Fog curls over the grinning cherubs of an altar fountain, and the jarring refrain of the Imperial March from Star Wars hits. Leggy Ewoks and dashing Jedi Knights come down the aisle, flanked by enough Princess Leia buns to attempt a world record. The chapel is full, and every guest is decked out for the commitment ceremony of Anakin and Amidala, aka Antonio and Paulina. The couple came all the way from Mexico to have Darth Vader officiate, and he makes them promise to control their dark sides. It’s a 30-minute display of love and ridiculousness, something the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel does with relentless precision.
The roots of the wedding destination on Las Vegas Boulevard go back to the mid-’90s, when founder Ron Decar was towing a horse-trailer dressing room so he could change rapid-fire from tuxedo to Elvis jumpsuit and sing for weddings all over town. He’d been holding down a lounge at the Tropicana, but the wedding business—especially in costume—got hot. He turned a napkin sketch of a bride and groom with a hippie, a medieval knight, a Vulcan, a showgirl and the King into an ad. “I had nothing—no costumes, no sets, no props. … People started calling, and I was like, ‘Oh no, it’s gonna work.’”
Viva Las Vegas now sprawls across six indoor and outdoor chapels equipped for traditional weddings and themed extravaganzas that range from disco to gladiator to Gothic cemetery with an “aerial duet of vampires in love.” Want to drive down the aisle in a pink Cadillac or Cinderella carriage? Want Spock and Alice Cooper to bless your union? Don’t be shy. Pretty much anything you can dream up, Viva can conjure.
“You want it to be magical. It’s a production. All of our background is show business, so we’re used to making everything bigger and grand,” says Decar, one of three in-house impersonators bringing the magic (sometimes in a corset and fishnets with mascara in his sideburns). He says themed ceremonies are 50-60 percent of Viva’s bookings, and the most popular is the original, Elvis, who helped English tourists Helen and Mark Johnson renew their vows after 10 years.
“We got a bit drunk last night and that was it,” Mark joked, adding that Elvis was the obvious choice to weave a wild thread into their love story. “It’s tradition, isn’t it? It’s too Las Vegas.”
Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel 1205 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-384-0771, vivalasvegasweddings.com.