Are you ready to go under the sea? That’s where Kari and Drew’s wedding today takes us, to the exquisite Seascape Ballroom inside Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef Aquarium. Small wedding ceremonies have been possible in the aquarium for a while, but recently a reception space has been made available, as well. Not only do the venue (and couple) look stunning, the theme chosen fits their destination wedding so well!
Choosing to build off the travel theme, Kari and Drew’s reception featured vintage travel props that brought everything together perfectly. Add in an amazing venue reveal, lots of dancing and delicious desserts — this is one of the reasons Las Vegas weddings are the best. (Then again, I’m biased.)
WHY DREW + KARI CHOSE LAS VEGAS
My husband and I have been to our fair share of boring weddings, and from the first day of the wedding planning process, we knew that our wedding had to be over-the-top, unique and most of all: FUN! Planning a destination wedding has its pros and cons, but overall, it really depends on the type of couple you are and what type of wedding you want. For us, having a vintage travel themed wedding made it easy to decide that we needed a out of town, worth-the-travel type of venue for our reception!
THE CEREMONY — THEWedding Chapel at Mandalay Bay
Originally, we were looking into having our ceremony at the Valley of the Falls at Mandalay Bay, however we decided to take the bulk of our wedding funds and use them in a better reception. After all, the ceremony is only 15-20 minutes long. Valley of the Falls is pretty, but the upgrade fee was pretty high, I wanted to avoid the heat and making our guests walk a longer way to our reception. So with the pros and cons, we decided to stick to a basic, beautiful chapel that was air conditioned, had a pianist and would be comfortable for everyone. During our original venue search in Vegas, my husband and I agreed immediately that Mandalay Bay has the nicest chapels and reception areas on the strip! We were impressed by how nice everything was and that it was affordable!
THE RECEPTION — Seascape Ballroom at the Shark Reef Aquarium
After searching high and low, on and off The Strip, we stumbled upon a brand new venue, the Seascape Ballroom, located in the Shark Reef of Mandalay Bay. It was gorgeous, unique and breathtaking. And the venue was so new we were actually the first wedding reception to have a DJ in the space. The good news is that the sharks loved our music!
All of our guests were escorted through the Shark Reef to the ballroom right after the ceremony. The space had curtains covering the glass to the aquariums, so it looked like there were plain walls. During our first dance to “Octopus’s Garden” by The Beatles, the curtains were slowly raised to reveal the hidden windows looking into the sunken ship inside the Shark Reef.
In addition to the room, we also had a patio, where we had the buffet line, bar and photo booth. We kept the desserts, cookie station and DJ inside and there was plenty of room for all 45 of us. We had a milk and cookie station with a chef baking fresh cookies for our guests — the room smelt like cookie heaven!
DIY DETAILS + DECOR
Being that this was a destination wedding, I tried to keep my DIYs to a minimum because traveling in the heat with breakables and bedazzled items just doesn’t work. You can see some more details about my projects here. To fit our vintage travel theme I made passport style programs, message in a bottle escort cards and 3D table letters with photos of us decoupaged on the edges. We rented vintage suitcases and cameras from Nostalgia Resources to complete the theme — Veronica was great to work with!
FAVORITE MEMORY Our Grand Entrance/First Dance was absolutely one of the BEST parts of our entire day! We planned it our strategically with our wedding planner and I love how it was executed! For our Bridal Party, the DJ started by playing the theme song to Jaws to help draw the crowd’s attention to the doors. Everyone was laughing so hard! After everyone was introduced, it was our turn and we did our first dance to the version of “Octopus’s Garden” by The Beatles used in the Cirque du Soleil LOVE production. The song was perfect because in this version, they slow down Ringo’s voice and add some bells which was perfect for raising the curtains to. I can cry just thinking about it; everyone was shouting out things like, “WOW!!! LOOK AT THAT!! OMG!!” I looked at my husband and both of us were beaming from ear to ear. We knew we did this right. After about a minute, we invited all guest to come dance with us.
LAS VEGAS WEDDING TIPS FROM KARI + DREW:
Before the wedding, we decided to do a first look. I would absolutely recommend this to couples that are okay with going outside of traditional wedding rules and want to calm their nerves a bit before the wedding. With our first look, we pulled some strings and were let into the beautiful Swan Court at the elegant Auerole restaurant at Mandalay Bay.
We also did a first look to reduce our cocktail hour. We did not want our guest waiting 1-2 hours for our reception to get rocking, so we did all our photos in the morning. Highly recommended! We had the energy still to walk around the Mandalay Bay property, my makeup was fresh, it wasn’t hot yet, tourist were still sleeping (no photo bombers!) and we got many intimate moments photographed that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Stacey and Brandon’s fresh Springs Preserve wedding was accented with turquoise, silver and purple colors. I’m in love with their wedding monogram, which provided a modern graphic element to the garden wedding and reception.
Cowboy boots for the ladies, a Disney gown and wedding cake topper, this wedding had touches of the bride and groom’s personality all over it! I think the best moment had to have been the first look with Stacey’s dad, though. What a beautiful moment.
WHY THE SPRINGS PRESERVE?
We chose Vegas because it’s our home and we have friends and family here. We specially chose Springs Preserve because of its beauty and the fact that it feels different than anything in Vegas.
THE CEREMONY — GARDENS ARBORETUM AT SPRINGS PRESERVE
Our wedding was a casual sunset ceremony, surrounded by friends and family with just a little rain for good luck!
THE RECEPTION — GARDEN TERRACE AT SPRINGS PRESERVE
A fun filled evening with dancing, drinking and laughing surrounded by the people that mean the most to us. Food served by the infamous Mon Ami Gabi with a menu created by the bride and groom. Plenty of games both traditional and non, with plenty of tears and laughter to go around.
DIY DETAILS + DECOR
Much of our wedding was DIY! The card box was handmade, the frame that hung at the altar for pictures was handwritten, the tulle over the altar was all done by hand, the sunglasses sign for the favors as well as the coloring books and crayons were all put together by the bride.
FAVORITE WEDDING DAY MEMORY
The most stand out moment had to have been the cake cutting! As tradition goes we both wore plenty of cake on our faces with the groom getting an extra handful from the bride. We had a blast being able to walk through all the people who loved us the most before we ended up cutting our cake.
LAS VEGAS WEDDING TIPS FROM STACEY + BRANDON
Everyone told me that the night would go by faster than we could imagine but we didn’t believe them, take in every moment because before I knew it, it was 10:30! Also, make friends and ask people around you. I found all of my vendors through friends and family, I didn’t need to use the internet, everyone was more than willing to refer me, use that to your advantage. This town is full of connections, just have to know where to look!
STACEY + BRANDON’S WEDDING GUESTCOUNT + BUDGET
We had about 100 guests and our budget was $12,000.
Rebecca and John’s Vegas wedding encapsulates the versatility of having a wedding on The Strip. Starting with a romantic wedding ceremony officiated by a friend in the tropical gardens of Flamingo, they moved with their guests over to the chic lounge at Chandelier Bar. Handcrafted cocktails, hors d’ouevres and cupcakes fuelled the guests up for a full night of Sin City adventure, and they had little Vegas survival bags to take back to their hotels afterwards. I’m in love with Rebecca’s incredible silver Tadashi Shoji dress, too. A perfect choice for this stunningly modern wedding!
WHY REBECCA AND JOHN CHOSE LAS VEGAS
We decided to get married in Las Vegas because we didn’t want a traditional wedding and we knew that all our guests would have a great time there. It’s almost impossible to not have fun in Vegas!
THE CEREMONY — Gazebo Chapel at Flamingo Las Vegas
The ceremony was held outside at the gazebo chapel at the Flamingo hotel. My best friend was the officiant, and we had a very personal ceremony with our closest friends and family. We wrote the ceremony as well as our own vows.
THE RECEPTION — Chandelier Bar at Cosmopolitan
The reception was at the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan hotel. We had passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails all made by the amazing catering staff at the hotel. We then held an after party at Cleopatra’s Barge at Cesar’s Palace where we danced until the wee hours of the morning.
DIY DETAILS + DECOR
I designed the invitations and gift bags and then professionally printed. I also made the programs for the ceremony and the card holder box that was placed at the reception. Although there weren’t many decorations needed because we chose venues that were gorgeous on their own, I wanted to make sure that there were some personal artistic touches. I’m an artist so having my hand in the design of the invitations and gift bags was really important to me. Some items in the wedding that we’re special to me were my grandmother’s purse and handkerchief that had her initials embroidered on it. The hanky definitely came in handy when we were reading our vows!
It’s hard to pick just one! I think the most memorable thing for us was when we read our own vows. We each wrote them privately, so they were a surprise at the ceremony. Proclaiming our love and commitment to each other in front of our closest friends and family was such a powerful and moving experience that we will never forget. Also doing a Soul Train dancing line at the after party was pretty epic!
LAS VEGAS WEDDING TIPS FROM REBECCA AND JOHN
Our number 1 tip for planning a great wedding in Vegas, is to pick a location and vendors you love. There are so many options to choose from, and most venues make it pretty simple to plan a wedding. It was like one stop shopping for us. John and I both love to cook, and food and cocktails were the most important aspect of the wedding for us. The Chandelier Bar is so spectacularly beautiful and know for their mixology program, that hands down, there was no other venue in our mind that would have been as perfect.
REBECCA AND JOHN’S GUESTCOUNT + BUDGET
I really wanted to keep our wedding around $15,000. I think we were pretty close to that, but I honestly lost track after a while. In reality it was probably closer to $20,000. We had about 75 guests that travelled from all over the country to be with us.
Although many couples opt for the neon and architecture of The Strip or even classic downtown Las Vegas for their wedding venue, the city is surrounded by the picturesque Mojave desert.
This landscape appeals to those looking for a more natural look and feel, and there are a variety of locations from a half hour to just over an hour’s drive outside the city. These desert wedding venues are a different side to Las Vegas, with majestic geological features, sand covered vistas and desert plant life like cacti and even Joshua trees.
Doing your wedding yourself at these venues requires a little bit of homework, in that you will need to purchase a wedding permit, and arrange for a wedding photographer and wedding officiant to meet you at the venue. The best time of day, for weather and photos, is sunset.
It should be noted that none of these locations is really that well-suited to a full reception (the exception being Eldorado Canyon, and I recommend you use a planner if you do so) but that cake and a little Champagne toast might be in order.
Weddings at Eldorado Canyon at Nelson
This former gold mining town is popular with couples who want to combine rustic vintage buildings and whimsical props (crashed plane or antique trucks, anyone?) with their wedding vows. Eldorado is a great spot for those seeking a rustic, retro wedding style. This “ghost town” has been featured in the movie “3000 Miles from Graceland” and offers indoor and outdoor venues for your wedding ceremony.
Details: Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours
Venues: Say your I Do’s surrounded by the antiques in the barn, or just outside amongst the cholla cacti and antique vehicles Theme: Whimsical western with a vintage twist Travel Time: 60 minutes south of Las Vegas Fee: Starting at $100 for 10 people for up to two hours, $150 for up to 20 guests for up to two hours, $50 an hour after that Inspiration:real weddings at Eldorado Canyon
Weddings at Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock is a gorgeous area just west of The Strip, boasting amazing views of — you guessed it: incredible red rock formations. The area is popular with adventure seekers and includes a scenic drive loops, 30+ miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and a variety of outdoor activities including rock climbing, horseback riding and mountain biking. There are two fabulous outdoor spots to get married, including a scenic overlook and Calico Basin. Red Rock Canyon has been featured in the Little Vegas Wedding Venue Spotlight series.
Details:Red Rock National Conservation Area
Venues: Calico Basin offers a boardwalk surrounded by greenery and petroglyphs, while Scenic Overlook is a panoramic vista of the nearby sandstone mountain formations Theme: Natural mountainous wonder with green details Travel Time: 30 minutes west of Las Vegas Fee:Wedding permit is $200, and must be arranged at least two weeks in advance Inspiration:real weddings at Red Rock Canyon
Weddings at Valley of Fire State Park
A little more remote is the Valley of Fire, Nevada’s oldest state park with vivid red rocks, just north of Las Vegas. The dramatic whorled sandstone formations, natural arches and petrified wood as a wedding backdrop will wow you. The Valley of Fire has been seen in scenes of “Transformers” and “Planet of the Apes.”
Details: Valley of Fire State Park
Venues: There are only four approved venues for weddings at Valley of Fire: Seven Sisters, Rainbow Vista, Visitor’s Center or The Cabins. Some sites host as few 15 people, some up to 100 people Theme: Mother Nature on fire Travel Time: 75 minutes north of Las Vegas Fee:Wedding permit is $100-175 depending on the size of wedding, and must be arranged at least three weeks in advance
Some of you readers are just beginning your Vegas wedding planning escapade. If so: welcome! If you are new to the world of weddings, you’ve probably already heard and used the “B” word: “budget.” It can dominate most wedding conversations you have, especially in the early days, and rightfully so. Staying on budget is important to your wallet and relationship’s health!
One of the best spots to save a little bit of time and money is by choosing your wedding stationery carefully. Little Vegas Wedding partner Ann’s Bridal Bargains offers a great selection of discount wedding invitations that allow you to express who you are as a couple, but not go overboard with the expense. Is it possible to stay on budget and plan a wedding that’s uniquely you? Yes! And Ann’s is dedicated to helping you make that happen.
Ann’s Bridal Bargains invitations offer a wide selection of styles and designs, but one of my favorites are the Separate and Send wedding invites. These affordable invitations have a clever, perforated design that prints all three pieces of your wedding stationery ensemble at once, saving you big bucks…and time! No DIY cutting of pieces, either.
These invitation bundles include the invitation as well as the detachable response card and reception card on one convenient sheet. Everything is coordinated, and can be customized to your wedding colors, theme or personal style and interests as a couple. You can choose your color and can create your own unique wording online, and even add photos to several designs!
Here are some of my favorite designs from the Separate and Send collection:
Perfect for a poolside wedding is the palm tree embellished “Heartwarming” suite.
Love fonts and typefaces? Check out the “Presenting” suite!
Guests will get excited about your destination wedding with these airplane themed “Destination Romance” invites.
Simple and modern, “Love Spell” reflects the purple theme of Aria’s wedding chapel!
You can see the full selection of affordable Separate and Send invites. Orders can be made for as few as 25 invites, perfect for smaller Vegas weddings.
The most important thing you need to know about Ann’s Bridal Bargains selection of “cheap” wedding invitations is that there is nothing cheap about them. Even the most impressive wedding invitation design becomes dull and disappointing if not beautifully printed and presented on the right kind of paper. If you’re not convinced, they even offer free samples so you can see before you purchase!
Ann’s Bridal Bargains has crafted a special offer for Little Vegas Wedding readers, valid through the end of the summer. Get an extra 15% off your wedding invitation order with code Vegas15. This offer is valid through 8/31/2014.