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August 22, 2014

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Chapels prepare for holiday bliss

Britney Spears has inspired teen fashion, record sales and gossip columnists. Now she may be inspiring soon-to-be-wed couples.

Wedding chapels are bracing for a busier-than-usual Valentine's Day weekend, thanks in part to Spears' quickie marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander on Jan. 3 at the Little White Wedding Chapel, just north of the Stratosphere.

"It's a three-day weekend; Valentine's Day is on a Saturday; and then there's Britney Spears," said Charolette Richards, minister and chief executive of the Little White Wedding Chapel, 1301 Las Vegas Blvd. South.

The chapel, known for celebrity marriages including those involving Joan Collins, Michael Jordan, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra, has already booked 400 weddings for Saturday, double the number on Valentine's Day last year, Richards said.

"We also have more this year because people are realizing the importance of commitment, and that a vow to be together means something," Richards said.

"Plus, it's Valentine's Day. It's always special, but when you get married on that day, it makes it even more special. It also helps husbands remember their anniversary date."

To accommodate the crowds, the Little White Wedding Chapel has scheduled 100 employees to work on Saturday, with 10 ministers and six extra photographers, Richards said.

"We normally have about 40 people working on a regular day, so we're more than doubling our staff for Valentine's Day," she said.

Ten couples are already scheduled to be married at midnight throughout different areas of the chapel, Richards said. Weddings will continue through all hours of the night, straight through Saturday, she said.

"There are a bunch of couples that wanted to be the first to get married at the stroke of midnight on Valentine's Day," she said. "We have about 30 couples getting married right after midnight too."

Sean O'Donnell and Andrea Dammann of Edmonds, Wash., were among the lucky couples who booked a "just after midnight" ceremony.

O'Donnell said they planned a Valentine's wedding in Vegas to fit in their busy schedules.

"We were going to have a big wedding later, but we're just so busy to plan everything," he said. "This is both of our second marriages, and we have seven boys between the two of us. It takes a lot of work, so we just decided to come on down to Las Vegas and do this."

O'Donnell admitted the Little White Wedding Chapel's celebrity reputation influenced the decision to get married there.

"Well, first I'll say that we have twin 17-year-old boys, so you can only guess why they chose this place," he said, referring to Britney Spears. "That didn't do anything for me, but my son told me Michael Jordan got married here and that did it."

So far the Little White Wedding Chapel has lived up to its reputation for O'Donnell.

"I'm a huge basketball fan, with season tickets to the Sonics," he said. "And when we walked in the chapel, I looked over and saw Predrag Stojakovic, an NBA All-Star who plays for the Sacramento Kings. He was standing right in there. I couldn't believe it."

Stojakovic was not getting married, O'Donnell said, but may have been attending another ceremony.

Next to Stojakovic, Lynnette Daw and her mother, Patty Daw of Illinois, filled out paperwork for a Saturday wedding.

Lynnette Daw, 27, said she and her fiance, 24-year-old Nick Barton, decided on a Valentine's Day wedding in Las Vegas because they were "looking to go with something less traditional."

"I think it's neat to get married here," she said. "We wanted to get married on Valentine's Day, and three to four months ago we decided to go to Vegas."

This is the first time the couple has visited Las Vegas, making it even more memorable, she said.

"This is both of our first times to Las Vegas, so we were excited," she said. "Nick was walking around singing 'Viva Las Vegas' all last week. We're excited and we're excited to get married on Valentine's Day, it's just a given." John Combs and Mayumi Kudo of Orlando, Fla., said they scheduled a ceremony for 3 p.m. today, just to beat the rush.

They will be among 29 other couples who booked weddings for today, according to Richards.

Richards said today will be less busy because it's Friday the 13th.

"Oh, that's just superstition, I'm not worried," Combs said. "We're going to beat the rush, and it's Valentine's Day weekend, so it's romantic. It's going to be special because we're getting married on that day."

Kudo agreed that the date's infamy is only a superstition.

"I'm not superstitious, but we'll have to watch out for Jason," she said.

Sharon Brown, assistant supervisor at the Clark County Marriage License Bureau, said Feb. 13 was actually the busiest day during Valentine's weekend in 2003, with 1,059 marriage licenses issued.

The Clark County Marriage License Bureau issued 952 licenses on Valentine's Day 2003 and 368 on Feb. 12, 2003, she said.

Brown added that she is expecting a large line of couples at midnight Saturday.

Although the Little White Chapel has booked all of its reservations for Valentine's Day weddings, it is still expecting to take in a large number of walk-ins, Richards said.

"We're totally booked for Valentine's Day, but there will be a lot of walk-ins and we won't turn them down," Richards said. "Weddings here are endless love stories and we'll fit anyone in at any time."

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