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All Shook Up: Virus Hurts, Helps Wedding Industry In Las Vegas

elvisa.jpg
Courtesy Graceland Wedding Chapel
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Brendan Paul escorts a bride up the aisle of his downtown Las Vegas wedding chapel before the latest mask mandate.

Elvis Presley apparently has one more Las Vegas comeback in him.

From the pompadour on down, Brendan Paul is a doppelganger of the King of Rock ‘n Roll. But while the real Elvis got married in Las Vegas, Paul marries couples at the Graceland Wedding Chapel downtown.

“He means a lot to a lot of people,” says Paul when asked why he has donned the jumpsuit and sunglasses for nearly 30 years. “And that's really a humbling thing for me.” 

Paul also plays another role in Las Vegas: a bedazzled cog in the city’s $2 billion wedding industry. It was flattened with the rest of the Las Vegas economy during the worst of the pandemic in 2020, forcing Paul, an owner of the chapel, to lay off staff.

“We donated a lot of our money, the owners’ salaries, to help the workers get by,” he told State of Nevada.

Weddings came roaring back this spring and summer as the pandemic abated. The Clark County Clerk’s office reporting issuing an average of 340 licenses daily last month, more than double the pace of a year earlier and ahead of prepandemic levels.

Reporter Nate Hegyi of the Mountain West News Bureau, which includes Nevada Public Radio, recently looked into the wedding boom and found the pandemic deserves at least some credit.

“There are the folks who are getting married because they held off on getting married last year because of the pandemic,” Hegyi said “And then there are the folks that kind of fell in love during quarantine.”

It is too soon for the pandemic’s resurgence to be reflected in wedding license statistics, but Paul is ready to wear a mask along with his blue suede shoes.

“I am a believer in science and health, and that comes first,” he said.”If we don't all just do what is needed, we will just keep having these things.”

Brendan Paul, Elvis stylist, wedding chapel owner;  Nate Hegyi, reporter, Mountain West News Bureau

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
(Editor's note: Nate is no longer a member of our staff, but you can still enjoy their stories here.)