Las Vegas’ Little White Chapel Founder Charolette Richards Dies

Posted on: January 4, 2024, 09:22h. 

Last updated on: January 5, 2024, 12:38h.

Charolette Richards, the “Wedding Queen of the West,” has died, according to a statement from A Little White Wedding Chapel. Richards, who was 89, founded Las Vegas’ most famous wedding factory and ran it for 71 years.

Charolette Richards

“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,” read a statement from the chapel.

Richards, who died on December 13, officiated the nuptials of Britney Spears, Joan Collins, and the marriage of Bruce Willis to Demi Moore. She also conceived of the drive-thru wedding chapel after one of her clients couldn’t fit a wheelchair through the front door.

Altar-ed Plans

Richards arrived in Las Vegas in the late ’50s as an abandoned bride. She had driven with her three small children from Kentucky to meet the man she married at age 17. He had told her he was newly employed at the Stardust.

He wasn’t. But a gentleman who owned a flower shop nearby noticed Richards walking every day from the Stardust, where she repeatedly inquired about her husband, back to the motel she had rented across the street. The concerned stranger struck up a conversation. Richards was down to her last $4. He offered her a job.

As fate would have it, that job was at The Little Church of the West. Richards booked wedding services there and learned the business.

A Little White Wedding Chapel
A Little White Wedding Chapel is located just where Richards founded it in 1951: at 1301 S Las Vegas Blvd. (Image: A Little White Wedding Chapel)

Never-Lasting Love

Since opening her chapel, Richards guesses she has overseen close to a million weddings. They include some very familiar names:

  • Joan Collins and Peter Holm (Nov. 3, 1985)
  • Bruce Willis and Demi Moore (Nov. 21, 1987)
  • Michael Jordan and Juanita Vanoy (Sept. 2, 1989)
  • Britney Spears and Jason Alexander (Jan. 3, 2004)
  • Pamela Anderson and Rick Salomon (Oct. 6, 2007)

Richards once told this reporter her favorite wedding was Bruce and Demi’s.

“I never felt somebody else’s love so strong,” she said. “And I didn’t even know who they were. I don’t follow the movie stars.”

Though most of the chapel’s celebrity clients have untied their knots, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck joined the list on July 16, 2022, and are still going strong more than a year later. (That totally beats Britney Spear’s 55 hours of wedded bliss to Jason Alexander — no, not that Jason Alexander.)

According to TMZ, “Bennifer” wanted an Elvis impersonator to perform the deed. But they had arrived at the chapel too late – just as the chapel was closing its doors – and there wasn’t one available. The couple had intended to marry in September 2003, but broke up instead.

Richards sold the chapel to Cliff Evarts, owner of competing downtown wedding chapels Viva Las Vegas and Vegas Weddings, in late 2022.

The chapel’s “Tunnel of Love” drive-thru chapel had already been renamed Charolette’s Way upon her retirement.