I almost burst into tears the other night when the evening news reported times are tough for Elvis Presley and other Las Vegas wedding chapel colleagues. It’s bad enough that Elvis is dead without also enduring a decline in his wedding income.
Whatever the King’s many contributions to poetry and music (especially, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog,”) his wedding chapel business is shrinking.
The nightly news said Vegas weddings by Elvis impersonators and other wedding chapels have dwindled from approximately 127,000 weddings per year to the present 80,000 Vegas mergers of the hearts – a city where gambling means marrying a stranger you met last night when well oiled.
Where did all the weddings (or flowers) go, long time passing? (Actually, I don’t think Elvis ever sang that song, but he would have done a wonderful job.)
I think I know where many weddings have gone, long time passing – gone to a better kind of wedding. And I am part of what has happened to Vegas chapels and to other marriage mills. I’m talking about the occasional weddings I perform for family and friends.
A few years ago, we lost my sweet mother-in-law, Pauline, and I was among family members who spoke of her during the church service. Not long thereafter, Pauline’s granddaughter, Janet, asked me to preside over her upcoming wedding.
Unfortunately, I was not an ordained minister and technically did not qualify. That was unfair. If preachers, governors, mayors and boat captains can perform weddings, then why not humor columnists? We can bring even more levity into a joyful occasion.
Janet’s mother, Muriel, a lawyer, suggested we send Janet and her groom to the courthouse where a qualifying judge could do a simple, real marriage. Then immediately afterwards, I would lead the unofficial, ceremonial wedding.
Over the years, I’ve been asked by several couples to perform their weddings. And I am now ordained by a California web site.
Next, I was asked to select an official title. They sent a long list to choose from. One title offered was Pope. I declined, recognizing that might be excessive and would tramp on the turf of a world goodness leader in Rome.
I settled on “Elder.” I liked the idea of honoring my Mormon friends and neighbors. They are good and decent people who let their men in good standing use that elder title. (One of these days they should include their bright and charming women who are also in good standing.)
My main reason for declaring myself Elder Hall was that most of the couples I have been asked to preside over chose me because I am literally an elder. I am old and bald, and they know I care about them.
I have lost track of how many weddings I have performed. But there has been some variety. For instance, I have also performed two gay marriages. The wording in gay weddings is a little tricky at first. “Who gives this man? And who gives this other man?”
That’s how I came to be Elder Hall. And I am not alone. Thousands of families now choose a seasoned friend or affectionate family member to hitch one partner to the other – without being dragooned into somebody else’s church.
That’s why the commercial wedding chapels are losing customers. More and more families have chosen to do their own family weddings.
I’m sorry for Elvis Presley and his stand-ins. It’s lousy enough to be a dead Elvis, let alone a pretend Elvis.
My central sermon is, “Let reciprocity rule your marriage.”
And I tell you this: It is heart-warming to be asked to launch the marriages of the love bugs in your family and in the circle of your friends.
Contact Bill Hall may at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.