I didn't always want to have my wedding in Vegas.
Like most engaged gals, I started by thinking (somewhat) traditionally.
I wanted to rent the downstairs of our place, the restaurant and bar where my fiancé and I had our first date.
We were on a first-name basis with the owner and most of the staff, and we loved the food and the ambiance.
It was local to us and close to the hotels where our guests would probably stay. What more could we want?
Turns out, money.
Once we added together the realistic costs of a dress, a suit, tailoring, food, booze, invitations, decorations and renting the space (not to mention the entire honeymoon), our budget was $15,000.
That may seem cheap, considering that the average wedding cost in America is $25,200, but it's still a massive amount to shell out for one day.
Yes, it's one of the most important days of your life, but is it $15,000 worth of importance?
For a while, we thought so.
We tried to save as much as we could to get to our goal within two years (our set engagement limit), but by the time one year had passed, we had barely made any progress.
While we were on the phone with my mother, explaining why we had to push back the wedding date for another year, she replied, "That's ridiculous. Why don't you just get married in Vegas?"
It was like a light had split through the clouds and into our dining room window.
We were immediately on board.
Choosing Vegas did amazing things for our wedding.
Despite the fact we had to travel to get there, it cut costs dramatically.
We chose the Silver Sky chapel at The Linq hotel and casino, which packaged together the ceremony, officiant, music, photography, hair and makeup, flowers, a DVD and champagne for under $1,000. That pretty much sealed the deal.
After that, things began to fall into place pretty quickly. Instead of buying a traditional wedding dress from a boutique, I ordered a little white lace one online.
I had never felt comfortable in a gown, even when it didn't resemble a cake-topper, but in this, I felt like myself, only dressier and more beautiful.
I got blue suede shoes to go with it, and I felt like I was embracing the fun of Vegas and the fun of weddings.
Instead of going through the quicksand of research and budgeting, I could buy things as I earned the money. I actually felt like we were getting somewhere.
And best of all, people actually wanted to come (the right people, too).
All my closest friends budgeted for the trip and were able to make it work.
But (and this may be controversial), many family members sent their regards and stayed where they were.
For many people, this would have been devastating. However, this was a Vegas wedding.
I only wanted people to come who were ready to have fun and paint the City of Sin red.
My mother was the youngest of all her siblings, and I wasn't sure how any of my aunts, uncles or cousins would fit into our adventure there. But, they simply didn't.
They decided of their own accord to stay home, which wouldn't have happened if we'd kept the wedding local (but still had the same party vibe). It was a blessing.
The thing about Vegas is that everything is easy.
It's as easy as inserting a dollar into a slot machine and pulling a lever, except the gambling aspect is gone.
When it comes to the wedding industry, everyone is a professional, constantly available by phone or email.
I coordinated an entire ceremony and reception without ever shaking a hand, seeing a space in person or even having to make more than three phone calls. I'm telling you, this is the way to go.
From being in weddings myself, I knew the final days before a traditional ceremony are often spent running around and ironing out last minute details.
For us, everything had already been arranged months in advance. All we absolutely had to do was get a marriage license, which is notoriously easy in Vegas.
The rest of our time could be spent with the people we loved, and enjoying ourselves.
It's exactly what we did.
It's definitely non-traditional.
We stopped to see the waters dance in front of the Bellagio hotel, passing guys holding fliers for strippers and escorts, a man levitating on the sidewalk and people in all manners of rentable costumes.
If you want your wedding to be sophisticated, Vegas will absolutely deliver, but only on the day of.
Everything before then is like a remix of the Electric Zoo, and we ate it up.
The night before our wedding was a blur: too many cocktails, too many fries, too much dancing, laughing and talking with friends who had flown from all over the country to see us.
We hugged, drank and merited some stares (that we thoroughly ignored) from people sitting nearby.
It was the perfect location for a combined bachelor-bachelorette party.
What better place to celebrate the last night of your single life than the over-the-top party capital of America?
I could try to describe the ceremony, but words would fail. The chapel was swathed in a purplish glow that sparkled off the silver chairs for the guests.
My fiancé and I walked in together to a crescendo of inspiring guitars, and there, in front of everyone we loved, we became husband and wife.
The only unplanned incident was his fingers being so swollen that I had to force the ring on his finger. But you know what?
I love those pictures the best.
I had found a restaurant close by with a private room that was willing to work with me on a prix fixe menu for a reasonable amount of money, so we decided to walk.
Perhaps it wasn't the best decision in the dry desert heat, but we made do, carrying cheap frozen margaritas in hand. We stopped to take pictures on a bridge, the entire strip behind us, and we felt like movie stars.
That, unfortunately, was where the fun ended.
Prepare for the unexpected.
Due to the heat and lack of water, two of our guests passed out during dinner.
My best friend face-planted into her salmon while another friend slid more gracefully into a chair and then onto the floor.
Long story short, we never got to eat dinner, hear our parents and friends toast our marriage or go out onto the strip and celebrate.
Instead, we went to the emergency room to watch two tiny girls get revitalized by IV fluids until well past midnight.
In spite of that, I wouldn't change a thing. The next day was spent at brunch, recounting the ridiculousness of the night before over Bloody Marys.
We played blackjack for too many hours, but we ended up walking away having made some money.
We took the red eye home that night, completely thrilled with everything we had experienced.
Your memories are unique.
Perhaps it wasn't a traditional wedding, and it was, by no means, perfect, but it was ours.
We got a pre-honeymoon during the process of our wedding, everything was perfectly executed (minus the fainting guests), and we spent our wedding night taking care of the people we loved dearly.
We never got a first dance, a wedding cake or a night on the town after a luxurious dinner.
But, we have a story to tell like none other, and, just like our love story, it is unique, adventurous and utterly unforgettable.