The sun was hotter and brighter than I had ever experienced in my whole life, and as the tourists raced from casino to casino, and the pedestrians gaped in awe at the extreme and grotesque decadence, my soon to be wife and I drove down The Strip.
Las Vegas. The city of sin, dropped in the middle of the desert like a gamblers’ oasis, is the place where dreams come true. And the place where drive-thru liquor stores are on every street corner. And the place where gay Elvis’s dressed in polyester pantsuits covered in jewels and sequins marry dykes in the Viva Las Vegas Chapel.
Lorraine, the official marriage witness and greeter of the soon to be wed, smiled and said the gratuitous hellos as myself and Megan entered the chapel that would change our lives f-o-r-e-v-e-r.
Bright lights and big anxiety was the order of the day. After the initial shock – and some mild commitment phobia – we were led to the Bride’s Room.
Appropriately decorative, with fabric flowers and a vanity mirror, it was where we waited. The photographer, Elvis’s boyfriend as it turned out, entered our inner sanctum, and doe-eyed, we listened.
“Okay. So hi, I’m Dave. I’m going to take 24 pictures throughout the ceremony. Abi, you’ll stand here, and Megan, here beside her. When Elvis starts to sing, ‘Love Me Tender,’ the two of you will walk towards him holding hands, stand before the stage and turn to face him. After that just follow his lead.”
Follow his lead? Was this not our wedding? Did we not get a say? What the hell are we doing? I soon realized, thankfully before voicing any of my concerns, that for $250US there wasn’t much one could ask for. And then the music began.
Jelly knees and sweaty palms led us down the aisle towards the least-likely-to-be-Elvis Elvis impersonator, singing his heart out and curling lips at all the right places. When the music stopped, his show began.
“Do you Abi and Megan take each other to be your Teddy Bears? Promise to never step on her Blue Suede Shoes, and always Love Her Tender?”
And then, after a stunning rendition of “Viva Las Vegas,” it was over. We laughed, we cried, and it was truly better than Cats.
Love and love and more love. Not the presents, not the fanfare (although I have been known to be a bit of a ham) but for love. [Insert collective sigh.]
Toronto. Jan 1, 1999. In the living room of a jeweller friend, the deed was done. Rings came out of small zip-loc baggies, and without much ta-do we were engaged. Megan, although quite committed to the impending nuptials, was incredibly sketchy whenever the subject came up.
“Hon,” I would ask her. “Where do you think we should have the reception? And should we have lilies or gerberas?”
“I don’t want to talk about it right now,” she would reply.
A response like that could make a girl think that her new fiancée wasn’t really into the whole idea of marriage. That it had all been a scam, and that a break-up was right around the corner. However, this stubborn girl wasn’t taking vagueness as an answer.
“Megan, I’m wondering if I should invite my aunt and uncle. You know how my relatives don’t all get along. And should we have salmon? Do you think that’s a cop out?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Somewhere between the ring exchange and the planning stages, Megan had shut down. The need for an overwhelming amount of planning, money, negotiation, had badly damaged the synapses in her brain that controlled the rational thinker. In an instant she was Queen Of Avoidance, taking over my title. I was now asking questions in vain. Unable to deal with any more questions about décor or fashion, she snapped.
“I am putting a ban on wedding planning until we can find a way to have a wedding that reflects our sensibilities as humans, our sense of style, and isn’t some great big cheese fest.”
Nodding with understanding, I agreed to the ban, while secretly making guest lists at work and pricing a reputable florist. But as the time drew nearer the ban remained. With hesitation I brought it up.
“Um, dear? It’s about the wedding?”
One night in a dream, my dear fiancée had a vision. With shining lights and flashing sequins, the angel of the king came to her and it was decided. Elvis would be our savior, saving us from salmon and reception halls and all that other stuff. I went looking for him.
The Internet with its many twist and turns led me to Rev Daphne, queer spiritual unifier, available to arrange ceremonies of dykes who are desert bound.
Rev Daphne assured us that getting Elvis would not be a problem. Our service was arranged for Oct 20 at 4pm at the gay owned and operated Viva Las Vegas Chapel. It fit in nicely into our two week vacation to the valley of the sun, and was moderately priced. We picked the basic package: A three song performance by the King himself (or a reasonable facsimile) and a signed certificate of life partner union.
Although the family was disappointed that we would not be recognizing our love publicly in front of overdressed guests, we drove off into the sunset to celebrate our less than legal union.
And so it was. Forever we will be tied to the magic of Graceland, the King, and his love of kitsch.
And that isn’t a bad way to conquer wedding anxiety.