Jan. 6, 2004 -- — Britney Spears' 55-hour mistake of a marriage won't stem the rising tide of hapless tourists who fly to Las Vegas, rent a white gown, and gamble their future on a quickie wedding.
Vegas is not only "Sin City," it's the "Wedding Capital of the World." The city processes more than 100,000 weddings a year, with more than 50 wedding chapels nestled among the endless strip of casinos and strip joints.
But on top of the sheer volume of weddings is the city's kitsch factor. Britney certainly wasn't the first Vegas bride in torn jeans and a baseball cap, and she certainly won't be the last. The town is teeming with rhinestone-studded "Elvis" ministers in pink Cadillacs, who will preside over the ceremony and serenade the bride and groom on a romantic tour of the city.
In Vegas, who needs to plan? Just rent a wedding gown along with a hotel room. You can outfit a bride for as low as $149 at Jennaleigh's Bridal and Formalwear. You simply return two days later with the gown, veil and accessories.
The only things you can't take back are your shoes and your vows. Drive-Through Matrimony: A Bride to Go
If you're really rushing to the altar, don't even get out of your car. Just pull up to the "I Do" drive-through window at the Chapel of Love on Las Vegas Boulevard. For less than $100, you'll drive off as man and wife, with an order of wedding cake to go.
Vegas might be the only city where the city clerk's office is open 24 hours a day on weekends, processing marriage licenses. You don't need a blood test. All you need is ID to prove you're at least 18 and $55.
When did the strange state of matrimony become Nevada? In 1912, California passed a "gin" law requiring a three-day waiting period for marriage licenses to protect drunken lovebirds. Vegas responded by marketing itself as one of the easiest places on earth to make the best or worst decision of your life.
Celebrity Losers at Romance Roulette
Friends now say Spears, 22, and childhood friend Jason Alexander had been partying at a local bar and "took a joke too far," exchanging vows at the Little White Wedding Chapel, where Michael Jordan, Joan Collins, Judy Garland and thousands of others also said their vows.
The chapel offers all-inclusive packages for almost any budget. For $179, you get a marriage license, minister, bridal bouquet, boutonniere, 12 wedding photos and accommodation for 25 guests.
The chapel's $479 "Michael Jordan Special" provides for up to 100 guests and you'll go home with a video of the event. I bet Jordan's former teammate Dennis Rodman had a video souvenir of his Vegas wedding. In March 1999, he capped off a night of heavy drinking by marrying Carmen Electra.
Rodman sought an annulment nine days later, claiming he doesn't even remember exchanging vows with the former Baywatch babe.
But the Rodman-Electra fiasco didn't slow the Vegas wedding industry, and neither will Spears' millisecond marriage. On Valentine's Day weekend, the city expects to host 3,000 couples at the ultimate gaming table — the wedding altar.
Diet Dilemmas of Balloon Brides
Perhaps Vegas has made it cheap and easy for brides and grooms to play romance roulette, but there are many other reasons to marry here, besides the sunny weather and ample parking.
Where else can you find a wedding chapel with a 500-foot-tall, fiberglass rendering of the Eiffel Tower, but at the Paris Hotel in Vegas? The Venetian Hotel sets lovers off on a $20, 20-minute gondola ride along its own Grand Canal. Trekkies can boldly go to any one of several chapels where rabbis and ministers offer traditional blessings in Klingon and Vulcan.
On any given day, you can probably open a newspaper and read of a wedding on a helicopter or hot-air balloon. But you won't read such stories in Vegas, where those things happen all the time. The Little Wedding Chapel in the Sky provides a balloon pilot, minister and crew, along with a limousine ride to the launch site for $1,000 — a price that would hardly burst your bubble.
But balloon brides should beware of extra pressure to diet. The basket can hold seven people, more or less, depending on how much they weigh. In that case, you'd better leave that choir of Elvis bridesmaids at home and put your hubby-to-be on a diet.
Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.