The Las Vegas wedding industry is getting all shook up over a massive Elvis Presley crackdown.
Vegas essentially has the market cornered in regard to Elvis-themed weddings, but that could all come to a screeching halt after Authentic Brand Group, which licenses Elvis-related merchandise, issued a cease-and-desist letter to several Las Vegas chapels that lean into the “Hound Dog” singer’s deep Sin City ties.
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In its letter, which was obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, ABG specifies that “Elvis,” “Elvis Presley,” and “The King of Rock and Roll” are all protected trademarks, and the company intends 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.”
The letter, which was sent out on May 19, warned that legal action could be taken against an “infringing chapel.”
“This couldn’t hit at a worse time. It’s not a good thing,” Clark County Clerk Lynn Goya said the local newspaper. “It might destroy a portion of our wedding industry. A number of people might lose their livelihood.”
Weddings are a $2 billion industry in Las Vegas, and Elvis-themed ceremonies make up a significant part of that number. In February, the city issued its five-millionth wedding license.
The businesses targeted in the letter include chapels that specialize in, or offer, Elvis ceremonies or have the King’s image as part of their name and logo, the report notes. Many chapels are already stripping the icon, who performed in Vegas for years, from signage and websites.
“This could be very damaging to our industry,” Melody Willis-Williams, president of Vegas Weddings and Viva Las Vegas Weddings, said. “Most of us are small businesses, and we’re up against a superpower with a lot of money. It could kill us in lawyer fees to fight this.”
“Elvis weddings are synonymous with Las Vegas,” she continued, noting that her chapel does “thousands” of Elvis ceremonies a year.
In April, Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker had an unofficial Elvis-themed wedding after the Grammy Awards. In 2019, an Elvis impersonator presided over Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner’s legal ceremony. The Elvis brand is also having a bit of a resurgence, as Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” is set to hit theaters on June 24. The film stars Austin Butler as the singer and Tom Hanks as Elvis’ longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Many chapels — a slew of whom are just now recovering from the COVID pandemic — were likely to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the film.
Some chapel operators think there could be a loophole, noting there’s nothing stopping someone from dressing up as Elvis and performing a ceremony, as the letter can’t regulate officiant’s clothing. Plus, Nevada’s “right of publicity” statute already covers The King’s image in tribute shows.
Kent Ripley, who co-owns Elvis Weddings and performs ceremonies as the “Jailhouse Rock” singer, told the Review Journal he hasn’t received a warning.
“We get bookings that have been planned for three, four, five years to have an Elvis wedding,” he said. “They want to protect the Elvis brand. But what are they protecting by taking Elvis away from the public?”