Now or Never: Elvis-themed weddings no longer permitted in Las Vegas, licensing company tells chapel owners

Elvis impersonator and owner Brendan Paul sings during a 'commitment ceremony' for a couple from France at the Graceland Wedding Chapel on February 20, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Getty

Couples dreaming of an iconic Las Vegas wedding may feel all shook up if Elvis isn’t allowed in the building.

The licensing company that controls the name and image of Elvis Presley has ordered Las Vegas chapel owners and operators to cease using the star’s likeness in themed ceremonies, the Las Vegas Review-Journal originally reported.

Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the company that licenses all Elvis-related products, sent a cease and desist letter on May 19 to numerous chapels in the state. The group also oversees several other major estates, including that of Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali.

In the letter from ABG, the company writes that they intend to stop the unauthorized use of “Elvis Presley’s name, likeness, voice image, and other elements of Elvis Presley’s persona in advertisements, merchandise, and otherwise.”

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The letter specifies that this applies to all uses of “Elvis,” “Elvis Presley” and “The King of Rock and Roll,” which are protected trademarks.

The cease and desist also asserted that any “infringing chapel” unable to comply with the terms by May 27 should seek out legal counsel.

ABG has yet to make a public statement about the demand to remove Elvis from Vegas wedding chapels.

In Las Vegas, the wedding industry brings in a whopping USD$2 billion annually.

Still, the demand from ABG came as a shock to several Las Vegas chapel owners, many of whom told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that a large portion of their business comes from Elvis-themed weddings. The insistence to remove The King from wedding venues is especially devastating after owners were forced to shut their doors for much of the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The cease and desist letter does not stop a person dressed as Elvis from performing in live stage shows and ceremonies (including wedding receptions), as this form of impersonation is protected by a “right of publicity” law in the state. The distinguishing factor, however, is when Elvis’ image or likeness is used simply to attract customers to a business without that live performance element.

For this reason, stage shows like the All Shook Up Elvis tribute remains safe from ABG’s demands.

Whether legally binding or not, in recent decades couples have flocked to Vegas from around the globe to be married by an Elvis impersonator — a heavily ironic, romantic notion. Just last month one of the biggest celebrity couples, Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker, also got in on the fun, saying “I do” in front of an Elvis impersonator.

News of the ABG’s cease and desist letter comes just before Baz Luhrmann’s new biopic Elvis is set to release in theatres on June 24. The film will undoubtedly reignite interest in Elvis and his career, music and life.

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