Sin City Splice

Ali & Dalia didn’t want a traditional wedding, so they rolled the dice on a Vegas ceremony, complete with Elvis, go-go boots, & their favorite family & friends.

Our anniversary was quickly approaching, and I had a feeling my girlfriend, Dalia, would be proposing soon. I had spent my entire salon appointment blabbering on to my hairdresser about my suspicions. She nodded quietly as I ran through my theories: would Dalia propose at dinner? Via skywriter? Flashmob? After some foils and toner, I left with fresh blonde locks, unaware my life was about to change.

I heard music flowing from our apartment as I neared the front door. The hallway was lined with flower petals and battery-powered tealights. “Earth Angel” by The Penguins was playing. My all-time favorite song. I couldn’t catch my breath. It was happening. It was actually happening!

The path of candles led me to our dining room, where Dalia was standing nervously next to a table covered in bouquets of daisies and a projector. She clicked play and a montage of our whole 6 year relationship splayed across our kitchen wall. I could barely see the video because I was crying so hard.

After the video ended, Dalia got down on one knee and asked me to marry her. I squealed and screamed, “YES!” and yanked her up off of the ground so I could hug and kiss her. After she put the ring on my finger, I ran to our bedroom to grab the ring I was hiding in my sock drawer. I asked her to marry me back.

That night, we dined at ROBERT (robertnyc.com/), a gorgeous restaurant at the top of the Museum of Arts & Design, overlooking Central Park. After dinner, we went for drinks, where all of our closest friends were waiting to celebrate with us. I couldn’t believe that Dalia thought about every single detail of the night so thoroughly. I couldn’t believe I would get to spend the rest of my life with someone so thoughtful and loving.

Needless to say, the excitement of marrying the love of my life was overwhelming. The idea of planning a wedding was overwhelming, too… in the bad way. Anxiety boiled in my stomach at the thought of flower arrangements, guest lists, and place cards.

As Dalia and I sat down to (attempt to) plan, we were immediately met with some unpleasant realizations. Everything was crazy expensive, deciding on a guest list was almost impossible, and modern weddings have turned into week- end-long events that include a night-before welcome party and goodbye brunch that each cost just as much as the wedding.

We tossed around as many ideas as we could.

“What if we had a day ceremony in a garden?” We’re not morning people.

“What if we got married at this conservatory at night?” Too expensive.

“What if we rented a big house and had everyone come for the weekend?” Logistical nightmare.

We tried to make A Big Gay Wedding work from every angle. We felt stuck, having been influenced by social media’s pro-big-wedding programming. But after some soul searching, we realized that what we wanted wasn’t a traditional wedding at all. We could elope!

Here’s the thing — the wedding industry doesn’t want you to know there is a cheaper, more intimate, less stressful, more queer- friendly alternative to large weddings. They want you to show up, go broke, and be happy that you’re allowed to get married in the first place. But you don’t have to stand for that!

Once we saw the light, we realized we could refocus our wedding to be about us instead of optics or our guests. Here is an easy, step- by-step guide to planning the queer elopement of your dreams from someone who did it herself.

LOCK DOWN YOUR BUDGET

Photo By Dan Bushkin

Just because eloping is cheaper than a wedding doesn’t mean it’s free. Decide how much you are willing to spend on your elopement, and be realistic on what your budget includes. Don’t forget to include your outfits, the marriage license, the ceremony and/or officiant, wedding bands, travel expenses, dinners, etc. Check out our entire wedding budget:

Airfare

From NJ to Vegas: $795

Lodging

Suite at the Flamingo [http://fla- mingo-las-vegas-hotel.hotel-dir. com], 6 nights: $895

Ceremony

The Little White Wedding Chapel [alittlewhitechapel.com]: $535

Dinner

Trevi in Caesars Palace [closed March 2024], 14 people: $951

Photographer

2 hours with Dan Bushkin [dan- bushkin.com]: $3,300

Hair and Makeup

By Makeup in the 702 [lasvegas- wedding-makeup.com] for both brides and mothers of brides: $137

Wedding Bands

From Love Locked [shoplove- locked.com] in Jersey City: $400

Wedding Outfits

From Anthropologie’s BHLDN line [anthropologie.com/bhldn-wed- ding-dresses] and Pepper Mayo [us.peppernmayo.com]: $400

TOTAL: $7,413 – well under our $10k budget!

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION 

Think of a place that encapsulates the essence of you two as a couple. Are you born- and-bred New Yorkers who shed a tear over cityscapes and hold hands in Central Park? Are you hiking d*kes that feel most at home in the forest? Is the beach more of your vibe?

My fiancée and I wanted to get married somewhere colorful and full of personality– just like us. We had never been to Vegas but had always romanticized its campy neon lights. We loved the glitz and glamor of it all when we pictured tying the knot in Sin City. We started looking on Pinterest and Instagram for Vegas wedding photos, and we were obsessed with the vintage yet modern flair that Vegas had.

Photo By Dan Bushkin

After we chose the city, we had to choose a specific location for our ceremony. After looking at all of the venues in Las Vegas, we narrowed it down to The Little White Wedding Chapel and Sure Thing Chapel. We loved how the Sure Thing Chapel had a female Elvis and lots of pink, but we also loved the celebrity tradition of The Little White Wed- ding Chapel. We ended up choosing The Little White Wedding Chapel because they had an adorable outdoor gazebo that we fell in love with, but we would have been happy at either place.

BE OUR GUEST

If you want it to be a true elopement, you can skip this part. But if you want loved ones and chosen family members to attend, try to keep it around 10 or less, especially if you’re planning to travel.

We invited 8 immediate family members and 4 close friends to come to Vegas with us. We told them about a year out so they were able to plan their trip (and save up some extra cash). Everyone did their own thing during the week, but all 12 attended a “rehearsal dinner” the night before the ceremony, the ceremony itself, dinner after the ceremony, and the after party. Having a smaller group made it much easier to herd everyone to the next location without worrying about anyone being late.

Photo By Dan Bushkin

If you want to celebrate with your friends and family but also want the one-on-one elopement experience, consider having a larger bachelorette party or having a post-elopement get-together for the best of both worlds. A few months before our wedding, we rented a massive AirBnB in the Poconos for a joint Bachelorette party on Halloween weekend and invited all of our friends to celebrate with them since we wouldn’t be able to have them with us at the ceremony. We also recently attended a post-elopement ceremony for our gaybors (gay neighbors) who got married privately and then rented out a restaurant a week later to celebrate with friends and family.

IT’S A DATE

If there is a specific date that you want to get married, like your anniversary, you should obviously plan around your desired date. If you are flexible about the date, look up the best time of year for your location based on your priorities. Do you value the best weather, least tourists, or cheapest prices? Budget was most important to us when considering a date. So after we decided on Vegas, we looked up the cheapest time to travel there. February was the least crowded time of the year and the cheapest time to travel, so we decided to do a campy Valentine’s Day wedding.

POSE, DARLING

If you were getting married for just love and tax breaks, you’d quietly go to the courthouse. But we all know you want pictures. Look for photographers in the area that you are interested in (although many photographers like to travel). Check out their portfolios and Instagram accounts. Do you like the way the pictures and colors look? Do they have other queer couples featured? Are they themselves queer?

Photo By Dan Bushkin

My fiancée and I wanted big, bold editorial-style shots that had a ton of color and personality. We are romantic with each other, but we didn’t necessarily want serious, forehead-touching photos – we’re both too silly for that. So we had to pick a photographer that could capture how much fun we have with each other, and our photographer, Dan Bushkin, checked all of our boxes.

Photo By Dan Bushkin

We found Dan through our Pinterest and Instagram research before choosing Vegas. He had exactly the look we were going for AND was super LGBTQ+-inclusive. We couldn’t be more obsessed with how the pictures turned out. He and his wife Bri, who acted as a posing coach, made us feel comfortable right away, which is hard when a stranger is holding a camera in your face and telling you to make out. I usually am really in my head about how I am posing in pictures, but Bri’s tips and her unrelenting hype made me feel like the most beautiful bride in the world (aside from my wife, of course).

PARTY TIME

The ceremony is such a huge focus of the day, but it will likely only last for 15 minutes. So what are you going to do for the rest of the time? Look for restaurants, queer bars, and other spots to celebrate at after you tie the knot.

After our ceremony, we met everyone at Caesars Palace for dinner at a restaurant called Trevi. We had a huge table at the dead center of the restaurant, and by a stroke of luck, there was a DJ playing music for a wedding happening on the upstairs balcony. Our original plan was to go to the Fruit Loop District after dinner, where the gay bars are. But after our photographer mentioned K-Town karaoke, our plans changed. Dalia and I famously love karaoke– we even did karaoke on our first Valentine’s Day together – so we knew we had to go. I tasked my dad with finding a karaoke room for us while we were on the way to dinner, and he booked us a room before we even sat down to eat.

As we headed to the Uber pick-up/drop-off area, we saw a limo sitting there. Somehow, my new in-laws managed to talk the limo driver into taking us to the karaoke room, so we all piled in. Imagine the shock on the locals’ faces when we rolled up to Go-Go Karaoke [gogokaraokelv.com] and spilled out of a limo in full formal attire. Our parents gave the usual wed- ding speeches (my dad’s speech was in iambic pentameter if you’re wondering how I became a writer), and then we sang our hearts out for the rest of the night.

THE DETAILS

The rest is up to you and your partner. Outfits, traditions, vows, hair and makeup, everything from the beginning to the end gets to be curated by you and your love rather than following a predetermined order of events. Having a conversation with your partner about what is most important to you will make the details way less daunting. Ask yourselves, what will make your elopement feel most true to you as a couple?

Photo By Dan Bushkin

For example, my wife and I wanted to wear non-traditional, but white outfits. I wore a white sequin midi dress with a deep neckline and puffy sleeves, while my wife wore a white power suit with feathers on the cuffs. I wore kitten heels to the ceremony while she wore go-go boots, but before dinner, we changed into matching Valentine’s Day edition Converse. I also wore my mom’s veil, and I attached the huge 90s-style bow that was originally on the comb of her veil to a purse so I could carry it with me all week.

We also said from the beginning that we wanted to write our own vows. Ceremonies in Vegas are usually pretty short, so I called the venue ahead to make sure that we’d be able to recite our own. The chapel representative told us that we could as long as we kept them only a few minutes long. In order to limit our word count and honor the holiday, we wrote them in Valentine’s Day cards.

Another unique element we added to our elopement was an app called POV [pov.camera/]. POV sends everyone a link to a shared camera. Everyone gets a limited number of pictures, which they “develop” after the event into one shared album. The app added a fun vintage filter to all of the pictures and encouraged everyone to take pictures throughout the night. The next morning, we had a collection of moments from everyone’s perspective that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

After we eloped, we were so grateful that we had a wedding small enough to be present for every moment. We weren’t being pulled aside by a great-aunt-twice-removed or fielding questions from an event planner. We were there for it all. I got to sing a song at karaoke with my dad that always makes me think of him (“If I Had A Million Dollars” by The Barenaked Ladies). I got to get ready with just my mom while listening to a playlist I made on the plane, without pesky bridesmaids asking a billion questions. I laughed along as my Spanish-speaking in-laws tried to teach everyone else new words. I was seated at the table where my 27-year-old brother with a full mustache got carded at dinner and then had to convince the waitress that his license wasn’t fake. I was crammed in the impromptu limo where Dalia’s mom was taking videos of us with her flash on at point- blank range. I got to wear a dress that was comfortable and cool and chic and do my hair big like Pamela Anderson but still incorporate sentimental pieces like my mom’s veil. We got pictures that were big and bold and had nary a pastel filter in sight.

It was better than the wedding of our dreams — it was the wedding of our reality. We had a blast with the people we love the most and created a memory that will last forever. Oh, and Elvis was there. It was perfect.

Photo By Dan Bushkin

The most important thing to remember is this: center yourselves in your wedding planning. Don’t worry about the guests or the optics or what you think you should do. Just enjoy the giddy excitement of honoring your union, and may your love last as long as your wedding planning is short.


ALI LOPEZ is a die-hard Jersey Girl who loves the art of words. She feels most alive connecting with other people, either in conversation or through writing. She has been a contributing writer for GO since 2018, and her personal life revolves around her prerogative to have a little fun.


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