On May 1, 1967, Elvis Presley, by then well-known as the King of Rock n’ Roll, married his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla Ann Beaulieu, in a small, secret ceremony in Las Vegas. “My wedding was very unusual,” Priscilla later said of that day. “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. We wanted it to be ours and not have that moment stolen from us.” Today, in honor of the former couple’s 52nd anniversary, we take a look at one of the most iconic weddings in history.
Their courtship and engagement
Elvis and Priscilla first met in 1959 when he was stationed with the Army in West Germany. Even though she was only fourteen years old at the time, Priscilla left a lasting impression on the singer after attending a party at the house where he was staying. After that initial meeting, the two kept in close touch, via letters and telephone, but didn’t see each other again until 1962, when Priscilla visited him in Los Angeles. Young and in love, Priscilla was finally allowed to move to Memphis in 1963 in order to be closer to Elvis, on the condition that she live with his parents, finish Catholic school, and eventually marry the King of Rock. Elvis made good on his promise in December 1966, when he proposed to 21-year-old Priscilla with a 3.5 carat diamond ring, featuring 20 surrounding diamonds.
The secret ceremony
Their engagement understandably caused waves around the world, since Elvis was a global superstar and one of the most famous bachelors at the time. In order to keep their wedding as intimate as possible and throw off reporters and paparazzi, the couple decided to elope to—where else?—Vegas. In the wee hours of the morning of May 1st, the couple, along with a small group of family and friends, boarded Frank Sinatra’s private plane (which the crooner had lent to them for the occasion) and flew from Palm Springs to Las Vegas.
Once they arrived, they headed to the Aladdin Hotel, where they were married by a Nevada Supreme Court Judge at 9:00 in the morning. Priscilla’s 13-year-old sister, Michelle, served as maid of honor, while two members of Elvis’s Memphis Mafia were his co-best men. The entire ceremony lasted around eight minutes, and per Elvis’s request, the word “obey” was removed from the traditional wedding vows.
After they were married, Elvis and Priscilla held a press conference (his manager’s idea) before throwing a lavish breakfast buffet for 100 guests, which included roast suckling pig, oysters Rockefeller, lobster, Champagne, and Southern fried chicken. Also on the menu was a six-tier yellow sponge cake, which back then cost $3,200 (and in today’s economy would roughly translate to $22,000!). As for the couple’s first dance, they went with a still popular song choice for newlyweds: “Love Me Tender” by Elvis himself.
It was long believed that Priscilla had designed her own billowing, lace long-sleeved chiffon dress with beaded pearls. But a few years back, Priscilla finally admitted she bought the gown straight off the rack. “I went to places like Neiman Marcus in disguise,” Priscilla explained. “I went with a [blonde] wig and everything just to keep it private!” Unlike most brides who prefer to wear a more natural look on their wedding day, Priscilla went all out and styled her hair in an exaggerated bouffant and dramatic black eyeliner. She finished off her look with a three-foot tulle veil.
Elvis, meanwhile, left the rhinestone-studded jumpsuit and sunglasses at home and instead went with a black paisley silk brocade tuxedo. But he didn’t leave the bling out entirely, as he paired his wedding look with a platinum, diamond, and sapphire watch, diamond and sapphire cufflinks, and cowboy boots.
What came after…
Since the couple invited such a small group of people to their Vegas wedding, they later held another larger reception at Graceland a few weeks later. Exactly nine months after their wedding, Lisa Marie Presley, their only child, was born. In 1973, the couple divorced but remained close friends—they left the divorce courthouse holding hands. Neither of them ever remarried.