If the lawyers have their way at some wedding chapels in Las Vegas, Elvis will soon be leaving the building.
The licensing company that manages the estate of Elvis Presley has ordered operators of Elvis-themed chapels to stop using his image and brand. Numerous venues have been exploiting the “King of Rock and Roll” for decades, offering Elvis impersonators to sing and even officiate at wedding ceremonies amidst long sideburns, gaudy velvet and lanky leisure suits.
Graceland Wedding Chapel began as a family home in 1927, until it was transformed in 1939 into one of the first wedding venues outside of a traditional church. The fate of its future was sealed though in 1967 when Elvis Presley, in search of a location to marry his girlfriend Priscilla, paid a visit. While he found it too small for their eventual nuptials, its operators decided to rename and rebrand the place after Presley’s death in 1977.
Las Vegas has long prided itself on being the “Wedding Capital of the World” – a designation harkening back to the 1930s when Clark County simplified and shortened the requirements for marriage. Unlike in other states, no blood test was required, and the traditional waiting period was waived.
Not surprisingly, the county’s motivation was money. With the country mired in a depression and the area wallowing in the middle of a barren desert, first came the legalization of gambling – and then the easing of marriage rules. Soon, lovebirds were flocking to the area. Many poorly thought-out weddings led to eventual heartache and heartbreak for many – but they also equated to more dollars for everyone else.
Proprietors aggressively advertised the city as the ideal place for a discreet, hassle-free wedding. Many celebrities bit the bait – a fact that government officials and local businesses heralded and turned into national headlines.
The list of celebrity Vegas weddings include Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (1958), Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon (1965), Demi Moore and Bruce Willis (1987) – and yes, Elvis Presley and Priscilla Anne Beaulieu (1967).
The commodification of marriage is never a good thing, of course. According to reports, weddings are a $2 billion a year industry for Las Vegas. It’s harder to calculate the cost Vegas marriages that wind up in divorce court, of course, but the actual dollars pale in comparison to the emotional toll they take on the families involved. That’s because rushing into what God intends to be a lifelong commitment inevitably leads to stress and strain.
So, Elvis may be exiting stage left or right at Vegas chapels, depending upon the facility’s layout – but his lyrical words of his famed “Love Me Tender” song, written in 1956, nevertheless still ring true for all those who have pledged their love and fidelity to their beloved:
“Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go. You have made my life complete, and I love you so. Love me tender, love me true, all my dream fulfilled. For my darlin’ I love you, and I always will.”
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