No limit to lavish wedding possibilities in Las Vegas
Being in the wedding capital of the world can be both a blessing and a curse for a high-end wedding planner. Sure, tying the knot seems as suited to Las Vegas as blackjack, Cirque du Soleil and day club cabanas. And plenty of people come to this city to shoehorn in a quickie exchange of vows between all of the above. But the stereotypes of Elvis chapels and drive-through nuptials can be a challenge for those who specialize in luxury weddings.
“I still fight it quite a bit,” says wedding planner Andrea Eppolito.
After starting her career working for free for UNLV students on extremely limited budgets, and progressing to in-house wedding planner for Bellagio and later The Venetian, she now plans just 15 custom weddings a year. While she insists great weddings can be planned on any budget, she routinely arranges six-figure affairs, and has experience in the $1,000,000-plus range. Weddings she planned have been featured in the pages of Brides, Style Me Pretty, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Her message to couples who don’t think Las Vegas can do opulence is simple.
“I say ‘You understand that the same people who install the flowers at the Wynn and Bellagio, these are the people who are making your bouquet. The chefs who are cooking in those hotels are the people who are making your meals. There’s no other place in the world (where) one street has the compressed, condensed amount of talent that this city has.’ ”
The key to making sure a wedding is worth the price tag, she says, is to make it original.
“I don’t want to do anything prefabricated. I don’t want to buy any packages. I want to work with people who are interested in making a statement, who want to tell a story. And I don’t want to do the same wedding twice.”
Event planner Dennis Silknitter believes the ability to create something different based on a couple’s preferences, rather than simply checking boxes on a resort’s standard list of wedding options, is what a new generation is seeking.
“That’s really what the Luxury buyer wants,” he says. “They want to feel special, but they really want something unique and different that nobody has done or seen or thought of.”
He’s arranged a Vegas-themed wedding reception at the Maverick helicopter terminal, complete with custom playing cards, Vegas showgirls and helicopter tours of The Strip, plus a soundtrack personalized by the bride and groom. His weddings at Mandarin Oriental have been known to include shopping tours at the adjoining Crystals. So when the party visited Jimmy Choo, for example, the sales people knew their names, shoe sizes and even the wedding colors. When a couple wanted a traditional Indian wedding, Silknitter got Bellagio to shut down its entrance to accommodate the customary baraat procession, which included horses, with the fountains playing just for the bride and groom.
In one instance, Silknitter was working with a couple who had toyed with the idea of eloping to Norway and getting married atop a mountain. They were serious foodies, but had no interest in getting married in a casino property. His solution: the elevated wine loft at world-renowned French chef Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant Twist, in Mandarin Oriental.
“I said, ‘How cool would it be to have your favorite rosé passed when guests arrived, thinking it’s just a pre-wedding champagne. And then all of a sudden, we ask the guests to look up, and you’re in the wine room getting married. So you’re on your own little mountain, just like Norway, getting married.”
Experiences such as these would be difficult to replicate elsewhere, which is why Eppolito says, “People are actually kind of excited to come here and show off what this city can do.”