Men and women who re-enlist for the service time after time love the military life. But for some, signing up for another “hitch” can also mean taking vows —or renewing vows — for love of another kind.
For the second year in a row, next door neighbor Clark County, in conjunction with others, has produced “Las Vegas Marries the Military” in 2018.
Along with help from the Las Vegas Wedding Chamber of Commerce and the Armed Forces Chamber of Commerce, as well as several retailers, 11 couples from around the country came to town to get married or to renew their vows in free ceremonies from the Strip to downtown and other locations around the city.
This year, Pahrump military veterans, active duty and National Guard and Reserve members are encouraged to apply.
After a day full of wedding ceremonies, there was a group reception at the Bootlegger restaurant where Sight and Sound Events played dance music. The honored couples, their families and friends danced the night away. All vendor services and products were donated.
Five of the ceremonies were weddings and six were vow renewals.
At the Lakeside Weddings facility in the northeast part of town, the outdoor locale hosted the groom, Air Force Reservist Sgt. Andrew Parker and his bride, Rachael Campos. They have been a couple for the past nine years but focused on repaying their student loans rather than invest cash in a wedding.
“They have been friends since high school in Connecticut,” according to the bride’s aunt and wedding guest Melody Martinez, who flew to Nevada for the occasion. “I figured the marriage would happen eventually. It was good news,” she said. Many friends and relatives attended the ceremony to watch as the couple said their vows.
Across town at the Caesars Palace hotel wedding garden, Army Major Adam Bradford and wife, Courtney Bradford, renewed their vows. Their first wedding was somewhat less celebratory. After the couple’s three-month engagement, the major was notified he was being “engaged” to deploy overseas.
Although full details are somewhat sketchy, they just had time for a “quickie wedding” by a judge in a jailhouse in 2013. A bail bondsman was pressed into service as a witness, according to the major. He is currently in the Army Reserve in Marysville, Washington, outside of Seattle.
The couple still has issues of sorts pertaining to distance, as the bride is completing her college education in North Carolina. But on a bright note, the bride is a huge fan of the popular series “Say Yes to the Dress,” where newly engaged women from around the world visit a wedding dress showroom to choose a gown that is perfect for them.
The bride, Courtney Bradford, had her own “Say Yes to the Dress” moment at the city’s Creative Bridal Wear, along with a two-night stay at Caesars.
Army Reservist Capt. Rachel Bruno and Army Capt. Robert Coombs renewed vows to each other at the Graceland Wedding Chapel while an Elvis tribute artist looked on.
Couples can apply to be a part of the program in 2019 by going to the web or Facebook and searching for Las Vegas Marries the Military.
It was another side of Nevada that was showcased as the local wedding community came together just prior to Veterans Day to provide pro bono support to veterans and the military. Some of the couples tried their luck at casinos, and some did not. But as the individuals recited their vows, they surely felt lucky that each of them had found each other.
Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War and the host of “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 a.m. on 97.1-FM.
Valentine’s Day event
The local Elks Lodge, 2220 E. Basin Ave., will hold a Valentine’s Dinner from 5-7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 14.
The dinner will consist of salad, surf and turf, broccoli, and dessert, and the price is $20 per person. There will also
be entertainment and dancing.
There is a sign-up sheet at the bar in the lodge to ensure your reservation.
Valentine’s Day by the numbers
Americans are expected to spend a record amount on Valentine’s Day this year despite a years-long decrease in the percentage of people celebrating the holiday, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
“The vast majority of Valentine’s Day dollars are still spent on significant others, but there’s a big increase this year in consumers spreading the love to children, parents, friends and coworkers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a recent statement. “Those who are participating are spending more than ever and that could be the result of the strong economy. With employment and income growing, consumers appear to be expanding the scope of who qualifies for a card or a box of candy.”
Those surveyed said they would spend an average $161.96. That’s up 13 percent from last year’s $143.56 and easily tops the previous record of $146.84 set in 2016. Total spending is expected to be $20.7 billion, which is an increase of 6 percent over last year’s $19.6 billion and breaks the previous record of $19.7 billion, also set in 2016.
The spending increases come even though only 51 percent of Americans plan to celebrate the holiday, down from 55 percent last year and a high of 63 percent in 2007, stated the Jan. 30 news release from the National Retail Federation. It is unclear why the number of consumers celebrating has trended downward over the past 12 years, but spending, while varying with the economy, has generally trended up. The lowest spending during the period was $102.50 in 2009 during the Great Recession.
Of the $18.40 increase in average spending, only $4.26 comes from spending on spouses and significant others, which is expected to total $93.24. Consumers said they would spend $29.87 on other family members, up $4.58; $9.78 on friends, up $2.59; $8.63 on children’s classmates or teachers, up $1.37; $7.78 on co-workers, up $2.99; $6.94 on pets, up $1.44 and $5.72 on others, up $1.17.
As in each year of the survey, men are the biggest spenders at $229.54, up 20 percent from last year. That’s more than double the $97.77 women said they would spend, which is down 1 percent, and is within the survey’s margin of error.
Among age groups, those 35-44 are the biggest Valentine spenders at $279.14, followed by those 25-34 at $239.07. Both groups typically have more people to buy for including children and children’s classmates or teachers.
Gifts for pets continue to be popular, purchased by 20 percent. Pet spending is expected to total $886 million, up $519 million since NRF first asked in 2008.
Those celebrating plan to spend $3.9 billion on jewelry (given by 18 percent), $3.5 billion on an evening out (34 percent), $2.1 billion on clothing (18 percent), $1.9 billion on flowers (35 percent), $1.8 billion on candy (52 percent), $1.3 billion on gift cards (15 percent) and $933 million on greeting cards (44 percent). Gifts of experience such as tickets to an event or a trip to a spa are wanted by 40 percent and planned to be given by 25 percent.
Department stores are the most popular Valentine’s Day shopping destination, visited by 35 percent of shoppers, followed by discount stores (32 percent), online (27 percent), specialty stores (18 percent) florists (16 percent), small or local businesses (14 percent), jewelry stores and specialty clothing stores (each 9 percent).
Even among those who don’t plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day as such, 11 percent plan to treat themselves to gifts like clothing or jewelry and 9 percent plan to get together with other single friends or family.
“Valentine’s Day means different things for different people,” Prosper Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said in a statement. “Whether it’s a day of romance or one of making sure their children have enough cards in their backpacks for each of their classmates, it’s an important day for those who choose to participate.”
The survey of 7,384 adults 18 and older was conducted January 2-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.