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Company to Las Vegas chapels: No more Elvis-themed weddings

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Las Vegas chapels of love that use Elvis Presley’s likeness could find themselves becoming Heartbreak Hotels.

The licensing company that controls the name and image of “The King” is ordering Sin City chapel operators to stop using Elvis in themed ceremonies, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported early this week. Authentic Brands Group sent cease-and-desist letters in early May to multiple chapels, which are expected to be compliant by now.

With Elvis so closely tied to Vegas’ wedding industry, some say the move could decimate their businesses.

“We are a family-run business, and now we’re hanging with the big dogs,” said Kayla Collins, who operates LasVegasElvisWeddingChapel.com and the Little Chapel of Hearts with her husband. “That’s our bread and butter. I don’t get it. We were just hitting our stride again through COVID, then this happens.”

Clark County Clerk Lynn Goya, who led a marketing campaign promoting Las Vegas as a wedding destination, said the order for chapels to stop using Elvis couldn’t have come at a worse time for the sector.

The city’s wedding industry generates USD2 billion a year, and officials say Elvis-themed weddings represent a significant number of the ceremonies performed.

Elvis impersonator Brendan Paul (R) walks down the aisle during a wedding ceremony for Katie Salvatore and Eric Wheeler at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. PHOTO: AP

One chapel last weekend had its Elvis impersonator change instead into a leather jacket, jeans and a fedora for a “rock ‘n’ roll”-themed ceremony, the Review-Journal reported.

Graceland Wedding Chapel, which performs 6,400 Elvis-themed weddings per year, has not been served a warning yet, according to manager Rod Musum.

In the cease-and-desist letter, the company said it will halt unauthorised use of “Presley’s name, likeness, voice image, and other elements of Elvis Presley’s persona in advertisements, merchandise and otherwise”. The letter also said “Elvis”, “Elvis Presley”, “and “The King of Rock and Roll” are protected trademarks.

In a statement on Wednesday, Authentic Brands Group said it has strong relationships with Elvis tribute artistes and fan festivals. There is “no intention to shut down chapels that offer Elvis packages in Las Vegas.”

“We are seeking to partner with each of these small businesses to ensure that their use of Elvis’ name, image and likeness are officially licensed and authorised by the estate, so they can continue their operations,” Authentic Brands Group said. “Elvis is embedded into the fabric of Las Vegas history.”

The licensing company oversees the estates of big names like movie star Marilyn Monroe and boxer Muhammad Ali and 50 consumer brands.

The order should not translate into legal action against Elvis-themed stage shows in Las Vegas such as All Shook Up because impersonating someone for live performances such as shows is considered an exception under Nevada’s right of publicity law, according to Mark Tratos, a local attorney who helped write the statute.

Presley became indelibly linked to Sin City in the ’60s and ’70s. His 1964 movie, Viva Las Vegas, yielded a title track that became the city’s unofficial theme. In July 1969, Presley famously redefined the Vegas residency with his live stage comeback at the Las Vegas International Hotel. What started as a four-week gig turned into more than 600 shows and lasted until December 1976.