Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2014

7/7/07 did many weddings no favors

By the time Bryant Palazini's marriage was formally consecrated in the parking lot of a wedding chapel last weekend, he had been waiting outside for as many hours as his suit had pieces - three - and the brim of his wife's white hat had wilted and expired around her ears, like an exhausted upside-down doily.

The couple is one of several who regret their decision to marry on what was billed the luckiest day of the century: 7/7/07.

Instead, the date was a bridal running of the bulls that drew thousands of couples to long, winding wedding lines, with some results more successful than others.

The chapel Palazini chose, the Las Vegas Garden of Love, was so over booked, he said, that he and his agitated bride, Rosanne, agreed to join an 11 p.m. group wedding ceremony - seven couples wedged against a cinder block wall, with streetlights for ambience and coughing exhaust pipes for organ music.

At least Palazini got married.

Angela Williams had hired the Garden to whisk her and her husband-to-be in a limo from their house to Mount Charleston, where about 40 guests were waiting to witness the vows.

When the limo didn't show, the couple drove to the chapel - only to find a mob scene, "swearing and cussing and carrying on like something from Jerry Springer."

Williams spent two hours in the chapel parking lot, trying to get married, until she was unwilling to wait any longer for chapel staff to explain what would become of her wedding, with half her guests half way up a mountain.

She called the wedding off.

Then Williams and her fiance , Paul Mejia, headed to the dinner reception they had planned at the Olive Garden, where, without any wedding to celebrate, Williams wept into a plate of chicken fettuccine as friends tried to console her.

Williams and Mejia have eaten whipped cream strawberry wedding cake for dessert every night since. What else is the couple to do with a wasted wedding cake for 70?

Garden of Love manager Barbara Ludwig calls the outcry exaggerated, egged on by local TV , which aired home-movie footage of the mass marriage, then cut to close-ups of fuming couples. Now the chapel is getting hate mail that's more or less unprintable.

"We took care of our brides who came in here," she said. "We told them it was going to be a hectic day. What more can we tell them?"

Chapel staff agreed to do the mass wedding when it was demanded, she said. Only 10 of the 400 couples the Garden married Saturday - a turnout nearly four times greater than normal - have called to complain. This is proof the chapel isn't at fault, she said, and that any impatient people were an exception to the hundreds perfectly willing to wait for romance.

"We called our couples and told them it was going to be like this," she said. "We are not liars."

None of the asphalt betrothed couples who spoke with the Sun say they were warned their weddings might start late. Nor were they picked up in limos as promised (some caught cabs, others carpooled). Only one of them even got inside the chapel - Heath McClain of Kansas, who slipped past bouncers at the door to suggest the mass wedding because their scheduled 9 p.m. nuptials were clearly in jeopardy.

"People were crying, makeup was melting, flowers were wilting," he said. "Something had to be done."

Outside, Palazini's not-yet-wife was weeping. Their 13 wedding guests were pacing the parking lot after arriving in a caravan of cars because their limo was a no-show.

Ludwig said limo service was not guaranteed.

Palazini's wedding party was still waiting at 10 p.m., wearing formal wear in 100-degree weather.

When McClain asked for a bottle of water after waiting outside for an hour, he said , he was pointed to a nearby hose. (That's just not true, an irate Ludwig said.)

Sometime after 10:30 p.m, a red-headed minister clutching what appears in the video to be a velvet-bound Bible appeared.

The ceremony concluded in three minutes, 28 seconds.

At that point, a California groom announced he was going to go get drunk and "win back some money that I just lost at this chapel."

But first, the various couples walked up to the chapel's drive-through wedding window, arranging for certified copies of their marriage licenses to be mailed home.

A few refunds have been given out, Ludwig said, though that doesn't mean there will be any more.

"The couples that were married? Why should we?" she said. "We did our job."

The Palazinis left town Monday without the photos they paid chapel staff to take. The newlyweds didn't want those memories.

McClain and his bride, Jennifer, flew back to Kansas on Wednesday. They say they see the humor in it.

Williams, meanwhile, has no plans to pick a new date.

"It's still just a little too fresh for me," she said.

But she has her wedding cake, and she'll eat it , too.

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