I have a lot of Irish blood that I like to think is the reason for my distaste for spicy foods, my love of a good cocktail and my total aversion to hot weather. I live in the mildly tempered Pacific Northwest for a reason and it is no coincidence that I am called coldandgray. Therefore, why did I plan to head off into the desert during the hottest month of the year? I liked the humor of a Vegas wedding and it had to be on 7/24, the date of our 5 year anniversary of the day we met in a pool hall. Every single time we stepped outside while in Vegas it was like getting punched by a flaming oven mitt, and I could not help but all the time say: “It is hot. It is hot. I am hot. Hot. Hot. Hot.”
We arrived at 1pm, got settled into the Stratosphere hotel, had lunch in the 50’s style restaurant where the wait staff sings to you & then we headed off to get our marriage license. As soon as we got out of the cab to go into the marriage license bureau, a dozen people trying to get us to use their chapel accosted us. We already had a chapel booked, but nice to know you do not have to pre-plan anything about your Vegas wedding. The marriage license bureau was an unromantic steel gray. We waited in line with the other engaged folks for about 20 minutes, paid our $55 and were on our way. Since we did not have a car, we decided to hang out nearby in old Las Vegas on Fremont Street instead of cabbing it back to the strip. We purchased a yard of daiquiri, one for each of us, which is literally a 3 foot long tube filled with boozy beverage. We watched the light show & then found another place that had even better yards of daiquiri, which involved 151-proof rum. We hung out there & played some slots. We each won $5 & decided to cash out so we could mosey on home & eat pizza in bed. We stayed up a bit too late and had heads full of rum.
The next day was our wedding day. The plan was to sleep late, take a swim, eat a buffet breakfast, get married, hang on the strip & have an expensive dinner. This did not go according to plan. We were awoken by the telephone at 7:30 AM, an ungodly hour in my book. I told Sasha to yell at them for waking us up, but he was too nice & pretended we were awake all along. I heard him make plans with someone and then hang up. Turns out that an old family friend of his lives in Vegas and wanted to buy us a drink that afternoon. Her name was Peach and she worked at the Venetian Hotel as a masseuse for the high rollers. I figured she would have some good stories, so I tried not to mind the change in plans or being awoken so early. Apparently she had tried to go straight to our voice mail so as to not disturb us, but there was some sort of snafu. As much as I tried, I could not go back to sleep. I got up and noticed a message on the answering machine. I picked it up and it was Peach leaving a message, but not realizing she made it into the voice mail system. I heard her say: “I don’t know what is going on,” and “That’s a lot of pancakes Ma.”
We decided to go for the swim portion of our day. The pool was nice with a cool sound system, so we could pool dance. I told Sasha that I was not nervous about the wedding since it was just the two of us. After about 90 minutes, we decided to go back to the room and order room service so we could get ready at our leisure and not overeat at the buffet. Once in the room, we got a call from the concierge saying he was bringing up a delivery for us. It was 2 beautiful pots of flowers, one from Sasha’s Mom and one from my oldest friend, Laaura. We were delighted at the thoughtful gifts and put the flowers on our breakfast table. Breakfast arrived soon after, and as we sat down to eat, we had yet another delivery. This time it was amazing chocolate covered strawberries and some fine champagne from our dear friends in Seattle, Jay and Aimee. We were kind of reeling from all the activity, when we immediately got another phone call. I hear Sasha give out our room number and when he hangs up he says: “My parents are here”. It took me a full minute to realize that his parents were in the hotel & would be in our room in a matter of minutes. We had decided to run off by ourselves, believing it would be easier this way, and would have a big party for everyone else next year. At hre idea of our wedding being crashed, I was struck by a mix of emotion including, but not limited to: Confusion, joy, irritation, sadness, frustration, giddiness and love. As soon as they walked in the door, I began to cry. I was very touched by the gesture at the same time as feeling a sadness that my own mother could not be there and also angry at my Dad for doing absolutely nothing for us on our wedding day.
Sasha’s parents, Henry & Jerre made us feel so special coming all the way from Wisconsin, telling us that they could not let us get away with doing this by ourselves. They presented us with an extraordinarily generous monetary gift, as well as another bouquet of flowers and a cobalt blue baking dish. They had been planning this for weeks and you could just feel the love pouring out of them. I decided to just let go of my plans for the day and go with whatever direction the day was going to take. They shared in a champagne toast and helped us with the chocolate covered strawberries. I tried to finish my breakfast and converse at the same time. They wanted to go back to their room at Harrahs to change. We told them to be back here by 12:30. It was already 11:45 am, so we only had 45 minutes to shower, iron, do hair & make-up and get dressed in our wedding clothes. Now I was nervous. Luckily we decided early on that it would be too hot for tuxes and big, white, starchy wedding dresses, and we did not want to do that anyway. Sasha wore a nice shirt & slacks & I wore a pretty, blue dress.
While getting ready, I started to hum the song: “I Say a Little Prayer” from the My Best Friends Wedding soundtrack. I started to sob, because I knew my Mom put that song in my head to let me know she was there. This was one of the songs that us kids and grandkids sang for my parents on their surprise 40th anniversary party that we threw for them 3 months before her diagnosis, 6 months before she died. The night before she died, we were watching My Best Friends Wedding, and when Rupert Everett started singing that song during the dinner scene, my Mom turned up the volume and she and I sang it together. We laughed and had a perfect moment. She died 17 hours later. I had not heard that song since that day until it was all of a sudden in my head like she placed it there when I needed her.
Our wedding package included a limo, so the 4 of us rode to the Shalimar chapel together. It was literally like a fast food wedding; we were in and out in 10 minutes. I became really glad that Henry & Jerre were there. Henry walked me down the aisle and Jerre was my Maid of honor. They handed us our rings at the appropriate moment and cried for us as we became legal. Now I could not imagine the day without them there. Sasha cried too, and that made me cry. All in all it was a very sweet and painless experience.
The wedding package included 12 photos and a video. They literally handed us a roll of undeveloped film and a 10-minute videotape that needed to be rewound along with our marriage certificate and a souvenir garter and we were on our way.
Our limo driver took us back to the Stratosphere where Henry treated us to a nice lunch in the rotating restaurant on the very top. Sasha & I then went back to our room to change and call Peach. She did not know Henry & Jerre were there, so we decided to surprise her as well when she came and picked us up. She arrived wearing what else, but a peach colored dress and hooted and hollered when she saw Henry & Jerre. Somehow our day was completely hijacked at this point when she decided to take us all to her place outside of Vegas for a champagne toast and to smoke some weed. Both her car and her house lacked air conditioning, so we were all sweating and uncomfortable in the 108-degree heat. I don’t like pot, but I took a toke to be courteous and Sasha took several big tokes. This combined with the heat and the champagne made him turn a dark shade of white and he immediately needed to lie down. I worried how this would effect my wedding night and was subtly urging the party to move it along as the whole day was almost over. Luckily Sasha recovered and the group of us went out to dinner and then they let us loose to continue on without them.
The next day Sasha & I rented a car and drove over to red rock, a beautiful spot in the desert where we each took dozens of photos. We kept seeing signs for wild burrows and sure enough we saw one walking down the side of the road and a few more in the pasture. We then drove up to Mount Charlston where we had a nice lunch and watched the humming birds. On our way down from the mountain, we ran over a bird. It was just standing in the middle of the street with it’s back to us. We kept expecting it to fly off, but it just stood there. Sasha tried to slow down as best as he could to give it some time to fly away, but there was a group of moped riders tail gaiting us. Finally the bird looked over his shoulder with an expression that said: “What the fuck?!” but it was too late and he was under the car. I could not help but see this as a bad omen, but it seemed to be, because later that night, Sasha erased every single picture off his digital camera with an accidental press of a button. All the photos he took of our trip, including the only ones we had of us with his parents and the wild burrows, were gone in one fell swoop.
That same night we tried to see as much of the strip as we could and rode the roller coaster at New York New York. We decided to get a quick dinner before seeing a topless dance show at the Luxor. At the restaurant, they had a Keno game, which neither of us had ever played or knew anything about. We gathered it was like the lottery. You pick some numbers and see if they come up on the board. We decided to pick our room number: 3,19,8,7 and put done $5. The first game we won $15 & the Keno lady asked if we wanted to play again since she only had 2 games left that hour. Sasha wanted to change our numbers, but I said let it roll. To our utter dismay, all 4 of our numbers came up and we won $600, basically paying for the trip. A great moment of pure luck and timing.
We left the next day, but not without riding the roller coaster on the 112th floor of the Stratosphere.