What Happens in Vegas

As a little girl, I didn’t dream of walking down the aisle in a white satin dress while Prince Charming waited worshipfully for me at the altar. I didn’t imagine him carrying me off into the sunset on his white steed to a castle where we would live happily ever after. While my Barbie dolls sometimes wore the wedding gown my mother made from her own dress, they preferred the stewardess uniform. My favorite Barbie, a brunette like me, traveled the world with Pilot Ken. They went on dates during layovers in exotic places, but they never discussed marriage. Brunette Barbie had other plans.

When I was a preteen, my plan was to leave Michigan once I turned 18 and relocate to California or maybe New York. Next I would travel to Europe and possibly settle in London. My roadmap grew sketchy after Europe, but I was certain I’d stay single wherever I landed. I didn’t want kids, so there was no point in getting married. I wouldn’t even think about settling down until I was old, like 40 or something, and had seen the world.

At 18, my plan went decidedly south. I wound up living at home with my dad and his wife while I went to the University of Michigan-Dearborn and then moved out and took a job in nearby Birmingham when I graduated. I promised myself I’d only extend the deadline for leaving Detroit by a few years and that I’d be on my way by age 25. Two months before my 26th birthday, I quit my second post-college job, sold my car and moved to Chicago. Six weeks later, I met my future husband.

The prince of Lincoln Park (and later Bucktown) and I lived together for two-and-a-half years before he proposed. I was fine with that, happily focusing on my career and enjoying our big-city lifestyle. Marriage remained the “m” word for me, and the idea of planning a wedding held no appeal. Still, I knew that if I were going to embark on the journey down the aisle and into the unknown, he was the one I wanted beside me.

During a visit to Michigan to celebrate our engagement, my father and his wife tried to sell us on getting married in Livonia. We politely agreed to check out some locations with them, but we never made it past the first generic reception hall or the talk of which of their friends should be on the guest list. The prince wanted a church wedding, but suddenly my crazy idea of eloping to Las Vegas looked good to him. Or at least it looked better than a bunch of my parents’ friends doing the chicken dance under a disco ball.

The prince and I were married in a gazebo at the Island Wedding Chapel of the Tropicana Casino by a minister named “Hap,” which, as he explained, is three-fifths of happy. I had wanted a drive-through wedding performed by an Elvis impersonator, but we compromised. Twenty friends and family members celebrated with us, and a handful of us partied well into the night. I think we rode the rollercoaster at the top of the Stratosphere at 3 o’clock in the morning, but I can’t be sure.

Sometimes what happens in Vegas is only the beginning of the adventure. The prince and I have been to both coasts multiple times in our 16 years of marriage, but we decided the Midwest is where we belong for now. This summer we took the two kids I swore I would never have to Europe for the first time. It seems the plans I made when I was a little girl didn’t change, although the order of them did.

I guess Brunette Barbie just needed to find the right copilot.

The prince and I celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary in November 2011 where our adventure (or at least the marriage part) began: Viva Las Vegas!

35 thoughts on “What Happens in Vegas

  1. Happy anniversary!!

    I always assumed I’d get married at 27-28 and have kids in my 30s. I got married at 22. I didn’t have kids until my 30s, though. I just never expected to meet the rest of my life at 19. 20 years later it still feels like that first date…

  2. I’m going to need a lot more pictures of this chapter. Like a ton more. I love the pic you did post. And holla! Bucktown. We claim that’s our neighborhood, but honestly, we aren’t that cool. We are just a few ghetto blocks, but still. anyway, more about you. I love this line: Or at least it looked better than a bunch of my parents’ friends doing the chicken dance under a disco ball.

    LOVE THIS! Happy, light, fresh, well written, and so very you.

    • Haha! Thanks, Shannon. We had such a blast. The only bummer was that I never got all those cool gifts you get when you have an actual wedding and register for stuff. Oh, well.

  3. I loved my stewardess Barbie and that plane play set! It’s so funny what we “know” we want or think will happen to us when we’re younger. I was the complete opposite of you: I always thought I’d be married with kids in my early 20s, just like my parents, and I wanted a big church wedding. Well, at least we’re both living happily ever after. Happy anniversary!

  4. Glad you found your perfect co-pilot, and it sounds like you had the perfect wedding for you. When I was planning my own 175-guest wedding (which by Jewish wedding standards wasn’t even that big), I had multiple thoughts about just chucking it all and eloping. Although, our wedding really was exactly perfect for us too. Some things just work out like that 🙂

  5. Oh, you are so inspiring me to think about and maybe write about my “how we met” story. I just love all your posts on this. I have kind of an opposite trajectory here though. I was your typical hopeless romantic who wanted nothing more than to find my partner and have babies. Instead I had a career in the arts and traveled and dated too much and then finally met and married my husband in my 30s. Funny how we surprise ourselves.

    • It sure is funny. Sometimes we don’t expect to end up where we do but find ourselves awfully happy we did.

      I hope you will write your “how we met” story. I would love to read it.

  6. Aw, what a sweet story, I just loved it! I’m glad you did it your way. Also happy you got to take your kids to Europe. We are hoping to take ours next summer (although I’ve been many times since I used to work for a Swiss company!).

  7. What lovely and touching proof that the quality of any celebration, and especially a wedding, is defined by the participants. The surroundings, even when at their very best, can only enhance the experience. I’d have loved being a guest at your bash!

  8. This is such a sweet post! I can relate in the fact that I never dreamed of a big wedding or a wedding at all really, but I did dream of the end result: a family. It so nice to know that our childhood dreams did come true, even if it is an unexpected way. (aka, I had a baby first, then got married a few years later!) Happy anniversary!

  9. Even in the dark photo I feel the love between you and your husband. Such a sweet well-written story. The Vegas wedding sounds like the right choice. I had the big wedding with the white dress. It was wonderful, but stressful, and if I had it to do over again I would do what you did. It just makes sense.

  10. I LOVE this!!!!! I had the whole big church wedding, St. Clement in Lincoln Park, when all I wanted was a quiet affair. You pulled it off with friends and family too! I was never into Blond Barbie either. She was too Stepfordish. I wanted excitement and travel and all those things. Looking back, you nailed it when you said “she” did all those things but the order changed. I feel that way too and also that it’s the way things were supposed to be. You, me and Christie need to meet in the city after the holidays!!!

  11. Signature Room at Mandalay Bay?? Made me miss Vegas!!! (That’s where I ran away to with my prince for a few years too!) 😉

      • Oh, that’s too funny! I didn’t even remember the right name (Foundation) until you said it. We’re music folks but not big clubbers anymore. I think we stayed there for all of an hour. The view was spectacular, though.

        We need to talk Vegas weddings someday. 🙂

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