Standing in the waiting room of A Little White Chapel, a wedding venue famous for hosting weddings of couples like Lily Allen and David Harbour and Ross and Rachel, we couldn’t contain our nervous giggling.
Just six months previously, Jonny had been down on one knee on a beach in West Wales. Less than a month later, we’d booked this $150 wedding ceremony in Vegas – with Elvis as our officiant.
Seven years earlier, we’d met in London, as interns at the same company. On the night of our Christmas party, we discovered our shared sense of humour, a (great) taste in music and a spark that would only get harder to ignore.
But we stayed friends. I was still in a relationship with my university boyfriend, and Jonny dated other people too. But eventually, breakups and several (some drunk, some sober) confessions of long-harboured feelings followed, and after four years of friendship we had an accidental first date.
We met up for dinner as mates but by the end of the night, we were together and couldn’t believe that anything else had ever made sense.
I told my friend Sanya that I thought I might marry him.
It felt like we were making up for lost time. We immediately operated with a, ‘why not?’ mentality. Why not cook arancini for dinner tonight? Why not cycle to Windsor just to watch the football? Why not book a flight to Milan for New Year on New Year’s Eve?
After nearly three years of dating, Jonny proposed.
Then, we had to plan the wedding.
A church ceremony felt too formal, but we knew there’d have to be some sort of legal document signing scenario. We wanted to make the admin part of getting married as fun as possible, though – and what better way to do that than by sneaking off to Vegas?
So we booked our flights.
We called my parents to tell them what we’d decided, and then we told a few other people close to us. Everyone was buzzing and we were so relieved.
Obviously, there was some sadness that our people wouldn’t be with us as we legally became husband and wife, but we’d decided we’d plan a ‘Hey, We Got Married!!’ celebration the following year.
In April, we sent out save the dates for the ‘big day’ (which, at this point, everyone assumed would be a wedding) and watched the RSVPs roll in.
In June, we flew to LA for a road trip that took us from Venice Beach to West Hollywood to Palm Springs, then on the road through the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas – ending the trip on the biggest high of our lives.
We booked the wedding like we’d booked a gig at the Troubadour: we literally added ‘one marriage ceremony’ to a checkout cart on the website of A Little White Chapel for $150. We added an Elvis to be our celebrant as an add-on, then bought my flowers (red roses) and Jonny’s boutonnière (a white rose) 15 minutes before the ceremony.
This wasn’t going to be a big white wedding. For a start, I was wearing a silver dress. Around a week after we’d decided on Vegas, I’d gone online and ordered The Vampire’s Wife’s silver Falconetti dress.
Like so many women, I’d adored the dress from afar for years but could never justify buying it. But my girl maths calculations concluded that the low cost of the ceremony offset the high dress cost (and I will not be argued with on this matter).
Jonny knew what he wanted too. He nipped down to the Moss Bros in Westfields White City one day after work with his best mate, and picked a dusky pink velvet blazer, a black bow tie, tuxedo trousers and black fringed loafers. He literally looked like James Bond, but cooler.
When we finally arrived on the Las Vegas strip, after a week of what felt like our reverse honeymoon, we could barely contain our excitement as we drove down the Las Vegas strip to the Clark County Marriage License Bureau and picked up the marriage licence that you can’t get married without.
Finally, we were ready.
The day before our wedding, we drove back to our hotel to meet our friends Sam and Justin, who live in Chicago. They’d hopped onto a three hour flight to be our witnesses. We caught up, toasted to the brilliant (legally-binding) excuse we had to spend a weekend together, had dinner and won $400 on roulette.
The next morning, we woke up and stared at each other in disbelief. This was our wedding day! And we could do it our way, without worrying about any family politics, seating plans or questionable speeches.
All we had to think about was the incredible commitment we were about to make to each other – and make sure we savoured every second.
So Jonny got dressed and went downstairs with Justin to do a bit more pre-wedding gambling (as you do) and to get cigars. Sam did my hair, I did my makeup and I put on my dress, which I’d been ‘steaming’ in the shower after carrying it in my suitcase for 10 days.
I was ready to go and meet the man I was going to marry.
The ceremony itself was a delicious cocktail of silliness and love. Elvis was as tacky as you’d imagine and he was perfect. We walked down the aisle towards The King as he sang Burning Love, and we exchanged vows that included promising ‘to love each other tender’, ‘to never leave each other at Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘to never ever step on each other’s blue suede shoes’.
We exchanged rings, which I’d ordered from ASOS on next day delivery two days before we flew to the US. The ceremony lasted 15 minutes and then we were married. It was the best 15 minutes of my life.
We went back to our hotel room with a bottle of champagne, I changed out of my heels and into my trainers (white Stan Smiths with red hearts on), then we sat down and read out our vows.
We both sobbed. It’s one thing to write your vows to be heard by a room full of people, but it’s a totally different ball game to write vows to only be heard by the person you’ve just promised to spend the rest of your life with.
While our wedding took place at 2pm Vegas time, our loved ones were celebrating back home. My family got dressed up and threw a party, which led to my Nannie declaring it to be the ‘best wedding I never went to’. We were a 10 hour flight away, and yet we could still feel all the love that our closest people had for us.
In total, our wedding cost us under £4,000 – including flights, hotel, the ceremony, our incredible photographer and the $200 tip we had to give to Elvis.
We paid for our outfits separately, with the knowledge that obviously, mine would cost more. Had we done this in the UK, the financial cost not only would’ve been significantly higher, but the cost of all the people-pleasing would’ve been huge, too.
This way, we got to protect our day and split out the two things – the part where we got married together, and then the part where we celebrate it with the people we love the most.
When we got back, we told the guests on next year’s ‘Hey! We Got Married!’ party guest list that we’d got the ‘legal admin’ out of the way, to make sure our ‘wedding’ next year could now just be a giant celebration instead. Not a single person was disappointed or angry – they were just ecstatic that we’d done the right thing for us.
And I can assure you, there were no suspicious minds present on that day – just two friends who couldn’t help falling in love, who decided to celebrate that love together in the bright light city of Las Vegas.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Emily and Jonny’s wedding photos were taken by Brittany Lo. Find out more here.
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