WE MET ELVIS!!!
Exactly three weeks ago Ben and I called our immediate family to inquiry about their availability for the weekend of December 6th. Despite the ambiguousness of our question paired with an ungenerous two weeks notice, with a little bit of lady luck and a lot of unlimited love, an hour later they were all-in. Though in reality, the stakes were low and the payoff high, for if we must say so ourselves, this pair is unbeatable.
(See what I did there?!)
And within a week, all bets were placed – flights purchased, rooms reserved, chapel booked, dress ordered, photographer contacted… and of course, a legal appointment made with Elvis, the King himself. We were all shook up, for it’s now or never to love me tender in viva Las Vegas. Wink wink. Whoop whoop dazzle!
For those who haven’t been along for the full ride of Ben and Karey, or Ken and Barey, or even to some, Bean and Carrot – the short and sweet goes back to August 2007 when we shared a house together in Charlottesville, Virginia. I affectionately refer to this as my ‘stud farm’ since it was me, four other fabulous dudes, two dogs, two cats and a rat named Hitty Pitty. Ben offered to teach me how to cook, I accepted. Ben told me fake ingredients to buy at the grocery store, we fell in love. Seven years later, two stints of long distance, a four year fabulous view and many mountains climbed, we are are now Karey and Ben Helms. Hehe. Just kidding! Ben and Karey West. I’m now obligated to say that Ben wears 51% of the pants in our relationship.
And if you’ve figured out that this is a page in our travel blog, why the name ‘Happy Spooner’? Well, it’s descriptive.
The idea to get hitched in Las Vegas originated a few weeks prior to contacting our families, when Ben and I began contemplating an elopement. When we realized through research the legal difficulties of two Americans getting married outside of the States, Vegas seemed oddly obvious and perfectly picturesque as unbeknownst to most, we contemplated tying the knot five years back during our first visit to Sin City. And by the revelation of this secret, we have now had our first of many Vegas violations, because according to the city’s famous slogan, “What happens here, stays here.” It’s been about a week for us.
Majority of the weekend’s events took place in historic Downtown Las Vegas around the formerly famous, more recently infamous and the presently promising Fremont District. Fremont Street itself goes all the way back to 1905 when Las Vegas was founded, and in 1925 became the first paved street in Sin City. As the heart of the downtown casino corridor, it is home to many famous casinos – Golden Nugget, Pioneer Club, Eldorado and OF COURSE the El Cortez – and has been featured in a slew of films – Elvis’s Viva Las Vegas (1964), Diamonds are Forever (1971), Honey I Blew Up the Kid (1992, hehe), Vegas Vacation (1997) – to name a few.
Cool right? And not a surprise to anyone that’s visited Vegas, the uncommon but always interesting delight of discovering scenes like the below.
Two notable additions in 1996 to Downtown Las Vegas were the Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall with a lighted barrel vault canopy, and the Neon Boneyard, a six acre outdoor museum of restored signs. During our particular wedding weekend, the former was home to an riveting dichotomy of bona fide cowboys and phoney santas, in town for the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and the 10th Anniversary of the Las Vegas Great Santa Run. The latter, and more specifically, the new North Gallery of the Neon Museum was the location of our post wedding photos, ready in a month or so. In in the meantime you can check out the PBS documentary Restoration Neon for a preview, as we left all the snapping to the pro while in the boneyard.
The fabulously friendly El Cortez Hotel & Casino on Fremont Street, a downtown legend as the longest running hotel and casino in Las Vegas, was our base for the weekend. So cool even Bugsy Siegel was a previous owner. It continues to maintain its local charm by being family-run and its vintage experience by avoiding the glitz and glimmer, yet just close enough to all the neon action. In all honesty, we kind of just got really lucky with the booking of everything and can’t claim we knew much of anything.
Though the main hotel’s Parlour Bar was our go to meeting point, for both its convenience and relaxed atmosphere, all the wedding party stayed in the ultra hip sister site just next door – El Cortez Cabana Suites. Where the candy bowl is always full, until we arrived.
As short notice was given, our only request for the guests was to be fully present on Saturday. Therefore, not all were able to fly in on time for our Friday feast at Le Thai, a delicious beginning to our Vegas foodie adventures.
(Insider tip: notice the Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas references?)
Following champagne on the house, which was one of many weekend themes, we headed into a nearby vintage store for a live band playing for a birthday party my brother was invited to earlier when his swanky bolo tie caught an attendee’s attention as it suggested he was a rodeo attendee. He didn’t deny it either. We ended the night at Don’t Tell Mama‘s piano bar and open mic, and enjoyed an eclectic range of talent.
We joked about 80% of the wedding was done the week before, and the remaining 20% on Saturday morning as Ben and I visited the express window of the Clark County Marriage Bureau to get our license (#winning), my father went on a spontaneous ad hoc limo hunt and my sister, taking the lead, tied up pretty much every other loose end (food, champange, disposable cameras etc.) while selflessly shouldering any potential stress with her efficient ease. I believe we defied Murphy’s Law. No need to mention the ladies limo getting slightly lost en route to the chapel, or why… hehe, hmm. Or that the chapel almost mistook Ben for another Ben to marry directly after us, who had rescheduled.
A particularly important aspect of the entire weekend, which was perhaps most important at The Little Vegas Chapel, was the sincere warmth and excitement by Vegas employees. Considering Las Vegas typically has the most weddings of any other city in the world – though not at all surprising, yet notable – it was an unexpected delight to be treated with their care and joy.
And, in case you are considering planning your own, The Little Vegas Chapel also sells an assortment of rings, a detail for the groom we overlooked until arrival.
If you didn’t watch the full video (10 minute wedding ceremony at the top of the page), enjoy a short clip from my brother of the opening song and dance:
Another unknown feature of Downtown Las Vegas that had such a positive impact on the wedding outcome and overall experience was the amazing amount of murals. From some post wedding research, majority of the ones pictured in these photos, which are also only a very tiny selection of the handful we saw, are a result of the second annual Life is Beautiful Festival this past October. Over 35 artists both locally and from around the world were invited to create large-scale murals, installations and interactive artwork for the art component of the festival. The Ever After mural by London based Lakwena Maciver, among others, happened to be on the same block as the Cabana Suites.
(For additional high resolution mural pictures, visit my other Downtown Las Vegas blog post.)
After hangout out in El Cortez’s Parlour bar with some coinciding big betting… we headed to dinner at El Dorado Cantina, an upscale authentic Mexican restaurant with a seriously amazing menu and chef. Hidden somewhat discretely inside Sapphire’s Gentlemen Club, though with no affiliation nor clue of their close proximity once inside, its slightly hard to find but easily worth the food and service. The restaurant seated us in a more private back area and upon finding out it was our wedding dinner, the chef came out with complimentary desserts for the table and white roses for me.
The slideshow below encompasses photos from El Dorado’s and The Parlour Bar back at El Cortez:
On Sunday, those that were able to stay the extra day, went to brunch at Fat Choy, a classic American diner meets Asian comfort food, known for their baos.
And when you talk to us in person, be sure to ask about the ‘big bet,’ my brother getting locked on the hotel roof and the miscellaneous creepers. On that note, I leave you with some weekend outtakes and extras: