Happy Anniversary, Elvis and Priscilla! Everything You Need to Know About Their Ultimate Las Vegas Wedding

Photo: Courtesy of Graceland Auctions

On May 1, 1967, the real Elvis Presley, King of Rock ’n’ Roll, married his girlfriend of many years, Priscilla Beaulieu, far from Graceland, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. There were no impersonators in sight, but there were members of the press, who were invited by the star’s manager to a press conference between the intimate ceremony and champagne breakfast for 100 that followed. Though relatively discreet for a celebrity wedding, this was one for the books. Forty-nine years after Elvis and Priscilla said “I do” (but not “I obey”), we revisit, in detail, the couple’s big day.

elvis Photo: James Whitmore / Getty Images

Meeting and Courtship
Priscilla Beaulieu was 14 in 1959 and living in West Germany when a friend of Elvis’s saw her in a restaurant and invited her to meet the heartthrob, then enlisted in the Army and living off base with his father in Wiesbaden. “I just wore a little sailor dress because I still didn’t believe it,” Priscilla later told UPI. A relationship blossomed that was resumed when she returned to the States (despite the singer-actor’s ongoing involvements with other women). By 1962, Priscilla was installed at Graceland with Elvis and his family and completed her senior year at the all-girls Immaculate Conception Cathedral High School in Memphis.

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Photo: Ullstein Bild / Getty Images

The Proposal
Before Christmas in 1966, Elvis, on bended knee in the bedroom, proposed with a three-and-a-half-carat diamond ring, with 20 surrounding, detachable diamonds, from Memphis jeweler Harry Levitch. “It was very relaxed,” Priscilla would later tell Becky Yanky, Elvis’s private secretary and author of My Life With Elvis. “He just told me about the ring one day and asked if I wanted to marry him. ‘More than ever,’ I told him.” Soon after the ceremony, Elvis would joke: “Well, I guess it was about time. With the life I had, I decided it would be best to wait.”

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Photo: Associated Press

Getting to the “Church” On Time—and In Secret
The wedding was arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s manager, who gathered the players in Palm Springs in advance of the big day. “Just after midnight on May 1, [1967],” recalls Elvis’s school friend George Klein in his memoir, “the wedding party snuck out the back door of Elvis’s Palm Springs home, climbed over the backyard wall, and got into a car to head to the airport. Elvis had been loaned Frank Sinatra’s private jet for the occasion.” A second chartered plane carried the rest of the guests. As a wedding gift, Elvis flew Priscilla’s parents in. Once arrived, the party was taken to the Aladdin Hotel, where they used the rear entrance to avoid detection.

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Photo: Bettmann / Getty Images

The Ceremony
In the wee hours of the morning, Elvis and Priscilla were issued a marriage license at the Las Vegas Courthouse. Just before 10 a.m., Nevada Supreme Court Judge David Zenoff married the couple in a flower and candle-filled suite at the Aladdin in front of about 14 people. Elvis’s best men (to whom he presented diamond-eyed bull’s head cuff links and tie clasps as gifts) were Joe Esposito and Marty Lacker; Priscilla’s maid of honor was her sister, Michelle. Parker, who had arranged for two MGM photographers to document the ceremony, hit one over the head with a cane when he tried to reposition himself. “My wedding was very unusual,” Priscilla said last year. “It was the people closest to us, and private, and that’s how we wanted it. We didn’t want a fan club. We didn’t want a circus.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Graceland Auctions

What Elvis Wore
Lacker, one of the “Memphis Mafia” (Elvis’s entourage), sketched the star’s tuxedo, which was made in secrecy by an MGM tailor named Lambert Marks (who had previously dressed Elvis for movies like Girl Happy and Spinout), out of black paisley silk brocade. The King’s signature pompadour was supported with wire, and he accessorized his tux with a platinum, diamond, and sapphire watch; diamond and sapphire cuff links; and cowboy boots.

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Photo: © Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

What “Cilla” Wore
Despite reports that Priscilla designed her own dress, it was an off-the-rack number of surprising simplicity, though it was acquired under subterfuge. “I went to places like Neiman Marcus in disguise,” Priscilla later said. “I went with a [blonde] wig and everything just to keep it private!” Using the name Mrs. Hodge, Priscilla finally found her dream dress in Westwood. White, with long lace sleeves and pearl embellishments, the woman who wore it would say: “It wasn’t extravagant, it wasn’t extreme—it was simple and to me beautiful.” To another source, she admitted: “I didn’t have time to stay there forever and look at dresses; I had one fitting for this dress and that was it, I was out of there.”

Her three-foot tulle veil was topped by a rhinestone tiara, neither of which could compete with her jet-black hair (dyed to twin with Elvis’s?), which she wore in a huge bouffant, about which one of the best men said, according to Karal Ann Marling, author of Graceland: “She looked like she had about eight people living in her hair.”

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Photo: Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images

The Reception
Before the reception, Parker had arranged for the lovebirds to give a press conference, after which they joined 100 guests seated at 10 round tables for a champagne breakfast, served buffet style at the hotel. There are many photos of the couple with their
five-foot-tall, six-tier cake, which was made of yellow sponge, filled with apricot marmalade and kirsch-flavored Bavarian cream, and iced with kirsch-flavored fondant icing. It was decorated with royal icing and, according to one account, 1,600 marzipan roses. Because many of their friends were excluded from the celebration on May 1, the couple had a second reception at Graceland soon after.

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Photo: Charles Trainor / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images

The Reaction
“Who could say who was the luckier, the “Pelvis” or pretty Pricilla?” one news agency reported (see the video here). “The millionaire film star-singer, in bride choosing, as in everything else, a terrific success.” Fans of Elvis were elated or distraught; Lacker reported that “gifts and cards poured into Graceland . . . . Most of the fans were happy for them, but some of the less gracious threatened to kill themselves or, at least, become nuns.”

elvis Photos: Rolls Press / Popperfoto / Getty Images; Courtesy of Graceland Auctions

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