Seeing the pictures of an ecstatic Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck all glammed up for their wedding in Las Vegas last week brought a smile to my face.
I married Charlie Brooker, screenwriter and creator of Black Mirror, in Vegas 12 years ago — and for me it was the perfect place. It wasn’t what I had once envisaged, though.
I grew up in the 1980s and used to think of Vegas, like Gretna Green in Scotland, as a place often used for shotgun weddings. I’d imagine an Elvis impersonator as a witness and a few beers in a motel for a reception.
Back then, I didn’t understand kitsch as being cool. My dream wedding was the big extravagant cliche, a la Charles & Di in 1981, or even Neighbours’ Scott & Charlene in 1987. As a little girl, weddings meant a car with ribbons, or even a horse and carriage. Big hats and cummerbunds. A long lacy train. The whole expensive white-wedding package.
Tying the knot: Ben and J-Lo in Vegas last weekend. TV Presenter Konnie Huq reveals how she was married in the same chapel
Being from a Muslim, Asian background it probably wouldn’t be in a church — but I still envisaged the drama of a huge event with bride and groom at the centre.
My parents weren’t hugely traditional but I had been to weddings of relatives and family friends of the red sari variety as well as the archetypal white wedding dress kind. Would either of these be my fate? Well, no, because just like J-Lo and Ben, Charlie and I opted for Vegas without all that fuss or stress or confetti — and we truly loved it.
Vegas is a fantastic place for a wedding. Ours took place on a beautiful hot evening, for a start. Not oppressive but perfect, like a lovely hug. No unpredictable English weather to worry about or waterproof marquees to order. The Vegas lights twinkled away in the darkness and the neon signs flashed and it could not have felt more enchanting.
It was actually at the Little White Chapel where J-Lo ‘copied’ us over a decade later.
We had intended to fly out both our families, but changes in work schedules meant we ended up merging the dates of wedding and honeymoon, which was a U.S. road trip from Vegas to the south coast then right up the west coast. It worked out brilliantly.
It was like a film adventure, the perfect beginning for our marriage. As for my parents missing the day, I honestly think they were so relieved I was finally getting married, they’d have been happy under any circumstances.
Perfect day: Konnie and her husband Charlie Brooker, screenwriter and creator of Black Mirror in Vegas 12 years ago. It wasn’t the place that they envisaged getting married
The only people at our wedding were the two witnesses — a guy from the chapel and the photographer. I wore a shoulderless white dress that I already had, which I’d never found the right occasion for — quite ‘weddingy’ but shorter — with no veil or train. Charlie wore a dark shirt and suit.
Our rings came from a jeweller’s at the Four Seasons Hotel where we were staying and, amazingly, in the exact design we wanted (we had tried to go to Hatton Garden ring shopping beforehand but got bored looking — typical us). It was all so wonderfully easy.
Like J-Lo and Ben, we were not kids any more — I was 35 and Charlie 38 — and by then the novelty of the frills and flounces of a big white wedding can wear off.
Charlie and I had been friends for years. We had met at some TV do or other. We are really on the same wavelength and fairly lowkey, so I think it was pretty much known from the get-go that Vegas would be the perfect place for us to get hitched.
The Little White Chapel in Las Vegas. Konnie reveals how the whole wedding process in Las Vegas only takes 20 minutes
By the mid-2000s, I had accrued a million friends and acquaintances and been to loads of different weddings and, as great as they often were, the fuss began to terrify me. The fact is, a big traditional wedding is a huge undertaking that can be extremely stress-inducing. Who do you invite and who gets left off the list? What dress, venue, seating plan, flower arrangements and so on?
You pack a room full of relatives (often distant), friends (often loose) and colleagues (often annoying), lubricate them all with copious amounts of free-flowing alcohol and expect them to get on with each other. The worry… is the food OK? Is everyone having a good time? Is there enough booze? Too much booze
The whole day is a blur. You’ve spent thousands on an event that’s taken months of hassle to organise and chances are you’re too stressed to speak because the cake is late and Auntie Sue’s on her third bottle of prosecco.
I know brides who can hardly remember anything at all from this supposedly ‘most important day of their life’. So why not follow in the footsteps of Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Britney Spears and Jason Alexander — and take the glittering Vegas route. OK, so they’ve all broken up — but at least the weddings themselves were more fuss-free.
The glory of the Vegas wedding is that you just… pitch up and do it. Can you imagine the years of planning it may have taken J-Lo and Affleck to stage a big white affair? The Hollywood elite whose diaries would have to sync? The army of specialist caterers it would take to manage diets? Of course they chose the swift, sweet, romantic path from LA to Arizona.
Charlie and I loved the sheer efficiency of it, the brilliant rock ’n’ roll attitude of everyone we dealt with. We did have to go to City Hall first to get the paperwork sorted, but nowadays much of that is done online beforehand.
Pick up your marriage licence — no appointment necessary — pay the $102 fee and you can be walking down the aisle in just over an hour. Around 120,000 weddings are performed each year in Vegas — that’s getting on for a quarter of a million brides and grooms — but still it all works like clockwork. ‘Exactly what we wanted,’ J-Lo posted online afterwards. ‘Last night we flew to Vegas, stood in line for a licence with four other couples, all making the same journey to the wedding capital of the world.
‘Behind us two men held hands and held each other.’ She continued: ‘They were right when they said, “all you need is love”.
We, too, queued in line with a few other couples at what could have been the post office to file the paperwork. The whole process couldn’t have taken more than 20 minutes (this does depend on how long the queue is).
Once you’ve signed the forms, you go outside and there are people handing out flyers to tempt you to their chapel. There are more than 50 in Vegas, so lots of choice. Some were even giving out money-off vouchers. It was all very surreal.
Though Vegas is, in its own way, pretty romantic, it’s also the realists’ choice. More than 40per cent of marriages end in divorce and this way, if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t gone to too much effort.
That applies to the guests as well, by the way. It can be expensive and time-consuming being a wedding guest. Moreover, I’ve been to a few where I haven’t even seen the couple again afterwards. Why not consider Vegas and give everyone a break?
So good luck to Ben and J-Lo, who avoided the hassle and followed in mine and Charlie’s footsteps by getting wed at the Little White Chapel.
Let’s hope your marriage is half as good as ours and, if it is, you’ve nailed it.