13: Planning a Vegas Wedding from Texas
Updated: Oct 7
Howdy! So fun fact, my fiancé proposed to me at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Spain while we were backpacking back in 2018. It’s now 2021. From the get-go, we planned on having a destination wedding. Nothing crazy big, but someplace cool, preferably where we’ve never been. Initially, we aimed for Ireland. They’ve got castles along the coast, many of which have been converted to hotels, who offer very reasonable elopement-weekend stay packages. How cool, right? Getting married in a historical caste! Then we got back to the states. Some relatives made it clear they wouldn’t be comfortable flying that far out, but the majority of our immediate family and friends would've been game.
We budged, discussed marrying in New York instead. It’d be cheaper for our loved ones (who largely live on Long Island) not to have to fly out to watch us get hitched (though we’re totally cool with anyone declining). I went to a bridal sample show in their neighborhood, received many coupons and fliers from companies advertising their locations/services for the big day. Back then, we figured we’d get hitched in 2019-2020.
We moved to Texas in early 2019 and getting married was less of a priority while we focused on getting settled. Then Covid happened. We said goodbye to the Irish castle wedding because, to my knowledge, Ireland is discouraging international travel (incoming and outgoing) at the moment. No worries. I was under the impression we were leaning on a NY wedding anyway! So, I finally told the fiancé it was time. Let's get this event off the ground! In mid August 2021, I filled a nice chunk of notebook with ceremony venue options and costs. Long Island opened their first Vegas Style chapel not long ago. The prices, while high for a Vegas chapel, were very reasonable for Long Island. I was ready to discuss dates, and put down money, when I brought these options to my fiancé to review.
He looked everything over before exclaiming that this wasn’t what either of us wanted. We took a long walk, and upon returning home, he suggested a Vegas wedding. Perfect! I just want to be married. The where isn’t super important, and neither we nor our immediate families have ever been to Vegas. I spent the remainder of that day narrowing down a list of four chapels that looked promising. I offered those to him, asking him to pick one. We decided on The Little Church of the West, the oldest church in Vegas, a Historical site, that also happened to be an exact replica of an even older chapel from some ghost town. Neat! We double checked that our nieces and nephews were definitely coming and when they'd have off from school, booking a date that aligned with their winter breaks.
I looked at hotels in the area, seeking family friendly options to accommodate those with children. Originally we picked Excalibur Hotel because it looked like a castle, but it’s super close to the ceremony location and the wedding package we booked includes a limo pick up and drop off. While it would have been hilarious to be picked up at a hotel and dropped off across the street, that would have been a waste of money. We decided on the Strat Hotel instead, booking the hotel and our flights the same day we booked the ceremony. I also filled out the wedding license form online. We have to pick it up and have their county clerk sign off on it in person, which we can do the week of the ceremony.
We discussed the reception. Did we want folks to dance? Nah. We’re not big dancers ourselves, so the day after booking the chapel, I went through nice restaurants in Vegas, locating four for my fiancé to pick from. He chose Canaletto Ristorante at the Venetian resort. They specialize in hosting group events, had several menus to choose from, and have a space that’s a suitable size for our group of under 30 people. Originally we planned on inviting friends. However, our nearest and dearest have started having babies, some planning to have more soon. It would have been asking a lot to have them fly out to our small wedding where they’d really only know us, all with children under 2 years old. Plus, what with the ongoing pandemic, keeping our number small is the responsible thing to do. Right now, the total number of people expected at our ceremony and reception dinner is 25 including us.
Booking the reception did not occur overnight. I emailed back and forth with the restaurant's event coordinator for a couple of weeks, clarifying what we want, what’s practical, and any changes that needed to be made before we could sign the contract. It's signed now.
Then came dress shopping. See, we decided on a February wedding date the August before and that didn’t leave a ton of time in between. The second we booked our ceremony, hotel, and flights, I also booked 2 dress shopping appointments on Long Island. Since we’ve decided not to have bridesmaids/groomsmen, a bridal shower, nor bachelor and bachelorette bashes, dress shopping seemed like a nice way to introduce the women of my family to the women of his, plus I’d promised his mom we’d go dress shopping together when we first got engaged.
I flew to NY and went to Blu Rayne Bridal in Commack for dress shopping that Saturday. The appointment lasted an hour and while the woman assisting us was very kind and obviously passionate about what she does, there was little within my budget ($1K), and even less without a transparent lace midsection. Also, every dress had a train, which I didn’t want.
The second appointment was at David’s Bridal in Westbury. Because of Covid, Blue Rayne Bridal only let me bring 2 guests to my appointment. David’s Bridal, however, didn’t set a limit, which I appreciated. With help from the shopping assistant, my fiancé's family, and my family, I said yes to the dress. It’s very flattering and didn’t have much of a train for me to remove. Unfortunately, I do think that store may have been short staffed. The shopping assistant went to find the seamstress to ask if there were other colors available for the under fabric and disappeared for over a half hour. When I found her, she was ringing up a customer at the front counter, which is admittedly a very long process. By then, most of my guests had to be getting back. Still, it was overall a good experience. While the dress was being purchased (kindly by my aunt Dawn), I provided my shipping information.
In all the hubbub of everyone leaving and making sure I put the receipt where I wouldn’t lose it, I forgot to ask when the dress would arrive. After arriving back in TX the following day, I called the Westbury David’s Bridal, asking when I could expect it. It was purchased September 5th. I called September 6th. They said the Westbury store location would receive it on October 3rd, at which point, it would be shipped to me. I've got to call and see if it arrived yesterday and if they can forward me the tracking info so I'm notified when it gets here. When I called on Sept 6th, I asked if it could be sent to the Austin Texas David’s Bridal instead, or directly to my address, bypassing the Westbury store location. I was told that was impossible. Aside from hemming away the train, I also intend to add cap sleeves to the dress. Otherwise, it fit well and shouldn't require a ton of alterations.
Finding matching accessories was an ordeal. I'll spare you the details, but rest assured, if you want your bridal sash, hair accessory, jewelry, and shoes to match AND you would like a color other than silver/gold/white in them, you're going to be looking for ages. That said, I found a jewelry set I liked, based my sash purchase off those colors, had custom shoes made to match the sash, and bought two hair pieces that come close to that color scheme. All but one hair piece were purchased over Etsy, the weekend of September 14th. The other hair piece I bought off AliExpress last weekend. The jewelry set and sash arrived promptly. The shoes haven't been shipped out yet though should be today. I expect both hair pieces by the end of the month.
Anyway, onto the wedding bands. I have an interest in heraldry, specifically in coats of arms. My fiancé's family has a few coats of arms associated with his last name. To my knowledge, they’re not sure which really applies to their family. My father’s line doesn't have one, though my mother does, on her father’s side. However, we're not huge fans of any of those. Back when I used to tattoo, I designed a couple of personal coats of arms for myself, complete with the accompanying blazon. I did eventually provide my family with an unofficial coat of arms as well. Now that my we're finally getting married, we’re doing something we always said we would. We’re having signet rings made featuring our new mutual coat of arms. Is it legally binding? No. I’m not about to hand over $6K to some heraldry enforcing company in the UK to give my design their seal of approval. Besides, being US Americans, there's no such thing as nobility anyway. Not here. These rings are just for us but they will serve as our wedding bands. We’re having the rings made through CustomMade.com. Our team is made up of Maki, Daniel, and Charm and we’re pretty excited. Our rings are recessed with the coat of arms inverted so we can close outgoing letters with wax seals. The rings take about two months to make so I imagine we’ll have them by mid November. They are super expensive, coming to about $3.5K for the two of them, if this is something you're interested in.
I just got my engagement ring resized. Against tradition, it’ll go on the ring finger of my dominant hand because I can’t fit a signet ring and an engagement ring on the same finger. Not comfortably anyway.
I made invitations on Zola.com. I tried Mint but found it difficult to include all of the information required for a destination wedding on their pre-arranged invitations. Plus, Zola had super cute Vegas themed invites already designed, so I just logged our info and our 8 guest addresses. I ordered matching stamps from USPS but alas, they were stolen. After waiting way too long, I finally sent the invites today, literally handing them to the mailman because the outgoing mailbox in our complex is missing a door at the moment.
We booked the cake last week. I offered three designs and our vague color scheme to the custom cake shop. They quoted us a little over $400. That's higher than the cost would have been had we gone elsewhere and chosen from a selection of wedding cake options. But, this place delivers and was recommended by our reception coordinator.
My fiancé hasn’t even glanced at tuxes yet, though a suit would be fine. He is set on us going to a casino in our wedding garb after the seated dinner reception. We also need to book the honeymoon. We have a location, tour, guide, and dates picked. We’ve looked at flights to get a feel for the probable cost. We just have to actually book it. Likewise, for both the wedding and the honeymoon, we need to hire a pet-boarder. I've looked at Rover. I’m 90% sure who we plan to book with and the probable cost. I’ve just got to do it. We might be moving this winter so I don't want to book an Austin pet-boarder if we'll be living in San Antonio by then. Haven’t the foggiest on what we’re doing for favors yet but I’m keeping an eye out for ideas. Likewise, I have a pinterest folder for hair and makeup. I plan to have my hair professionally done the morning of the wedding. I’m still debating doing my own makeup or having them handle that as well. In the mean time, every time we go out socially, I practice doing a full face of make-up. So far, I've decided a lighter palette is more flattering on me, which is a helpful start. Our photographer is booked for the ceremony through our wedding package. We could've paid extra to have them work the reception too, but figured that’d be silly, given it’s a simple dinner event. The wedding package also includes flowers so that’s covered, though I need to email that coordinator the color scheme.
So yeah, that’s been the Vegas wedding process so far. I’m doing what I can online, every step of the way. I have an excel sheet for tracking what I've booked versus still need to book, the costs, dates if dates are relevant, and confirmation codes. I also have a folder of receipts for everything already paid for/booked.
Weddings are expensive. They don’t have to cost $30K-$60K like they average on Long Island NY, but it’s an accomplishment if you can keep it under $10K and you’re really winning if you can keep a destination wedding under $5K. Judging by what we’ve spent so far, and what costs we know are upcoming, I think we’ll have spent about $15K all said and done, but that includes my dress shopping flights, the dog sitters, and the honeymoon in Morocco in May. That’s everything, and it is a lot, but we’ve been saving for ages.
TL;DR: Advice for destination wedding planning?: Book ceremony online. Then book hotel & flights. Fill out the marriage certificate in advance if possible. Book the reception. Then order & send out invites. I used Zola.com but Mint.com is also good. The earlier the better for destination wedding invites. Include hotel info on the invites. Try to dress shop 8 months before the wedding, & close to home, to prevent having the mail lose your dress or having any extra delays. Don’t try on dresses out of budget. Dress shop with bridal party early too, if you plan on having one. They buy their dresses. You might pay for their shoes, jewelry, or perhaps hair or makeup the day of. If not, get them a cute keepsake separate from the regular wedding favors. Ditto for flower girl. Bring everyone to lunch after shopping. Plan on alterations taking time (weeks-moths) & costing extra. If having custom wedding bands made, CustomMade.com has great reviews. They’re expensive (Ours are about $3.5K for white gold, gold, & no stones) and signet rings take 2 months to make. Book the cake if your reception host does not provide a cake. Aim for the cake maker to also deliver it. Book tux or suit for groom. If you can afford to, it’s usually worth it to book getting the bride’s hair & makeup done by a professional. If you're a dude & want to feel pretty, have at it. This is your day too. Book a photographer & flowers if your wedding package doesn't include them. Rover offers affordable pet sitters/boarders if you don’t have a friend/family willing & responsible enough for that. Keep all wedding receipts together, & all wedding expenses in an excel file. If you’re on a tight budget, have a set amount you can spend on each wedding step (ceremony, reception, flights, hotels, dress, tux/suit, rings, flowers, photographer, invites, hair, & makeup) ahead of time. Stick to it, but do your research & be realistic with your expectations.