Las Vegas weddings: Getting hitched is all you imagine, and more

flowers-limoThis is a leap year, so it is officially fine for women to propose marriage on Feb. 29. Maybe the nuptials should be unconventional, too.

The average U.S. wedding costs $26,444 without the honeymoon, concludes, whose researchers say 40 percent of couples spend less than $10,000 and 16 percent spend more than $30,000.

Las Vegas wedding chapels court couples for a lot less. Although business is down almost 40 percent since 2004, about 300 weddings happen per day at an estimated 50 chapels. That doesn’t count commitment ceremonies or marriage vow renewals.

These declarations of everlasting love happen on helicopters and roller coasters, between rock formations at quiet Red Rock Canyon, in open-top buses that cruise The Strip as a celebrity impersonator officiates.

When Joni Moss-Graham says “anything goes,” she’s not overstating it. After operating a Vegas wedding chapel for nine years, Joni opened the Las Vegas Wedding Connection, to help couples wade through the options or follow a fantasy.

She usually hears from a bride one or two months before the chosen wedding day, then meets in person on the day before the ceremony. In between, she assists with the setting, tone and logistics. A $500 rental of a $6,000 wedding gown is not as uncommon as a Catholic ceremony because Joni knows of only one priest who leaves his parish to conduct a wedding.

A ceremony downtown on Fremont Street might end with a round of ziplining. At Bonnie Springs Ranch is a little chapel in a Wild West setting that offers horseback riding afterward.

Nude and nearly-nude weddings are possible, says Joni, who arranged one in conjunction with the Erotic Heritage Museum. Above the Harley Davidson Café is Chopper Chapel, popular with motorcyclists. Alexis Park Resort Hotel, which has no casino, books weddings on its rooftop terrace, garden gazebo – or the privacy of your suite, “so the ceremony can be as strange as you want,” Joni says, with a shrug.

“Cemeteries, parking garages … everybody has their choice for a reason,” she observes. Her average client spends $1,500 or less when tying the knot.

Simply putting a couple into a limousine and driving to iconic Vegas locations for wedding photography is popular. “For most people, this is the first time they’re in a limo,” the wedding planner explains.

A ceremony can happen in a pod big enough for 40 people – “unless a bar is added” – on the High Roller, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. One rotation takes 36 minutes.

Some couples want to dress as “Star Wars” characters, or zombies. Halloween is a popular wedding time. So are crazy dates, like 10/10/10.

Chapel of Flowers – on Las Vegas Boulevard, known as “chapel row” – opened in 1965 and has 12 wedding planners on staff. “We’re the iconic place to say ‘I do’,” says Diane Ferraro, marketing rep. “We don’t consider ourselves a wedding factory.”

A ceremony in one of three chapels lasts 10 of the 60 minutes that a couple is booked on the property. Staff devote another hour, on average, to plan event details. Cost starts at $350, which includes the ceremony, photos, a single-rose bouquet and boutonniere, but no limo ride.

Themed weddings are a specialty at Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, where owner Ron DeCar is the officiant. The retired casino show entertainer can pop out of a casket as vampires fly from ceiling hooks, but he’s more often an Elvis imitator who belts out long-ago hits as the bride is delivered in a 1964 pink Cadillac.

“I got a jumpsuit, and it became my life,” he says. Now Ron also owns an event center for wedding receptions and, in lieu of that, cabaret shows.

Least expensive at Viva Las Vegas is the $260 Hound Dog wedding ceremony, which includes one song. “People want to do something fun, especially the second or third time around,” the wedding host says.

Clark County Courthouse in Las Vegas issues marriage licenses from 8 a.m. to midnight daily, including holidays. License cost is $77, and you’ll both need photo identification. There is no blood test or waiting period., 702-671-0600

What if you seal the deal and regret it? Don’t expect the wedding officiant to simply not file the paperwork. That is required, or a fine is issued.

BTW: An annulment isn’t as much of a bargain. Expect at least $300 in court costs, plus attorney fees.

El Rancho Vegas, the first major casino resort on what would become the Las Vegas Strip, opened 75 years ago. Fire destroyed it in 1960, one year after the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign was erected.

Now a mind-boggling number of casinos, shows and other attractions exist, and “The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas, 2016” by Bob Sehlinger ($20, Keen Communications) ranks and rates much of what awaits travelers. That includes Abriya Raku (a Japanese restaurant) to “Zumanity” (a Cirque du Soleil show), but don’t expect the skinny on those wedding chapels. The book fills out nicely without dwelling them.

For the official word on Las Vegas tourism, consult or 877-847-4858.