Ten years ago today, Britney Spears decamped to Las Vegas with her childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander, and like so many love-drunk (and possibly other kinds of inebriated) young people, decided to get hitched. Perhaps realizing her poor judgment, Spears had the marriage annulled a mere 55 hours later, but the whirlwind romance remains one of the most thrillingly sudsy stories of the pop starlet’s peak years. Now, as she’s back in Las Vegas for her two-year Planet Hollywood Piece of Me residency, she’s the topic of conversation in Sin City for other, less paparazzi-worthy reasons — but the sheer weirdness and starry-eyed lunacy of the wedding remains an indelible part of Spears lore.
Here now, an authoritative and eyewitness account of the short-lived Spears-Alexander marriage:
Wednesday, December 31st
In town for New Year’s Eve, Britney Spears parties hard at both Rain and Ghostbar at the Palms, at one point crossing paths with Kobe and Vanessa Bryant. Later, she returns to her room in the Palms’ famed Real World Suite. She’s registered at the hotel under the name Alotta Warmheart.
Thursday, January 1st
During prime party hours, Spears hits the dance floor at Rain, where she is seen grooving with a number of other guests — including her childhood friend, Kentwood, Louisiana, native Jason Alexander, who Spears had had flown in to Las Vegas via private jet earlier that day. She was also also seen at the club in the VIP section kissing one of her female backup dancers.
Friday, January 2nd
Spears and friends go see an evening screening of the Julia Roberts’ flick Mona Lisa Smile, then head back to the Palms and Ghostbar.
Saturday, January 3rd
After midnight, Spears and Alexander retreat to her suite at the hotel, where they watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Somehow feeling romantically inspired, the pair decide to marry.
“It was just so crazy, man,” Alexander later told Access Hollywood. “We were just looking at each other and said, ‘Let’s do something wild, crazy. Let’s go get married, just for the hell of it.'”
Around 3:30 a.m. Spears and Alexander rent a lime-green stretch limo and a Palms bellman drives them to the city’s A Little White Wedding Chapel, notorious for its quickie marriages.
“I guess the limousine driver got fired, because he had no business taking them out,” says Charolette Richards, owner of the chapel. “Beautiful gal — all I could tell you. She was one very beautiful lady and she was not drunk.”
(In a 2012 interview, Alexander said the two had been drinking and also indulged in “party favors.”)
Upon arrival at the chapel, the two are told they need a wedding license. Undeterred, they continue on to the Clark County Courthouse.
There, sometime near 4:30 a.m., Spears provides proof of her age and her social security number in order to purchase a marriage license. (340 other couples are issued marriage licenses in Las Vegas on the same day.)
“People followed them from the marriage license bureau,” recalls Richards. “Everyone was taking photographs of everyone.”
At approximately 5 a.m., Spears and Alexander return to the chapel, where they shell out $70 for a seven-minute ceremony. Spears wedding outfit consists of a baseball cap and torn jeans. The wedding march is played from a boombox as the bellman walks the bride down the aisle.
“They weren’t dressed in wedding attire, but it was very romantic and there was a feeling of love between them,” remembers Richards. “They appeared to be extremely happy. They were laughing, but crying, too, during the ceremony. I thought it was a marriage that would last forever.”
The event is videotaped by a wall-mounted camera at the chapel. “I would never show anybody the video, even if they offered me millions of dollars,” Richards says.
In the wake of the wedding, Alexander is also offered $1 million for the tape. He declines.
In the late morning of January 3rd, Alexander returns to Spears’ room at the Palms. His new bride decides she wants to keep dancing.
After learning about the nuptials, Spears’ manager, Larry Rudolph, visits Palms owner George J. Maloof, Jr. at his Las Vegas home. “He knocked on my door to tell me that Britney got married and wanted to know if I could help,” Maloof recalls. “They didn’t want to be married. They needed to get an annulment. My job was to find them an attorney, but it was a Saturday or Sunday, so nobody was working.”
By the early afternoon, Maloof pays a visit to David Z. Chesnoff, a prominent Las Vegas lawyer. “I went and saw David and he got it done,” Maloof says. Chesnoff prepares annulment papers for the couple.
“I realized something was going wrong when her brother and her attorney and quite a few people came dashing over the next day,” says Richards. “They said, ‘We’ve gotta get this annulled.'”
At 4:30 p.m., Spears and Alexander sign the annulment papers. “I met with Britney and Jason and they were tickled pink at that point,” Maloof says. Rarely are annulments undertaken so gleefully.
That evening, Spears, Alexander, and several friends (including Maloof and ‘N Sync’s Lance Bass) have dinner at N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms. “It wasn’t like they were holding hands but it wasn’t like they were in a big fight,” Maloof says. “It was just something that they did. You’d have to ask them if they regretted it, but they seemed to be comfortable with the fact that they were getting divorced.
After dinner, Alexander leaves Las Vegas, and Spears goes dancing.
Sunday, January 4th
Britney Spears leaves Las Vegas. Her record label, Jive, releases a statement explaining that the couple “took a joke too far by getting married.”
Monday, January 5th
At 10 a.m. that morning, Chesnoff files the annulment complaint with the Clark County Courthouse, paying a fee of $122. In the annulment papers, the reason cited for the dissolution of the marriage is that Spears “lacked understanding of her actions to the extent that she was incapable of agreeing to the marriage.”
In 2012, Alexander calls this “bullshit.”
“I was in love with her,” he insisted. “I feel like she felt the same way.”
At precisely 12:24 p.m. on January 5th, Lisa M. Brown, a Clark County Family Court judge, signs off on the annulment papers. The marriage is over.
“There is no marriage now,” Chesnoff tells reporters outside the courthouse. “Jason agreed to this completely. They’ve made a wise decision. I know they care about each other. They are friends.”
In an interview, Spears explained that she was “being silly, being rebellious, and not really taking the responsibility of what I was doing.”
In July of 2004, Britney Spears announces her engagement to Kevin Federline. The couple divorced three years later. She has not since remarried.