Stratosphere. We changed into our wedding attire and had a few minutes to kill before the ceremony, so we played a few hands of blackjack. You know that expression about being unlucky in cards, but lucky in love? That was my excuse that evening.

We departed from the table a few minutes before our scheduled ceremony. Normally when one takes the elevators up to the tippy-top of the fabulously tall Stratosphere, they charge you about $8.00. However, if you're getting married you can go up for free. This reeks of class and we were lovin' the stench. We zoomed up to the top and made our way to the column-filled chapel that was to be the birthplace of our official union. After filling out a short form, including checking the "Godless Heathens" box on the instructions for the "minister", we were ready to get married.

There was a brief photography session, taking a few photos of us on the deck of the fabulously scenic Stratosphere as well as in the Greco-Roman chapel itself. Soon, it was time for the wedding. It was a short, but sweet ceremony, featuring the vows that we had written by the pool the day before. The vows were heartfelt, but lighthearted.

About 10 seconds after the ceremony ended, two employees of the fabulously efficient Stratosphere rushed into the chapel, and proclaimed that our wedding ceremony was the most beautiful thing they'd seen. One of them actually had the quavering voice that would accompany tears. It was, I thought, an odd thing to see in a virtual wedding factory.

It all made sense, however, once she continued by explaining that they had videotaped our wedding and we "simply must see it." She ushered us into another room, and popped a videotape into their VCR. There, 60 seconds after our ceremony had ended, a fully-produced video of our wedding began. It started off with cheesy music, displaying the date and our names in some flowery matrimonial font, then did a fade effect into the ceremony itself.

The videographers sat patiently beside us, while we watched the video, bravely reigning in their emotions. The wife and I did the same with our laughter. At the end of the video we were informed that we could keep it for the low price of $200. Regrettably, we turned down this fine offer.

Later we were shown the pictures they had taken of us. Although a few of them looked fairly natural, most of the pictures superimposed us over various computer-generated backgrounds. One picture featured us in a field of hearts, another showed us flying over Las Vegas, and my favorite one showed us shooting through space at seemingly relativistic speeds. These were, without a doubt, the finest wedding pictures I had ever seen.

After the ceremony, and these tasteful sales pushes, we adjourned to the rotating restaurant at the top of the fabulously spinny Stratosphere for some fine dining. After flying through space, it was nice to have dinner in a restaurant that attempted to approximate orbit. It was somewhat grounding.

All in all, it was a great wedding day. If I had to do it all over again though, I might choose to do it at City Hall. The Stratosphere was hardly covered in gold at all.


tinyhands said...

The first person I know to get married in Vegas.

Mike said...

Me and Britney Spears. It's an elite group.

Nutmeg said...

Awww, so sweet! I'm so glad things worked out for you.

I always wanted a Vegas wedding but Mr Big was all "hey we have to be an example to the Kid" and "Hey we have to think about our parents". WTF? I'd been there, done that had the Big Wedding ticket punched and the tee shirt to boot. So I let him plan the whole thing. I just showed up with a dress and the Kid. It was awesome, we got married in a bar that was a former speakeasy.

Gayle S, my old (and current!) friend got married in Vegas as well -- 10 years ago (right before Big and I -- or right after -- I don't really recall) and they are still going strong! So it's you, Britney and Gayle. I'm betting on the WC bunch to do much better than Brit.

Mike said...

Meg, yeah, I think the fact that we're measuring our marriage lengths in years and not minutes mean that we're passing Britney in stability.