Photo credit: Five Hundy By Midnight
Tim and Michele Dressen are a Minnesota based couple who are obsessed with all things Vegas. Tim has been running the weekly Five Hundy by Midnight podcast about Las Vegas since 2005, with his wife Michele serving as cohost. On top of being Minnesota nice, they’re very knowledgeable about Vegas, extremely candid about their likes and dislikes and have a great rapport that makes the show great fun to listen to.
The Dressens update their pack of fellow Vegas fiends on happenings in the city (and vice versa, as listeners call in as well) while talking food, gambling, drinking, entertainment and more. Our intrepid hosts share the ins and outs of what’s new, what’s closing, what’s awesome … and what’s not. It’s a great way to stay in touch on what’s going on in the city, and perfect to listen to while you do something else. If you don’t already listen to the “original Las Vegas podcast“, I highly recommend you do, especially if you are planning a Vegas destination wedding.
I’ve been a long time Five Hundy Head, and the one thing that always intrigued me as a listener was that their first trip to Vegas happened to be for their wedding in 1997. Ever since starting Little Vegas Wedding I’ve been jonesing to dig into that aspect of their Vegas obsession, and they were kind enough to indulge my interrogation.
So read on as Tim and Michele talk how they ended up tying the knot in Las Vegas, what it was like to plan a destination wedding there without ever being there… and what they’d change if they did it all over again.
So, hi guys. Thanks for granting me a bit of your time to answer some questions. You had not been planning a Las Vegas wedding from the start, correct? At what point did you abandon ship on the traditional ceremony, and why was Vegas the escape route? Tell us a little about that.
Michele: We had started to plan the traditional ceremony, but it didn’t feel like us. Neither of us is comfortable being the center of attention, and one of us was dreading having a reception with a dance. The dread started to overshadow the planning process, even though we were trying to keep it a small and modest affair. The final straw was when we were discussing who to invite with my parents and they kept expanding the guest list to people I wouldn’t recognize if they bit me on the ass (and wouldn’t that be awkward in so many ways?) I believe my exact quote was, “That’s it—we’re going to Vegas.” That was in May, and we got married in March the following year
Wedding details: how many attendees, where were the ceremony and reception portions held and, was it themed and most importantly, were there any gambling pit stops?
Tim: We had roughly 30 guests. The ceremony was held at the Excalibur wedding chapel. Afterwards, we had a happy hour at a bar where the Excalibur food court now stands. Dinner was at a prime rib place called Sir Galahad’s. The cake was awesome. The wedding wasn’t themed, but our minister looked like Wolfman Jack. I know we gambled a little, but I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and didn’t play a ton.
Michele: We had a good-sized group—big enough to make it a fun party, but small enough to mingle and spend time with everyone. After the reception, most of the people went down to the casino and gambled. My dad was playing slots and suddenly started jumping up and down and yelling because he’d just won something. He was playing nickel slots and his “jackpot” was about $2.50.
How did you go about picking Excalibur, and were you happy with everything, sight unseen?
Tim: Having never been to Las Vegas before, we had little idea what we were doing. The Web was still relatively new, and there was pretty much no wedding chapel info to be found. We had to call hotels and ask them to send us brochures. We chose Excalibur based on a recommendation from my parents, as they had been to Las Vegas several times and had stayed there. I think they suggested it because it was cheap, and we had no money. So by that standard it did the trick.
Michele: I was very happy with the way everything turned out, especially considering that we had little information to go on. Excalibur was one of the better options at the time. I also liked that the salon, chapel, and restaurant were in the same building. I was a little intimidated by the standalone wedding chapels and the logistics of traveling back and forth. I’m glad we decided to have the wedding and reception in a fairly confined space to make it easier for everyone to navigate. We might have lost a few people if we’d had to travel too far down the Strip!
I remember viewing the Excalibur Web site through Netscape 1.0. It had a small picture of the chapel and it looked OK. The brochure was also well done, and I liked the different options they offered. I was trying to avoid anything that was too tacky or over the top—I wanted to be somewhat traditional.
I think our package was under $300 and it included the ceremony, flowers, a video, and several pictures. The pictures and video turned out well, and the flowers were very pretty, so I was pleased with the wedding package we chose.
I also really loved the cake. It was a layer of cheesecake with a layer of cake on top, and it was delicious. It’s still my favorite wedding cake I’ve ever had. I’m a little sad that Sir Galahad’s is no more so we can’t have them recreate it someday.
Excalibur Photo Credit: NetFlights.com
Any particularly memorable moments, and did everything go as you hoped it would?
Michele: When we were at Sir Galahad’s for dinner, the waiter asked everyone if they’d like a baked potato with their entrées. After dinner, the waiter presented the bill to my dad (who, if you hadn’t guessed from my gambling story above, is a little on the frugal side). His eyes nearly popped out of his head at the $3 charge for each potato. It’s still a running joke in our family.
I think one of the special memories for couples getting married on the Strip is that they have a moment when strangers react strongly to seeing them – positively or negatively. Did you have any unique experiences?
Tim: We wandered over to Luxor for a bit after the wedding. I distinctly remember how nice it was having people congratulate us. As a result of our post-wedding experience, I frequently congratulate newly married couples wandering around in Las Vegas.
In the time that has passed since you had your wedding in 1997, not only have wedding trends changed a lot, so has Las Vegas. Is there anything you would do differently if you were to do it again?
Tim: I think we’d have it at a little bit nicer hotel than Excalibur if we could afford it. There are a lot more options now, which helps.
Michele: I was happy with our choice at the time, given the options we had. But if I had to do it today, I would choose a different venue—something a little less Renaissance-themed. And I would love to do a wedding photo shoot at the Neon Boneyard, next to the Silver Slipper sign!
I know you head back to Vegas a lot – several times a year if you can – have you ever gone purposely to celebrate your anniversary? If so, what has been your favorite way to mark the occasion?
Tim: Our second trip was an anniversary trip. We’ve had a few trips near our anniversary, so we’ve sort of used that as an excuse for a trip. Normally we stay where we can get a free room, but for anniversary trips we sometimes deviate from that. For our 15th anniversary, we booked a Cosmopolitan Wraparound Terrace Suite. It was fantastic. (Here’s a video tour of the room Tim shot)
Michele: We stayed at Wynn for our 10th anniversary. It was the first time either of us had stayed there.
You’ve documented stays in a number of suites over the years. Are there any you think might make a great space for a wedding ceremony or reception?
Tim: The large suites on the top couple floors of THEhotel (soon to be rebranded as Delano) would be decent simply because they are large enough for quite a few guests. It might be kind of cool to get married on the terrace of one of Cosmopolitan’s suites.
Since the podcast began in 2005 you’ve built a real community of fans. Have you had an opportunity to attend any listener weddings or receptions in Las Vegas?
Tim: No, but someone did call our voice mail line during their ceremony, and we played it on the show.
If you could tell couples planning a Vegas wedding one thing, what would it be?
Michele: For couples planning any wedding, remember that it’s your day. Enjoy being with each other and enjoy the people who are with you.
(Also make sure that you have plenty of time between the salon visit and the ceremony itself, so you’re not rushing past your husband-to-be in a flurry of swears. I cannot begin to tell you how fortunate I was to have put my makeup on beforehand. I didn’t really consider having it professionally done—I think I was afraid I’d look like a showgirl.)
Of course, I had to ask a few fun questions:
Odds on there being a live podcast vow renewal for your 500th show?
Michele, did you have special wedding shoes?
Michele: I wish I could say yes! I wasn’t always as into shoes as I am now. I probably got them at Payless or something—that’s how memorable they were. I do remember that they were extremely comfortable, which was key.
Clearly Prince got played during the ceremony. What song?
Tim: We put together a tape of songs for the end of the ceremony. When we kissed, the minister hit play and Paul Westerberg’s “Waiting for Somebody” blasted. We both started to laugh. It was perfect. The other songs played while photos were being snapped. The only other song I recall is Prince’s “Adore.”
Michele: We also had Prince’s “Forever in my Life” as part of the mix.
Tim: Oh yeah… it was “Forever in my Life” rather than “Adore.” Or maybe both. My memory sucks.
Through the years chapels and hotels in Vegas have hosted all sorts of crazy themed weddings – any favorites that stands out?
Michele: I love the rockabilly and retro-themed weddings. I love the whole “Mad Men” and mid-century modern aesthetic, so anything with that vibe is really appealing to me. That’s not necessarily confined to Vegas, but the Elvis factor can lend itself to those themes pretty easily, along with the vintage Vegas signs. (This one in particular just slays me with how gorgeous it is.)
Thank you so much, Tim and Michele! I have to say I appreciated that you are especially congratulatory to the newly married couples you see. Although we definitely got some attention and someone sang “Here Comes the Bride” as we walked past, there is one thing I distinctly remember. As we took photos infront of the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign some guy drove by in a convertible yelling “NOT TOO LATE FOR AN ANNULMENT!” Never change, Vegas, never change.
Here’s an early episode of the podcast where Tim and Michele recall the wedding details – well, Michele does mostly. It’s also worth mentioning that Tim runs a really great website on downtown bars that could be useful for planning any meet and greets or just casual drinks on and around Fremont Street. It’s called Fremont Street Bars and it has a wealth of information, with photos, hours, drink specials and a mini review.
I heard (okay, made up) that a couple that Vegases together, stays together, so we here at LVW wish Tim and Michele many more years of happiness and delicious drinks in Vegas…we do wish that for you…Cheers!