LAS VEGAS - Donel Hardy and John Allison figure they must be a very lucky couple indeed. They met seven years ago, went on their first date on Sept. 7, and then found out they and Hardy's daughter, Kelli, all share the same birthday - July 7.
"He pulled out his driver's license because I didn't believe him," said Hardy, 40.
They live at an elevation above 7,000 feet in Mammoth, Calif., and their post office box number is numbered in the 70s.
So it was not a stretch when they settled on a wedding date and a lucky place to get married - July 7, 2007, in Las Vegas.
"The odds of it happening just are phenomenal," said Allison, 28.
The couple is among the thousands looking to get lucky in love who are expected to flock to Las Vegas to tie the knot on a very propitious date - 7-7-07 - which comes along only once a century.
Nationwide, marriage planners report an overwhelming demand by couples to say their vows on July 7. Churches are booked, limos in short supply and cake makers expect to be very busy.
Las Vegas casinos and the city's many wedding chapels are going to extra lengths to cash in on the Triple 7 jackpot, and some megaresorts are full of brides and grooms to be.
More than 60 couples are to be wed in a mass ceremonies at Mandalay Bay and Caesars Palace hotel-casinos. The Flamingo has scheduled 77 back-to-back weddings, running virtually nonstop from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Venetian opened up a second bridge location to hold weddings and trimmed its gondola-ride rites to 30 minutes to squeeze more people in.
"Within the first 15 minutes, we had completely sold out of our bridge location, which was a hotel record," wedding services manager Darlene Wilson said.
While some brides and grooms are seeking to have better luck on their second, or even third time around, experts say it takes more than just good fortune to make marriages work.
A little sense of destiny, however, doesn't hurt.
"It's kind of something that's shared that will never ever, ever happen again in their lifetime," said Temple University psychologist Frank Farley. "Maybe that alone can cement it a little bit. Because they can say, 'We started off in a totally unique moment in the history of the world. And we've got to make it work.'"
Astrologers say the stars aren't auspiciously aligned for the date. While lovelorn Venus is in sunny Leo, the moon, which governs emotions, will be in the bad-tempered Aries part of the sky.
"It is kind of a mishmash astrologically," said Eugene, Ore.-based astrologer Marti Goodban. "My experience with events like that is it depends on the two individuals."
Kileen Kapri-Kohn, a Henderson, Nev.-based psychic adviser, suggests actions, rather than dates, are a better predictor of fortunes than the stars.
"I'm a really firm believer in that we co-create our reality," she said. "A lot of people are using this date as an excuse to make a change, or do something that's going to be memorable."
Shannon Lewis and Eugene Monroy originally thought they were simply picking a convenient Saturday for their wedding around the Fourth of July, a weekend when her younger brother in the Marines would be returning from a stint in Japan to celebrate his 21st birthday.
The date's stunning coincidence - and the fact that the groom is a gambler - made their union seem more than just random.
"I think it was meant for us to get married on that date," Monroy said. "It works out perfect, because the date, I'll never forget it."
While the origin of the notion that sevens are lucky is unclear, historians point to Biblical references, and to the lunar month of 28 days, or four weeks of seven days each. There are seven deadly sins, but also seven virtues. The Earth was created in six days and God rested on the seventh, according to the Bible.
In the precursor to craps, a Medieval game known as hazard, seven is the most common number when throwing two cubical dice. It still is with craps, but the number can be good or bad depending on how one bets. Three sevens usually marks a slot machine jackpot.
Many people assign luck to numbers simply to make themselves feel better about things they can't control, said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and author of "Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling."
"A lot of it is self-justifying the need to find patterns in what are otherwise random events," he said. "People don't like that idea, that stuff just happens and that there's no rhyme or reason."
He noted that in many Asian cultures, four is considered unlucky, because phonetically, it sounds like "death." Eight in Mandarin Chinese sounds like "fa," or getting rich.
The last wedding stampede in Las Vegas was Sept. 9, 1999, said Cheryl Vernon, a shift supervisor for the Clark County Marriage Bureau.
More than a thousand couples applied for marriage licenses on the day before and during the big day - even more than on a typical Valentine's Day.
For the coming July 7, extra staff will be on hand, but hours won't be extended beyond the 8 a.m.- to-midnight schedule, Vernon said. The wait is expected to be long.
"If we can keep it to within an hour, my boss will be elated," Vernon said.
The Chapel of the Flowers is planning for 113 weddings, and possibly a few walk-ins, in half-hour intervals at its chapels from 6 a.m. to midnight, marketing director Whitney Lloyd said. It's the largest number the business has handled in its 50-year history.
"We stopped booking so that we can provide the level of service that every customer deserves," she said.
The range of paraphernalia and services being prepared for the event also has become a bit of a cottage industry.
Scott Celestino, a Harrah's Entertainment Inc. employee, took out a license plate "3SEVENS" when he got engaged to co-worker Svetlana Vaysman two years ago. Their ages are seven years apart, and she arrived in 1992 from Russia on July 7.
"This has just been kind of lucky for both of us since we moved here," Celestino said.
Chef Wolfgang Puck's restaurants have been serving a new drink called the Strawberry Hardway - the "hard way" being the three sevens it takes to get to get a winning 21 in blackjack.
Le Burger Brasserie at the Paris Las Vegas casino-hotel is awarding seven lucky couples a free night's stay and a $777 meal of a Kobe beef and Maine lobster burger, complete with champagne.
And, yes, many couples are going to take their chances gambling at the casinos during their stay.
Allison and Hardy already were ahead of the game when Caesars Palace decided, upon learning of their triple birthday-wedding, to offer them a $1,777.77 ceremony for free.
"I haven't really won any money or anything, but I did win a wedding," Hardy said.
Esther Castillo, a 47-year-old Costco cashier from Corona, Calif., will make her first pull on a slot machine when she makes her first trip to Las Vegas to get married to Jay Zingmond, a 53-year-old special education teacher.
"I figured, since I'm going to go and try the machines, that'll be my lucky day," she said.
Even if they don't win big, Zingmond said their chance encounter in a coin-operated laundry has already paid off.
"I told her last night, 'I hit the jackpot when I met you.'"