This is a story that I love sharing but seeing as it doubles as Chapter 1 in my book, I thought I’d leave with a bit of a teaser here for you!
‘Sebastian, do you take Chevali to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you vow to treat her right and to be her Tiger Man?’
‘Chevali, do you take this hunk, a hunk of burnin’ love, to be your husband from this day on?’
‘Well, then, by the powers vested in me by the state of Nevada, I, Elvis Presley, now pronounce you husband and wife. Sebastian, you may kiss your bride.’
Considering I’d only met Chevali three days ago, you could say that we’d decided to tie the knot quite quickly, but if the truth be known, I was only marrying Chevali because my intended bride, Crystal, had stood me up thirty minutes earlier. I’d only find out later the horrific reason why this was.
Let me explain myself. You see, I’d always wanted to marry a stranger in Las Vegas. I’m not sure why exactly, but I guess it was just one of those things that I’d always wanted to do. That’s the sole reason I was in Vegas at the time; I was wife hunting.
As it happened, it only took a few days to find someone willing to marry me once I touched down in Vegas, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d end up marrying the receptionist at my hostel.
The funniest thing was that when the Elvis impersonator asked us to kiss, this would be the first and last time we would ever do so. I had to leave the country the next day to return to Australia. Luckily for me, Chevali had a great sense of humour.
Two nights prior to spontaneously marrying Chevali, I’d found myself at a bar along the infamous Strip of Las Vegas. The sign out the front read ‘Dirty Girls Mud Wrestling’ and, since I was looking for a potential bride, it seemed like a good place to start my search. Inside, as you might expect, was a bar full of blokes drinking and shouting; by smell alone, it appeared that they hadn’t left the bar for the best part of a week. In the middle of the room, on a sunken level, was a big inflatable swimming pool, filled to the brim with mud. This was why everyone was there.
Typically not being one to go to a bar by myself, I bought a beer and stood inconspicuously at the back of the room, where I felt the most comfortable.
Then came the announcement: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome! I’m your referee for the evening.’
The man who had just announced himself to the smoky room via his microphone was indeed dressed like a referee and as he circled the pool of mud, he went on to explain the rules of the evening. Apparently we were in for a dirty night of wrestling whereby the only rule was that photos were not allowed. This was easy enough to understand.
‘Before we start though, I need a volunteer,’ said the referee.
Like a badly timed Mexican wave, every hand in the room went up as one, mine included. None of us knew exactly what we were volunteering for, but even the slight possibility that it might get us nearer to the ring was enough for us all to jockey for attention. The atmosphere immediately changed from excitement to one of fierce competition: men pushing, yelling and jostling for eye contact with the referee. Given I was standing at the back of the room, my hopes weren’t high, but this was Vegas: anything was possible.
‘You, sir, at the back of the room, come on down!’
As unlikely as it seemed, I had been picked. Every other man in the room instantly turned to look at me with envy as I began to push towards the ring. I was the chosen one. Moments later I found out what this in fact meant; I had been given the honour of circling the ring and pushing the girls back in, should they stray too close to the edge during battle. Things were falling into place just as I had hoped; surely I’d find a bride this way.
As I familiarised myself with the ring dimensions, the referee then beckoned two scantily clad girls from the nearby change rooms into the arena. The crowd’s response was ravenous, to the point where I questioned if any of the men had seen a girl since the mid 1980s. The room was worked up, to say the least. The girls, ever the professionals, jumped into the ring and flaunted about as if performing at a gentlemen’s club. As it turned out, when not mud wrestling these girls were indeed strippers.
Ding, ding. ‘Seconds out, round one.’
Before the bell had stopped vibrating, the girls sprung from their corners, sliding on all fours into the centre of the ring. Mud sprayed everywhere. Glistening, bouncing and contorting, the girls certainly weren’t holding anything back and with each moan came an even louder cheer from the crowded room. Some men, so affected by the sheer beauty of the sport, were unable to make a noise of any type.
Again circling the ring at the end of round one, the referee who sported a cheesy smile and a horrible moustache was successfully whipping the crowd into a testosterone-fuelled frenzy. As he walked past me, a sudden idea filled me with excitement. I had to act quickly. All I had to do was ask the referee to make an announcement on my behalf and see if there were any takers. This he agreed to enthusiastically.
‘Okay, everybody, listen here now! I’ve got an announcement to make for this young fella here.’
The crowd, as well as the half-nude wrestlers, all fell silent. It was perfect. I had everyone’s attention.
‘Now this guy here is from Australia, and he’s come here tonight for one thing.’
Everyone leaned in, curious to hear what it was.
‘His name is Sebastian and he’s flown all the way to Vegas searching for a wife!’
The room began to applaud, but as I looked around there were no girls with raised hands. This didn’t surprise me. But I hoped that I’d at least planted a seed. Only time would tell.
Ding, ding. ‘Seconds out, round two.’
As the rounds progressed, the wrestlers, like the crowd, became dirtier and by the end of the night I was covered in mud. Somehow amid all the mayhem, a mud-wrestling champion was announced; her name was Crystal. Though this didn’t seem to matter too much to the crowd who, shortly after the applauding the decision, all left the bar. The masses were satisfied.
The referee, who since announcing the winner had switched off his microphone, then walked over to me and offered me a beer. He liked Australians and as such showed me to the bar, handed me a Budweiser, and left me there to plot my next move.
As I sipped my beer and wiped the mud splatter from my clothes, a girl approached from the change rooms and introduced herself. It was Crystal, the newly crowned champion of the ring. I could tell this because she still had mud on her face.
‘So, were you serious about wanting to marry someone?’ she asked with a curious smile.
‘Absolutely! I’ve always wanted to marry someone here in Vegas. Just for twenty-four hours, though.’
‘Sounds like fun!’
Was this girl actually showing interest to the idea? Could she be the one?
After chatting for a further thirty minutes, I’d convinced myself that indeed she was, and so naturally I asked for her hand in marriage.
‘Sure!’ came the immediate reply.
And that’s how Crystal and I got engaged. Five minutes later, she left the bar; she had to get back home to her three kids. Before she did though, she gave me her email address.
‘Send me a message tomorrow. Let me know the details!’
What was I going to tell my mum?
Having found a bride to marry, my next job was to find a venue to get married in. Vegas being Vegas, I assumed this wouldn’t be a problem. The next morning I began searching for an ideal chapel.
The first place I tried gave me little hope.
‘How can I help you?’ asked the quiet priest at the reception desk of a small white chapel known for offering the cheapest and quickest weddings in Vegas.
‘I’m here for the quickest and cheapest wedding in Vegas,’ I replied with a straight face. Judging by his steely gaze, he didn’t seem overly supportive. Purposefully he scanned me up and down before responding.
‘Well, where is your fiancée?’
I began to explain that I wasn’t quite sure, but I told him that I knew where she mud wrestled every Tuesday.
‘I also have her email address,’ I added.
The old man’s forehead tightened as he stood up and planted his hands on his hips. It was clear that we had got off on the wrong foot. Then, in the tone of an angry father questioning his disobedient son after returning home late from a school disco, he loudly responded, ‘How long have you been seeing this girl?’
‘Well, almost twelve hours now.’ I knew he wouldn’t like this answer.
After a moment of silence, he delivered his next sentence, ‘Marriage is not something to joke about, you know!’
With that, an Elvis impersonator casually strolled through the foyer, chewing on a sandwich as he walked past.
Of course, marriage is no joking matter, but I couldn’t quite help but wonder why this man seemed so surprised with my request. Was he somehow unaware that he worked in a Las Vegas wedding chapel offering ‘Drive-thru weddings in under 20 minutes!’?
It was time to try elsewhere.
Thankfully the next place I visited, another drive-through wedding chapel, was a lot more helpful. Not only did they give me a great deal – which included being married at the express drive-through window – but they also threw in a stretch Hummer as well as Las Vegas’s number-one Elvis impersonator who would sing three songs at the ceremony. Perfect.
Happily, I parted with my money. I couldn’t believe it: I was going to get married the next day after only seventy-two hours in town. It had all happened so quickly.
After running back to my hostel and telling everyone who cared to listen that they were all invited to the wedding the following day, I sent Crystal an email with the details of our nuptials as promised; after all she was pivotal to the day. This was all it would take to confirm our commitment to each other.
By midday the next day, the sun was out and everyone was getting ready for the wedding. Having made a few friends whilst staying at the hostel, there was genuine excitement about the occasion. In all, there were about thirty people in our makeshift wedding party, but even so there was one glaring problem: I hadn’t heard back from Crystal. Had she got cold feet?
As the clock ticked by, a mild sense of worry had turned into the onset of panic and with less than an hour to the ceremony, I cursed the fact that I hadn’t taken Crystal’s number. All I could do was send her a second email entitled: ‘Urgent – your wedding’.
Lester, a friendly Aussie who by virtue of nationality alone I’d asked to be my best man, looked discreetly at his watch with thirty minutes to go. Things were not looking good and with every passing second, it seemed more and more likely that Crystal was going to stand me up. Lester pointed out the obvious, as a best man should. ‘You need to find another bride, mate.’
He was right.…
The rest of this story can be found in the 100 Things book. A percentage of every book purchased is donated to Camp Quality. Number 4 on the list is to raise $100,000 for this amazing charity helping kids and familles affected by Cancer.