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i do.
wait. what was the question?
by heather m. millen

Before I tell you my tale, I will answer for you now the question you will inevitably hold by the time you reach it's conclusion. Yes, I am out of my mind, off my rocker, a bit nutso. But personally, I prefer the term "eccentric." And with that...

"You are cordially invited to one fantasmabulous Vegas wedding…"

A few months ago while having poolside cocktails, my best friend (we’ll call him “Trey”… everyone else does) and I lightly joked of getting married in Vegas. And somehow, as time and champagne progressed, it started sounding like a better and better idea. Now, form no false notions here, we are not in love. We do not want to spend eternity together. And in all honesty, neither one of us are really sure we ever want to be married at all, let alone to each other. But a wedding, now THAT sounds fun! And a Vegas wedding!? Well, come on, how could you pass up a chance to do something like that?!

Luck would have it that a couple of our other friends, Jen and Chris (they’re important. they’re our wedding party), were going to Vegas one weekend and wanted us to come along. Well, once we jumped aboard that trip, there really was no stopping what had originally been in jest to turn into a plan. Call it an experiment or call it crazy. Either way, call the preacher, somebody’s getting hitched!

Two weeks before “The Big Day,” Trey started researching for the wedding. Sure, we want to get married, but STAY married? No thanks. We also had no desire to have to start checking that little “divorced” box on legal documents, so an annulment seemed to be the way to go. Now, if you’re about to become offended at our mockery of marriage, stop right there. Don’t blame me, baby, blame Vegas!

But could it really be as easy as the movies lead you to believe? Yes. You can get a marriage license without a blood test or waiting period at the Clark County Court House any time day or night. Buy one, set off to any of the many fly-by-night marriage chapels in Vegas, a little cash, a couple lifetime commitments and Voila! You’re married. I can’t believe MORE people don’t do this! Just for fun.

Well, we now had the logistics out of the way. But as the bride, my makeshift maid of honor quickly reminded me of all the planning that had to be done. So the week before the ceremony, we were afrazzle with plans. There was a ring to be bought, a dress to be chosen! Naturally, I chose a nice little demure ivory satin gown with... Right. You buy that? Me? White?! And this is a Vegas wedding! So I settled on a slinky little red number from my closet, fashioned a veil, and packed a feather boa. Perfect!

On the Wednesday before the trip, I figured it was only fair to break the big news to Moms and Pops. Now, I know what you’re thinking. If you ever actually did get the half-witted idea to get married in Vegas just for the hell of it, you would sooner choke to death on wedding cake than tell your parents such a thing. Well, my parents know me pretty well and while it’s undoubtedly one of the more “off the charts” thing I’ve done, it isn’t necessarily a “shock” per se.

So I made the announcement. After a moment to soak it all in, my father said something about my unpredictability, that I “leave no rock unturned” and by the end, was genuinely laughing right along with me. In fact, he actually requested we call him during the ceremony so he could listen in. As he put it, “Every father should be at his daughter’s wedding. No matter how warped it is.” As for my mom… well, here’s how that exchange went.

Dad: Heather’s getting married.
Mom: Not for real!
Dad: Well, not seriously, but she’s REALLY getting married.
Mom: Why?
Dad: She’s bored.
Mom: To who?
Dad: I don’t know, we’ve met him... (To me) What’s his name? Trey? Trey.
Mom: Oh, I like Trey.
Dad: (To me) Tell Trey I’m gonna kick his ass the next time I see him.
Me: Do you mind if he calls you “Dad”?

So really, everything that needed to be done was done. Vegas, baby, Vegas! Marriage, baby, Marriage! Annulment, baby, annulment!

About eight hours into my Vegas vacation and Trey and I are off to the courthouse. The Clark County Courthouse is an interesting place to say the least. There are women wandering around outside in big poofy white gowns and peddlers pushing their local chapel on you the minute you go anywhere near that “Marriage Bureau” sign.

But the courthouse itself is quite efficient. McDonald's could learn a thing or two from this place. When you first walk in, there are a stack of forms and a box of those little golf pencils on the table. Each member of the “Happy Couple” (as we’re so addressed on the form) fills out the application. This is seriously the only time I was asked to sign anything during the entire ordeal. We then followed the bride/groom signs down the corridors to the counselor. She types in the info and the license is printed up immediately. No need to show any identification. Just fifty bucks, cash only please, and you’re off to get it official.

I think this is the first time that the entire ploy started feeling a little eerie. Here it was: An actual official document linking our names together. In the great words of my beloved fiancée, “I don’t even want to touch this thing, it’s freaking me out.”

Back at the hotel, the wedding party had started celebrating without us. My adorable maid of honor (she so deserves a better wedding to be a part of) had brought me gifts in the form of something old, something new and all that jazz. Pop open a bottle of champagne, that is where it all began, and soon we’re just giddy enough to get the ball and chain a rollin'.

Our cabby takes us to a chapel way too overpriced for this event. But what’s that down the road? Ah, yes, gotta love Vegas. Chapels on every corner. We end up at a classy (and by classy I mean cheesy to the Nth degree) little joint called A Hollywood Wedding Chapel. How appropriate!

Thus begins our “Vegas Wedding.” We go through the ceremony, which was pretty run of the mill. Actually, it was completely absurd. The best man has a garter on his head and the bride is in a red gown for chrissakes! And I’m pretty sure the bride and groom are supposed to be gazing longingly into each other’s eyes, but Trey and I are stifling laughter. But we say the vows and exchange the rings… A “gold” nugget design with a “diamond” dollar sign for him and a pretty little purple jeweled ring for her. And then within minutes, our Vegas wedding is over. “You may kiss your bride.”

Yep. I’m telling ya, it’s harder to get a driver's license. That was our Vegas wedding. Though I really can’t do it justice in words alone. Don’t worry, thanks to the chapel photographer, we’ve got plenty of pictures to commemorate "Our Special Day."

And now stop gaping your jaw and I’ll let you in on a little tidbit. We haven’t completely lost our minds. In the end, we didn’t file the documents. Hey, annulments are a heck of a lot more expensive than marriages. So now we have a completely valid license and marriage certificate that we can get official anytime within the next year, but we thought we’d hang onto that one for safekeeping. I’d tell you where it is, but then I’d have to beat you to death with my bridal bouquet. But as the minister from the highly reputable and yet online Universal Life Church pointed out, we are “married in the eyes of God.” Which is fine with us... it's the eyes of Uncle Sam we're concerned with.

Why’d we do it, you say? It sounded fun? Too much champagne? Boredom? An elaborate ruse to get some action? Nope, I did it for you. That’s right, you. Because chances are you’ll never have a Vegas wedding (though I highly suggest you do) and I wanted to share mine with you. Okay, it wasn’t JUST for you. I'd always joked that I wanted the wedding and not the marriage. So for one day, we had a fabulous Vegas wedding. And, I would argue, a happier one than many real married couples ever experience. And for posterity, we have some rather unique and spectacular memories among friends.

Okay, fine. It was the champagne.

Author's Note: I would like to thank my husband* for his contribution to this piece. It couldn't have happened without you. No, really!


Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen


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robert melos
11.19.02 @ 10:15p

Heather, let no one ever say you aren't an original! Given my own feelings toward marriages, relationships, and all the other conventional stuff of which our society is made up, I think you'll probably have the best possible marriage in the world. Thank you for sharing it. By the way, I've always dreamed of a Vegas wedding.

juli mccarthy
11.19.02 @ 10:27p

Oh, man - that's neat! If I lived in Vegas I'd do it weekly.

Heather, you slay me.

matt morin
11.19.02 @ 10:27p

Worth Bagley Askew III?

tracey kelley
11.19.02 @ 11:16p

Oh Heather. You ARE Penny Lane, dearie.

mike julianelle
11.25.02 @ 2:02a

Hey Heather, you're Dad sounds like a real champ!

Dad: (To me) Tell Trey I’m gonna kick his ass the next time I see him.

That is beautiful stuff!

sarah ficke
11.25.02 @ 9:51a

Wow, Heather, I wish I could have been there to see it!

matt morin
11.25.02 @ 12:33p

While I think this is hilarious, what does it say about the institution of marriage if it's that easy to get married?

heather millen
11.25.02 @ 12:35p

I AM Penny Lane? Rock!

It really was a lot of fun. "Worth" and I had a great time of it.

heather millen
11.25.02 @ 12:38p

And Matt, I understand your point completely. Obviously, Vegas is considerably easier to get married in than most states. But throughout the ordeal, Trey and I were continually shocked at just how easy it was there. They'll even marry you at 16 with the parental consent of only one parent.

sarah ficke
11.25.02 @ 1:55p

While I think this is hilarious, what does it say about the institution of marriage if it's that easy to get married?

It says that marriage, like most other things in life, depends on the character and commitment of the individuals involved, not the legal rigamarole around it. People get married for lots of reasons in lots of ways, and not all of them are for love.

jack bradley
11.25.02 @ 4:51p

This is gold. Heather (and Worth! Oh, man...I just made that noise with my nose again!), you just can't imagine how happy this column makes me.

Thank you!

heather millen
11.25.02 @ 5:07p

Ah yes, Worth... Finally revealed! Funnily enough, I knew that was his real name and I still gave a giggle each time the minister said his name during the ceremony. (note: Trey=III)

Anyway, he gives his regards as well. Though he read the column before its submission, the jerk is now off “honeymooning” in Europe without me ;)


kathy carlton
11.25.02 @ 6:32p

Nice piece, Heather. As Sarah points out, getting married IS easier than getting a driver's license. And making babies is even easier than that(and a lot more fun.) Seriously, I think a license for becoming a parent would be more useful.
P.S. I hope you got your night's "Worth".

daniel castro
11.25.02 @ 7:57p

Seriously, Worth Bagley Askew III? thats a nice way to get the shit kicked out of your kid in school by bullies. And Heather, congratulations! You have balls!

julie restivo murphy
11.25.02 @ 7:57p

I think Heather is on to something here! I think a lot of people get confused and think that they want a marriage when all they really want is a wedding. Weddings are fun and beautiful and exciting -you can't flip past three TV channels without seeing one. On the other hand, everyone knows that marriage is monotonous and dull. Just ask JLo. If there were more fake weddings I bet we could really get the divorce-rate down. Here's to phony matrimony!

kathy carlton
11.25.02 @ 8:37p

Speaking from personal experience, my wedding wasn't all that much fun. My marriage has been much more interesting and delightful. Its the commitment that makes it great; not the ceremony or the legal documents. I haven't found marriage to be dull or monotonous at all, but I recognize that I am very lucky. Here's to committed relationships (marriage or not.)

robert melos
11.25.02 @ 10:09p

the jerk is now off “honeymooning” in Europe without me ;)

That's it! Kick his sorry butt to the curb. Although, it could be so cool to have that back up line when a guy you don't like hits on you. "My husband is in Europe, and I could never cheat on him. But thanks for the champagne anyway."

heather millen
11.26.02 @ 1:27p

Committed relationships or phony matrimony?

I'm inclined to reiterate Sarah's comment that a lot of people get married for a lot of different reasons. Yes, it's very romantic and idealistic to think that each wedding that takes place is just a small step toward a serious and wonderful relationship between two people, but that obviously is not the case. Just look at the divorce rate. People get married for a variety of reasons: tired of holding out for the one, financial means, stability... and worse.

I think true love is a beautiful and rare thing (not to sound cheesy). But I feel marraige itself is an unnecessary institution. You can have one without the other. And just maybe, your relationship all the better for it.

matt morin
11.26.02 @ 2:01p

Marriage is about committment. Personally, I like the idea of publicly saying "I promise to be committed to this person forever" and have them promise that back to me. That's an intimacy I couldn't get any other way.

And if a relationship is better off by not committing? Well, then I don't think that's really much of a relationship.


adam kraemer
11.26.02 @ 3:16p

All part of my "it doesn't count if you were drunk" theory. Which, I might add, never works.

heather millen
11.26.02 @ 4:24p

And if a relationship is better off by not committing? Well, then I don't think that's really much of a relationship.

Well, there's when you blur the line between marriage and commitment. I see nothing wrong with marriage, one day I may very well do it (though I suspect the wedding may look a lot like the one here.) I just don't see the institution as necessary, but I also have no solid aspirations of starting a family. And it gets to me that I know so many people who hit even their late twenties and start panicking about never getting married. People who pressure their significant other about the walk down the aisle. I just don't think you need the symbolic nature of a wedding to be in love.

But this article is more about the wedding than the marriage. And what's more, a Vegas Wedding. If the institution is so "sacred", how could goverment make it so easy? And why then is divorce so common?


adam kraemer
11.26.02 @ 4:54p

Because people are Godless, you hussy.

No, really, it's human nature at both its best and worst.

robert melos
11.26.02 @ 5:35p

Matt, Heather is right about committment v. marriage. If you are committed to a significant other, the ceremony itself is nothing more than a public announcement of your committment. However, the legal bundle of rights which goes along with marriage is what most people want. Just saying you are married doesn't mean squat until you need to prove it for insurance or medical purposes. Interesting enough, even though Heather and Worth (sorry Trey, I really like that name) didn't file the final license/certificate, the fact she has it, at this moment gives her more legal rights to her "husband", and vice versa, should something, god forbid, happen to either of them. Even if the marriage was just for fun, the door to the legal rights is open. It would probably be an uphill legal battle, but once you get the door open some shyster (apologies to any resident shysters) can come along and make with the legal mumbo jumbo jive talk, and suddenly there is a precedent.

And Adam, hussy is such a great word! I love it. Not necessarily pertaining to Heather specifically, but just in general. Kudos for great word usage.

heather millen
11.26.02 @ 5:54p

HUSSY?! Yeah, Adam, are you calling me both a hussy AND "human nature at its worst"? Geesh, you wear a slinky red dress and have one little fly-by-night Vegas wedding and ALL of a sudden you're the sanctity-of-marriage-mocking bitch... ;)

Not that I mind. And did I mention how FANTASTIC it all was?


trey askew
11.28.02 @ 1:16p

Hey kids! This in from Europe, we'll call it my 2 pence. The wedding was scary as crap! If it would have been for real I probably would have fainted (see commitment issues). Heather and the wedding party definitely made it the good time it was.

Now if you boys would like to line up about those Worth comments I'll be cashing in when I get back!

Back to drinking! Or as Julianelle would type...bqrw ae wknwoein.

heather millen
12.2.05 @ 2:30p

On the other hand, everyone knows that marriage is monotonous and dull. Just ask JLo. If there were more fake weddings I bet we could really get the divorce-rate down. Here's to phony matrimony!

I just couldn't resist the opportunity to serve up a nice, happy helping of crow. My lovely friend, Julie, who rants on here about phony matrimony and incited a bit of a riot, announced to me today that she is ENGAGED. Many congrats to her- They grow up so fast.


jael mchenry
12.2.05 @ 3:34p

Hilarious that this long-ago column got bumped up today of all days -- in workshop last night we discussed a story I'd written in which a character's description includes this phrase: "The only reason Aileen wasn't a divorcee three times over was that, after each hasty Vegas wedding, she knew enough not to file the paperwork." A co-workshopper knew exactly where I'd gotten my inspiration.

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