As demand for Elvis-themed weddings rebounds in Las Vegas, the quirky chapels hosting them may face a new expense.
Authentic Brands Group, owner of the late rock star’s name and likeness, is in talks with several Las Vegas wedding venues to impose an annual fee of a few hundred dollars for a certificate of authenticity, according to a person familiar with folder.
The talks come after the company last month sent cease-and-desist letters to a dozen wedding chapels that hold Elvis weddings, as previously reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a threat that worries local businesses about the future of a unique Sin City Tradition.
The fee under discussion would not be for ceremonies. In fact, impersonators in Las Vegas are protected by an exclusion that exempts them from licensing requirements. Rather, the license would grant permission to use Elvis Presley in chapel marketing and promotional materials.
Authentic Brands said in a statement that it has no plans to close the chapels. “We are working with Chapels to ensure that the use of Elvis’ name, image and likeness is consistent with his heritage,” the company said.
The city that was the king’s second home is enjoying a rebound from the ravages of the pandemic, with jumpsuit and pompadour-themed conventions, gamblers and weddings. Visitor numbers through April were 55% higher than a year earlier, according to the city’s convention and visitor agency.
Baz Luhrmann’s biopic “Elvis” is set to hit theaters later this month, potentially sparking more interest in weddings featuring the singer’s lookalikes.
New York-based Authentic Brands, founded in 2010 by Jamie Salter, has licenses for more than 50 brands, including celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and retailer Brooks Brothers. He asked to be made public last year, then withdrew the plan after an investment that valued Authentic at nearly $13 billion.
It acquired the Elvis brand in 2013. Since then, Authentic Brands has rolled out an Elvis-themed metaverse and opened a four-star hotel in Graceland as part of a makeover of the singer’s former estate. Rod Musum, general manager of Graceland Wedding Chapel, said he did not receive a letter, but then received a call from Authentic Brands to discuss a licensing deal. “We are delighted to say that we are an officially licensed Elvis Chapel,” Musum said. “We don’t want to create a stir with the Elvis estate; we want to work with them. Musum, who said Graceland Wedding Chapel held the first Elvis-themed wedding in 1977, said interest in such ceremonies was recovering from pandemic lows. The chapel charges $249 to $799 for Elvis-themed weddings, depending on the number of songs.
“We feel like we helped keep the brand alive,” he said. The chapel hosts 200 weddings a week, about three-quarters with an Elvis theme, “showing that the Elvis brand is alive and well in Vegas.”