Vegas weddings abound as numbers align on 9-9-09
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two years after Las Vegas chapels hit the wedding date jackpot with lucky sevens, it's all eyes on the nines for 9-9-09.
Wedding officials in Sin City and elsewhere staged a marathon set of nuptials and vow renewals on Wednesday during what was anticipated to be of the busiest days of the year — the quirky date of Sept. 9, 2009, or 9-9-09.
The New York City Clerk's office said 200 couples had wed by midday at its refurbished marriage bureau — about four times the Wednesday average. Nine couples in Hollywood spent 99 cents each to get married at a 99 Cents Only store on Sunset Boulevard.
Jessica Skrutvold of Las Vegas said she and her husband-to-be Chad Lyons were expecting nine guests for their 9 p.m. wedding, which coincidentally celebrates her favorite number.
"The easiest day for my poor memory to remember was 9-9-09, and we've been doing everything last-minute ever since," said the 31-year-old who works for a local insurance agency. "It was easy, and both of us can remember it and never forget."
Skrutvold called to book a chapel in March and found the only open slots were for 8:30 or 9 that night.
"We took the most obvious choice," she said.
Gambling on nines wasn't limited to casino baccarat tables in Las Vegas, where players try to beat the house by getting as close as possible to a sum of nine using cards.
The Virginia Lottery reported that the combinations 9-9-9, 9-9-9-9 and 9-9-0-9 all sold out for the midday Pick 3 and Pick 4 drawings. Pick 3 combinations are capped at 8 million, Pick 4 at 6 million. The lottery would have lost money on those games had those numbers been drawn, but they weren't. Pick 3 was closest at 9-0-0; Pick 4 contained no nines.
The consecutive nines turned out to be really lucky for Corey Aldridge and Gwendolyn Whitmore, one of the couples who won a 99 Cents Only Stores contest for their five-minute ceremony.
The couple, who originally wanted to wed last Valentine's Day, were returning from a trip to Texas last year when their car collided with an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig.
"We just got done with our medical issues and our insurance hasn't picked up because I was self-employed, so our finances have been dwindling," Aldridge said as he waited for Whitmore above the store's loading dock.
There, behind a partition, his future wife and eight other brides ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s were putting finishing touches on their hair and makeup.
On the Las Vegas Strip, Tony Thompson and his new wife Lisa of New York exchanged vows before life-sized figurines of Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lopez during a short ceremony at 9:09 a.m. at the Madame Tussauds wax museum on the Las Vegas Strip. They were joined near a small stage by four couples renewing vows and an officiant — nine people total.
"It seems like the whole town is celebrating, like we walked into this big celebration," Tony Thompson, 53, said. "It's like totally out of the ordinary, everybody's getting married."
Chapels were steadily booked throughout the day from the Strip to downtown. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman planned to renew vows with his wife Carolyn in an evening ceremony conducted by an Elvis Presley impersonator at the Fremont Street Experience.
"I'm hoping that my wife will show up," said Goodman, who married his wife on June 6, 1962 — 6-6-62.
"9-9-09 is so easy that even the biggest of dummies will be able to remember it," he said. "This is Las Vegas' way of saying that we are the wedding capital of the world."
Another 99 couples were waiting until 9:09 p.m. for a shared ceremony in the observation deck at the Stratosphere Tower. Each paid $99 for their wedding package.
Spokeswoman Whitney Lloyd said Chapel of the Flowers booked 70 ceremonies for Wednesday, compared with 12 on Sept. 9 last year. She said three 9 a.m. slots were booked at least a year ago — an eternity by Las Vegas standards.
"Grooms love it, because they'll definitely remember their wedding day," Lloyd said.
Employees normally off on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the marriage services division of the Clark County clerk's office were called in to help quickly distribute licenses.
Marriage Services Supervisor Mariah Consiglieri said 637 licenses were issued on Tuesday, a boost from the average of 262 per day but far from the 1,623 issued on July 6, 2007, in anticipation of 7-7-07. Another 975 licenses were issued on July 7 that year — a Saturday.
Weddings have declined steadily in Las Vegas since 2004, when roughly 128,000 couples were married. About 96,000 couples were married in Las Vegas last year, and officials expect fewer than that for 2009.
New York City Clerk Mike McSweeney said Wednesday was the busiest day since the city opened a refurbished marriage bureau with fewer lines, more room to take photographs and new wedding chapels with gauzy curtains and walls painted in muted tones.
"People are very excited to have a ceremony today," McSweeney said. "A lot of people who are here believe it's good luck to have their ceremony today, for longevity."
In Burlington, Vt., Magic Hat Brewery — makers of an ale called No. 9 — seized on the date for an open-air party on the city's Church Street Marketplace pedestrian mall.
The planned "No.9tacular" was to include drink specials, dance show, laser light show, karaoke and a Guitar Hero Challenge — all leading up to a 9 p.m. toast, according to "Nine-ologist" Krissy Leonard, a spokeswoman for the brewer.
Associated Press Writers John Rogers in Los Angeles, John Curran in Montpelier, Vt., Sara Kugler in New York and Larry O'Dell in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.