The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Jan. 28, 2022

Married By Elvis - Confessions of Las Vegas Wedding Chapel Owner Brendan Paul

Married By Elvis - Confessions of Las Vegas Wedding Chapel Owner Brendan Paul


Brendan Paul is an Elvis Presley impersonator and the owner of Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas (@gracelandweddingchapellv) which hosts Elvis themed weddings. He joins Chris Van Vliet at the Blue Wire Studios at the Wynn Las Vegas to talk about how he got started, officiating weddings for celebrities like Jon Bon Jovi, Shawn Michaels, Billy Ray Cyrus, Aaron Neville and members of popular groups such as Def Lepard, KISS and Deep Purple. He also shares some absolutely crazy stories that he's seen from some of his customers. As they say: what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

 

For more information about the Graceland Wedding Chapel visit: https://gracelandchapel.com/

 

 

For people who are watching and not listening to this, you are authentically dressed like Elvis right now.

“It’s a living, man.”

Are you like the Elvis impersonator?

“Someone once asked me if I am the best Elvis impersonator and I said no. I said I am the most successful because I am the best! But I am very lucky, a lot of guys have been doing this for many years. But I have been able to find my niche and run with it.”

How do you decide which version of Elvis you are going to be?

“It depends how much weight I have put on [laughs]. No, I go back and forth through a whole bunch of phases, but I realize what people want in this town is “Vegas Elvis.” they want the jumpsuit, the glasses, the rhinestones… Elvis had a lot of different looks throughout his career, but it’s what people think of. I used to not wear the glasses, but people were like ‘Where are the glasses?’ So I’m like, well ok.``

Is this every day for you?

“Pretty much for 26 years!”

Ok so let’s go back 26 years. Who was Brendon before all this?

“So I was born in Los Angeles and grew up in San Francisco. I was a musician since I was 13 when I started to play guitar. I had seen KISS in the 70’s and that was great. So I went on and started playing clubs in LA and was in a band, all really cool.”

So how does playing music lead to being Elvis?

“My hair is naturally blonde. When I started playing, I was in punk bands. So I had orange hair, green hair and spiked it up. Then when I dyed it black, I kept it black until I was 19. I went to UCLA as an art major, where I cut my hair short and had sideburns. On the way home, I’m at a red light and some guy goes to me ‘Elvis you look great!’ So the next day I’m thinking I’ve got to do something to fix this. I go to college and somebody asks me if I am an Elvis impersonator, which I wasn’t at the time. She said that she needed an Elvis impersonator for her roommate’s birthday and would pay me $100. I’m like ok I’ll do it! Then when I get there someone else needs an Elvis impersonator, she wanted a card and I didn’t have any. I’m then singing at this rap party in Beverly Hills and I made $800 a week. It beats being a waiter, I can get $500 here and there, so I fell into it. I graduated UCLA with a degree in fine art and I’m delivering Domino's pizza. Once I graduated, I thought I could move to Vegas and see what happens. I stayed at Circus Circus and it was rough for the first 6 months.” 

When you walked to the studio, how many people stopped for a photo?

“I never turn down a photo. Firstly I’m not famous, and secondly, I loved The Six Million Dollar Man as a kid. I found where Lee Majors played touch football every week in Hollywood. I had all this stuff and this guy told me he doesn’t do autographs, and I was crushed. I’m a 9 year old kid and my mom wouldn’t bring me back. That’s why in 26 years I have never turned down the opportunity for a photo or an autograph. If people try and sneak a photo, I will go there and do it properly. It makes people’s day.”

What made you believe it was going to work in Vegas?

“I’m not sure that it would. I went to the Hard Rock because I needed a job, and they gave me $10 an hour to seat people and be a host. I was due to start in 2 weeks, nothing was beneath me even though I had a UCLA degree. It’s a living, you know what I mean?”

So here at the Graceland Wedding Chapel, it’s like 2 jobs in one?

“I kind of fell into that. I moved here and I went to the chapel because Jon Bon Jovi got married there. I said I needed a job, and they had an Elvis who was older and heavier but working 7 days a week. I said I could help so he could get a few days off, came in a couple of days later and the other Elvis wanted me to be there. 6 or 7 years later he asked if I wanted to buy it for $1 million. I worked my ass off and put $300 to $400,000 down for it.”   

A lot of big names have gotten married there. Can you list a few?

“So Jon Bon Jovi got married there, so did his brother, who has now got divorced [laughs]. People pick Graceland because Jon got married here. I have renewed the vows of Shawn Michaels, Billy Ray Cyrus and Rob Zombie. Speaking of wrestling, I actually went into the ring and sang happy birthday to Vince McMahon.”

So how did WWE come about?

“An agency called me and said that Stephanie wants to surprise her dad. I got to the Thomas & Mack and they kept me hidden, it was a big surprise. We go down this hall and you can’t go to the bathroom, you have to stay here and we will escort you if you need to know, we don’t want him to see anything. They brought him into the ring and I think 10 showgirls got in the ring and it was awesome. When I walked in, they are playing Elvis music and I’ve been hidden in this room. I go around the corner and it’s like a rock concert. I didn’t realize that wrestling was on that level, the arena was packed. To this day people go ‘Elvis can I get a picture? Were you the guy on Monday Night Raw?’ I’m like yeah and they go ‘Dude! High Five!’ So I walk out and people are going crazy, they said to me ‘When you go out, the ring is a little soft.’ The showgirls are there and they are sinking like it’s a mattress. But it was awesome, I gave him [Vince] my glasses, he took them off and stepped on them but hey that’s kind of cool. It was nice that Stephanie had arranged that surprise, but when I got in the ring he looked so embarrassed. Too late to back down now.”  

How many people ask you if these are real weddings?

“Every day. Or they say ‘How many of these weddings actually last?’ And I like to say ‘Well every single one of them.’ I don’t want to be pessimistic about it, but then again, we have seen women come in who are 35 and it’s their 7th husband. But guess what? When I look in her eyes, she thinks that this is the right guy, it’s number 7, but it’s the right guy.”   

So what do the packages look like?

“We start at $199 and it just goes up. They are really quick, 4 an hour, all day. The most I have ever done is 46 weddings in a day. I sing 2 songs for $199 and do some cute stuff. You also get picked up in a limo, taken around Vegas, all from $199! Some people have never even been in a limo before.”

Do you ever say no to people?

“Yeah, if the credit card doesn’t go through [laughs]. Here’s the thing, if people show up drunk, that’s fine, we have rails to help them down the aisle. But they have to be sober to get the marriage licence, and you have a year. They will not issue one if you are drunk. If you don’t have a licence, we can take you to the courthouse around the corner, and if you are drunk they will not give you one. We once had a girl who had the look of a deer in the headlights, so I said to her ‘Blink twice if you want me to call the police.’ It gets a laugh.”

What is the most ridiculous request that you have had?

“I was asked to call this woman because she was upset. They say ‘Is this the ordained Elvis, I have a woman at the front desk.’ I ask ‘What does she want?’ The lady says ‘My husband and I are coming to Vegas and we are bringing in a third person into our marriage. I want to give the guy away.’ They were trying to having a 3 way marriage, she was going to be the best man and give away her husband, and I said that's illegal. So she was all upset, but I said we could do a commitment ceremony, but we can’t legally marry you. It is Vegas but we do have laws here!”    

People also think that it is 24/7?

“We used to be open until 3am, because the courthouse was open all night too. But now it only opens until midnight, so we started closing then too. We started seeing the clientele drop off then too.”

How much did COVID change your business?

“We shut down for a couple of months, as did most of Vegas. It was sad to see, I rode my bike down the strip and I saw the Bellagio’s doors shut, that never happens! The fountains are not going off and there are boards on the doors, it was like a ghost town. Everyone from bartenders to valets make their money on tourism. But I hope we are starting to turn a corner now.” 

When you retire, who would fill the blue suede shoes?

“We have some guys that fill in when I go on vacation, and they are like ‘How do you do it.’ I tell them that it’s part ADD and part cocaine [laughs]. It’s like groundhog day as it’s every 10 minutes, but it’s great with me and my ADD. But I love it, it’s like being Mickey Mouse in Disneyland. The Vegas Elvis wedding is a thing now, which is great because it is what we do.”

I end every interview talking about gratitude. What are 3 things that you are grateful for?

“The support of a great family, my health and that I have been a part of so many people’s lives.”

Images credit: Twitter