LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The “Wedding Queen of the West” has died, according to a statement from A Little White Wedding Chapel.
Charolette Richards, the woman behind perhaps the most famous wedding chapel in Las Vegas, died Dec. 13, according to a spokesperson for the chapel. She was 89 years old.
Richards sold the chapel in late 2022 after decades of building recognition as the site of numerous celebrity weddings. A sign at the chapel boasts that Joan Collins was married there. Michael Jordan, too.
A statement from the chapel said Richards transformed the Las Vegas wedding industry. “Focused on love, she wanted couples to be able to enjoy an affordable wedding in a beautiful location and as simple as easy as possible. This ethos led to Little White Wedding Chapel becoming the most famous wedding chapel in the world.”
In addition to devotion to her customers, Richards was an innovator.
“She was the first to create the drive-thru wedding after a couple visiting the chapel couldn’t fit their wheelchair through the doors, so she married them just outside and thus conceived the drive-thru wedding chapel,” a chapel spokesperson said.
Celebrity couples married at her chapel include Ben Affleck and Jenifer Lopez, Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas, Sarah Michelle Geller and Freddie Prinze Jr., Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.
In an interview with The Herald in Scotland, Richards said she was the wedding coordinator when Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu took their vows at the Aladdin Hotel in 1967. “I got the judge, the flowers, his cake, everything,” she said.
She is credited with decorating the room when Frank Sinatra married Mia Farrow in 1966.
She is estimated to have married a million couples in a career that extended beyond the chapel, which is on Las Vegas Boulevard just south of Charleston Boulevard.
“There are people that come from all over the world to come here just to see this place,” Richards told 8 News Now in 2022. “And memories that will never end if you love each other.”
In another interview about road construction blocking chapel entrances before Valentine’s Day in 2022, she said, “I’m prepared. Honey, I’ve been doing this for — how long? — 68 years,” Richards said.
The chapel won’t release details until next week, but it is making plans to honor Richards.
Brian Mills, president of the Vegas Wedding Chamber of Commerce, released this statement on Thursday:
The Vegas Wedding Chamber of Commerce mourns the loss of Charlotte Richards, founder of the Little White Wedding Chapel and an influential figure in our industry. Charlotte’s visionary approach since 1951 made her chapel a symbol of romance and joy in Las Vegas, renowned for its unique offerings of weddings.
One remarkable story from Richards’ early years involves her arrival in Las Vegas as an abandoned bride. With three children in tow, she came to meet her husband at the Stardust casino only to find that he never showed up. This led to her encountering a flower shop owner who offered her a job and a place to live. This job at the Little Church of the West marked the beginning of her journey in the wedding industry.
Richards eventually opened her own flower shop in a hotel room at the New Frontier hotel. After her first marriage was annulled, she married the man who helped her in her time of need, despite significant challenges. Following his death, Richards took a bold step and invested in a chapel that was for sale, A Little White Wedding Chapel, which became a cornerstone of her legacy.
One of the most significant contributions Charlotte Richards made to the Vegas Wedding Industry was the use of Celebrity Weddings in active daily marketing of Las Vegas Weddings to the World. As legend is told, in 1985 Charlotte was looking to sell A Little White Chapel until Joan Collins showed up and married Peter Holm on November 3rd. Her decision to put Joan Collins’ name on her sign outside the Chapel brought press, fans, and world-wide fame that launched A Little White Wedding Chapel to a new level. This was enhanced further through the years by Celebrity nuptials of Michael Jordan, Brittany Spears and, most recently, Ben Affleck with Jennifer Lopez.
Charlotte’s legacy extends beyond innovation; sometimes controversial, but always positive, Charlotte Richards created unforgettable experiences for countless couples. As we honor her life, we are inspired by her commitment to love and joy in the wedding industry. Charlotte’s memory will continue to guide and inspire future generations in our community.”