By: Arleigh Rodgers
Whitley and Trei Tackett were married five years ago in Kentucky, hosting approximately 150 guests at a traditional ceremony on a farm.
For their five-year wedding anniversary, they ventured to Graceland Wedding Chapel Las Vegas last week to renew their vows, this time accompanied by friends on a weekend trip and Elvis Presley, who sang “Burning Love” at their ceremony.
Vow renewals are commonplace at Las Vegas chapels as couples reaffirm their marriage in the city known for its chapels and spontaneous weddings. The ceremonies can also feature a song or two — popular ones being “Viva Las Vegas” or “Can’t Help Falling in Love” — from an Elvis impersonator.
“We got the chance to have a traditional wedding with all of our family, but this one, we just got to have some of our friends,” Whitley Tackett said. “It was way more fun and kind of exciting.”
Rod Musum, general manager of Graceland Chapel, said that 40% of ceremonies at Graceland Chapel are vow renewals, a figure close to the pre-pandemic percentage of ceremonies. When pandemic-related restrictions first dropped in the city in June, Musum said the chapel saw an influx of couples looking to get married — the result of pent-up demand, he said — while vow renewals ramped back up in March 2021.
Musum said about 50% of vow-renewing couples at Graceland Chapel are international tourists, an aspect of pre-pandemic business that has not yet returned while many foreigners remain prohibited from visiting the United States.
Renewal packages start at $199, including the Elvis vow renewal. The chapel conducted its debut Elvis ceremony in 1977.
“You mix the entertainment capital of the world and the wedding capital of the world, and we’ve provided a product that people want, to come out and celebrate their anniversaries or a special occasion and sometimes bring their kids with them so they can experience something like that with them as well,” Musum said. “Our goal is for everybody to walk away saying they had a truly wonderful experience.”
Michelle Goldberg, head of marketing at Chapel of the Flowers, said vow renewals account for 10% of the chapel’s ceremonies. Before COVID-19, 25% of the chapel’s total business — including commitment, legal and vow-renewal ceremonies — comprised 25% international couples, with 75% being domestic couples. Of the domestic customers, 9% booked vow renewals, while 12% of international couples chose vow renewals.
Goldberg said the renewal ceremonies are generally more relaxed than weddings, and the usual giddiness is traded for a laid-back celebration.
“Our vow renewals are very self-celebratory,” she said. “A lot of our couples like to come back. Say they got married at our chapel, they’ll come back five years later.”
Depending on the time of year, chapels may offer discounts to vow-renewing couples. Goldberg said that on the Chapel of the Flowers’ 60th anniversary on March 14, 2020, it offered vow renewals for the price they were 60 years ago. A vow renewal today at Chapel of the Flowers starts at $299, while back in 1960, it cost $20.
“That day, we were very, very, very busy,” she said.
On Aug. 18, the Little Vegas Chapel offered discounted renewals to couples based on how many years they had been married, said Michael Kelly, managing partner of the Little Vegas Chapel. If a couple has been married for 25 years, the ceremony would be 25% off. At the Little Vegas Chapel, vow renewal prices start at $249.
Approximately 40% to 50% of pre-pandemic business at the Little Vegas Chapel comprised vow renewals, Kelly said. Though vow-renewal ceremonies have decreased, largely because of the lack of international travelers, Kelly said, they have instead been replaced by legal weddings.
“During a vow renewal, the couple’s a lot more relaxed,” he said. “Families have grown. They’ve expanded, and everybody’s just having a good time, and they want to celebrate that together as a family.”