But on a recent trip to Nevada, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is possible to have an elegant Las Vegas wedding. Yes, I said elegant. I’ll go one step further and add family-friendly!
Most people looking for a sophisticated setting skip right past this city. But it might surprise you, as it did me the first time I visited. It's pretty awesome when you think about it. With one airplane fare, you get to have a quintessential bachelor/bachelorette experience on the Strip, but still have a traditional and tasteful wedding. Even better, there's also all the spas, entertainment, restaurants, and nature you might want for your honeymoon. What other city can offer all of that?
The Strip – with its gambling, showgirls, night clubs, and bustling crowds – is fantastic for bachelor and bachelorette parties. But when it comes time for the wedding, you'll want a beautiful environment that both grandma and your flower girl will feel comfortable in. That means a location where guests don't have to walk through casinos filled with gambling and smoking, and where there's more focus on natural beauty than artifice.
Here are my top picks for places to have an elegant Las Vegas wedding:
Lake Las Vegas, including the Westin luxury hotel, the Ravella resort, and the Montelago resort apartments. Check out this resort area, just 30 minutes from the Strip with free shuttles. It feels like an entirely different world
Trump Las Vegas Just off the strip is this hotel that feels extremely luxurious. They'll help set up a wedding in their gorgeous penthouse, with views of the glittering city. Best of all, the non-Strip location means that rooms are usually cheaper than their Bellagio or Mandalay Bay counterparts.
Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas If you're worried that your friends won't want to stay ON the Strip, but you also want to make sure everyone feels welcome and relaxed, then consider the Four Seasons. It occupies the top four floors of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, but enjoys its own private lobby and check-in area. Guests who don't like to gamble need never see it at all, but for those who do, the action's right downstairs.
There are other fancy hotels and resorts that offer Las Vegas wedding packages, but buyer beware: I’ve seen some beautiful ceremony locations that were unfortunately just steps from the hotel’s pool. And in Vegas, that means just steps from bikini-clad partiers and a booming sound system playing club music. It's a single person's selling point, but it's definitely not what you want your guests walking past when they’re headed to your ceremony. Other locations were equally as gorgeous, but instead of a pool, quests would walk through the casinos.
And even more locations look pretty in photographs, but in reality have Astroturf lawns, fake flowers, and views of parking lots. I toured many frog-like chapels in order to find the princes listed above.
Of course, if you love Sin City’s glittering and, well, tacky reputation, there’s no reason you can’t add some Vegas touches to your wedding. The concierges at these hotels and the wedding planners at the chapels can help you find the perfect Elvis impersonator, Strip landmarks for photo taking, and themed favors to add that Only-in-Vegas je ne sais quois. If you really must, there are even drive-through chapels. You could also do 50-50 – have a kitschy ceremony in one of the many small chapels this town is known for, and then go to one of these hotels for a more upscale and tasteful reception. Or better yet, do a "test-run" at a chapel, followed by an elegant Las Vegas wedding ceremony.
But I think it’s better to embrace the tacky for the pre- and post-wedding events and rely on local secrets to have an elegant Las Vegas wedding.