Las Vegas love chapels that use Elvis Presley’s likeness could become Heartbreak hotels.
The licensing company that controls the name and likeness of “The King” is ordering Sin City Chapel operators to stop using Elvis at themed ceremonies, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Monday. Authentic Brands Group sent cease and desist letters in early May to several chapels, which should now be in compliance.
With Elvis so closely tied to the Vegas wedding industry, some say the move could decimate their businesses.
“We’re a family business, and now we hang out with the big dogs,” said Kayla Collins, who operates LasVegasElvisWeddingChapel.com and Little Hearts Chapel with her husband. “It’s our bread and butter. I don’t get it. We were just getting our groove back through COVID and then it happens.”
Clark County Clerk Lynn Goya, who ran a marketing campaign promoting Las Vegas as a wedding destination, said the order for chapels to stop using Elvis couldn’t come to a worse time for the sector.
The city’s wedding industry generates $2 billion a year, and officials say Elvis-themed weddings account for a significant number of ceremonies performed.
“It could destroy part of our wedding industry. A number of people could lose their livelihoods,” Goya said.
“It would hurt not only our small business, but wedding tourism in general,” Vegas Weddings president Melody Willis-Williams told CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS-TV.
She runs two wedding chapels in the city and says Elvis themes are always in demand.
“I really think the wedding industry helped keep Elvis and his name alive for a generation that never saw him,” Willis-Williams observed.
Last weekend, a chapel saw its Elvis impersonator change into a leather jacket, jeans and fedora for a ‘rock ‘n’ roll-themed ceremony, the Review-Journal reported.
Graceland Wedding Chapel, which hosts 6,400 Elvis-themed weddings a year, has yet to receive a warning, according to director Rod Musum.
Authentic Brands Group did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Tuesday.
The licensing company oversees the estates of big names like movie star Marilyn Monroe and boxer Muhammad Ali and 50 consumer brands.
In the cease and desist letter, the company said it would end the unauthorized use of Presley’s “name, likeness, vocal image, and other elements of Presley’s personality. Elvis Presley in advertisements, merchandise and more”. The letter also stated that “Elvis”, “Elvis Presley”” and “The King of Rock and Roll” are protected marks.
The order should not result in legal action against Elvis-themed 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 to publicity law, according to Mark Tratos, a local attorney who helped draft the statute.
“An Elvis show is a performer who basically entertains others by recreating that person on stage,” Tratos said.
Kent Ripley, whose business is called Elvis Weddings, said he had never had this problem in 25 years of performing as Elvis.
“They want to protect the Elvis brand. But what are they protecting by removing Elvis from the public?” Ripley asked.