In commemoration of Valentine’s Day, today’s column will focus on a few of the many celebrity weddings that have occurred in our great city. Las Vegas is known the world over as the wedding capital of the world, and we still hold the record of more churches and wedding chapels than any other city. It is estimated that over 125,000 couples get married in Las Vegas every year, a truly astounding number. This is the first in a two part series on Celebrity Weddings in Las Vegas, with this column discussing weddings from the old days of Las Vegas, from the 1940s through the 1960s.
Getting married in Las Vegas is NOT a new concept. One of the earliest famous couples to tie the knot in Las Vegas was none other than Zsa Zsa Gabor and George Sanders in 1949. Though many of the new generation might not know George Sanders, Zsa Zsa is still talked about to this day. It was her third marriage, and the one that followed Conrad Hilton. She would go on to marry 4 more times, and is still married to this day, to her 7th husband.
The Sands hosted the marriage of Rita Hayworth and Dick Haymes in 1953. Hayworth was Hollywood royalty during the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in over 60 films. One of the original glamour girls of Hollywood, this particular marriage only lasted two years, but was one of the most talked about in the city.
One of the marriages that stood the test of time occurred at Sahara. Veteran actor Kirk Douglas married Ann Buydens at the Sahara in 1954. As of 2012, they have been married 58 years, and Douglas is now 95 years old. Some Vegas marriages were made to last!
In 1958, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward married at the old El Rancho Vegas (now a dirt lot). The El Rancho Vegas would burn to the ground a few years later in a controversial fire that no one was injured or killed in. The marriage would last quite a bit longer. They never divorced, and were still together when Newman died in 2008. Joanne Woodward lives on.
Betty White, still relevant and a great comedian to this day, married game show host Allen Ludden in 1963 at the Sands Hotel and Casino. They were still together at his death in 1981, and White never remarried.
One of the more famous marriages that occurred in Las Vegas was the union of Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, which occurred at the Sands in 1966. The marriage only lasted two years, and Sinatra famously served Farrow divorce papers while she was on set filming Rosemary’s Baby.
Perhaps the most famous weddings occurred at Milton Prell’s Aladdin hotel and casino in 1967. Elvis Presley married Priscilla Anne Beaulieu in a small and quiet ceremony at the since demolished property. The couple arrived before dawn in Las Vegas and acquired a marriage license before sunrise. They were married by 915AM. The ceremony only lasted 8 minutes, but was followed by a lavish banquet with 100 attendees including the owners of the Aladdin.
Also in 1967, former heartthrob and vixen Ann Margaret married Roger Smith at the Riviera. One of the smallest and quietest weddings to occur in Las Vegas by a celebrity, the wedding was performed by a district judge and the two witnesses were the hotel’s PR director and hotel manager.
To round out the decade of the 1960s, Las Vegas icon and celebrity best known as “Mr. Las Vegas,” Wayne Newton tied the knot at the Flamingo in 1968. He was only 26 at the time, but was already known as quite the entertainer and Las Vegas must see. He married former airline stewardess Elaine Okamura. They would stay married for 17 years.
Though it is true that many of these unions did not end well, what history will remember is the spectacle, the news, and the memories of these once great couples joining together at various venues throughout Las Vegas. Some are a bit more famous than others, but all chose to exchange their vows here. I’m sure all of us know at least one or two couples that chose to get married in Las Vegas, and today being Valentine’s Day, you can count on many more people professing their love to each other throughout the city all day and night. Celebrity or not, Las Vegas will continue to be the marriage capital of the world. Happy Valentine’s Day!
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