A five-storey, 600,000 cubic feet industrial space is transformed for this walkthrough exhibit.
Elvis entered the room and I swooned.
Dressed in an open-neck black jumpsuit with red rhinestones and Elvis-style aviator sunglasses, Brendan Paul has the same ability to make women go weak at the knees as the original Elvis.
Paul is owner of the quaint Graceland Wedding Chapel, a perennial fixture on Las Vegas Blvd for over 50 years. Brandon Paul started his Elvis career 15-years-ago performing in “Legions in Concert” and now sings in up to 70 of the 200 ceremonies scheduled at the chapel each week.
My sister, Erika, and her beau, Ben, travelled from Sydney, Australia to be married in a style befitting their personalities—flanked by Elvis singing his heart out.
With her smattering of body piercings and tattoos, my sister concedes, “A full white wedding wasn’t us. We wanted something a bit more rock and roll.”
Arriving in a chauffeured stretch limousine (licence plate GRACELN, natch), we are waiting for Elvis to get the proceedings underway.
The length and breadth of the bustling reception wall is covered with photos of the famous and somewhat famous couples that have exchanged vows at this chapel.
Jon Bon Jovi was married here, followed by an impromptu concert in the chapel’s parking lot.
Billy Ray Cyrus and members of Def Lepard, KISS, and Deep Purple also tied the knot at the Graceland Chapel.
The Elvis Package
The Graceland Wedding Chapel offers nuptials a selection of Elvis Packages. Erika and Ben chose the “Can’t Help Falling in Love” package (US$429).
It includes a rose bouquet (there’s a healthy supply keeping cool in the reception area’s fridge), Elvis singing three of his biggest hits throughout the service and professional photography.
Ceremonies are broadcasted over the Internet for those who couldn’t attend or just weren’t invited to share in the happy couple’s big day.
Other packages range from the Viva Las Vegas package (US$199) right up to The Famous Dueling Elvis package (US$799) featuring two different Kings of Rock and Roll performing different stages of Elvis’ career.
You have your pick of gold lamé young Elvis and flashy sequined 70’s jumpsuit Elvis. Or, for the more traditional, you can opt to leave Elvis and his blue suede shoes at the door.
Love Me Tender
My sister glows as Elvis walks her down the aisle of the intimate chapel, strumming his guitar and melodiously singing, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
The service is conducted by a minister officiated by the State of Nevada. He turns and faces his audience of one, “Who gives this woman to this man?” Elvis interjects, “On behalf of Erika’s family and friends, The King of Rock and Roll does.”
He shakes Ben’s hand, “She’s all yours, my friend.”
The ceremony itself is surprisingly traditional, with time-honoured vows to love, and cherish in sickness and in health, in prosperity and adversity.
Halfway through the service, Elvis playfully serenades the bride with “Love Me Tender.”
Viva Las Vegas
Once the bride and groom have been pronounced husband and wife, music kicks in and Elvis swaps his guitar for a microphone to sing the grand finale and Graceland Chapel’s signature tune, “Viva Las Vegas.”
Brandon Paul puts on a hip shakin’ performance, while Erika and Ben dance in the aisle.
“The couples just belt it out,” says Paul. “It’s like the anthem of the city.”
To close, the popular catchphrase of Al Dvorin announces, “Elvis has left the building. Thank you and Goodnight!”
Not So Quickie Wedding
The quickie wedding is synonymous with Las Vegas.
But a little forward planning can save you time and disappointment, especially if you are looking to get married on signature days like Valentine’s Day.
One of the busiest buildings outside the Vegas strip must be the Clark County Clerk Office. The marriage license office is open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight, including holidays.
Clark County Clerk Office process hundreds of licenses a day, and as many as 1,500 in a single day for charmed dates such as 7/7/7.
A marriage license costs US$60 and takes approximately one hour to process.
You can walk in or complete a pre-application online, prior to visiting the license office.
Canadian citizens must be male and female, 18 years of age or older, and provide proper identification.
Once a license has been issued, there is no blood test and no waiting period.
Lots of Characters
Brandon Paul has certainly seen his fair share spur-of-the-moment weddings at Graceland Chapel.
Recently, a nervous groom pulled Paul aside, “I have a problem,” he whispered. “I don’t know her name—her last name.”
Paul chuckles at the story—he’s seen it all before. “Well, how long have you guys been together?”
The groom looked at his watch, “About two hours.”
When it comes to history, not much survives in Las Vegas. The original Aladdin casino, where Elvis and Priscilla married is gone.
Whether the Elvis experience is your dream wedding, or an impromptu decision, the Graceland Wedding Chapel has become an institution in this town.