Lots of Elvis fans celebrate the anniversaries of events in Elvis’ life, including May 1, the day he and Priscilla married. However, not many folks this week celebrated the forty-third anniversary of Elvis’ second wedding reception on May 29, 1967. This event is pretty far down on the list of Elvis lore, but it is still an interesting story.
In her book, “Elvis and Me,” Priscilla Presley devotes a few pages to the special wedding party she and Elvis hosted in Memphis four weeks after they were wed in Las Vegas. The most telling line was: “We threw a big reception at Graceland for all our friends and relatives.” The italics were provided by Priscilla, to indicate she and Elvis were not happy with way some of the folks in their circle were excluded from the wedding ceremony. She categorized them into three groups:
Those who hadn’t known about the wedding.
Those who knew but couldn’t attend.
Those who knew but weren’t invited.
Yes, there were a few people, especially among Elvis’ Memphis Mafia pals, who got cut out from the wedding. And guess who cut them out – Col. Parker, who was running the whole show, as usual.
Elvis had assembled a large wedding party at his Palm Springs home the day before the wedding. Then, two leased jets took everybody to Las Vegas. Shortly before the scheduled time of the wedding, Col Parker advised most of Elvis’ entourage and their wives that there was no room for them at the ceremony. They had to sit and wait until the reception room opened and they could join the celebration.
Here are the five Elvis buddies that actually got into the wedding:
Joe Esposito is no surprise. He was Elvis’ tour manager and has been called Elvis’ best friend. He was the logical choice to be Elvis best man. However, Elvis actually had two best men.
Marty Lacker was the other. He was Elvis’ personal bookkeeper and secretary. This probably involved a lot of contact with Col. Parker, so my guess is that the Colonel liked him better than the rest of the guys and allowed him to be at the wedding. Another guess that would logically follow is this: Elvis knew there would be big trouble with the excluded guys if Marty Lacker got to go and they didn’t. Do you think Elvis might have named Lacker Co-Best Man to justify him being at the wedding?
George Klein was a buddy of Elvis’ dating back to high school. He did not work for Elvis, but he hung around a good bit with Elvis, and travelled with him sometimes, so his place at the wedding ceremony was natural. If anybody should have been Co-Best Man with Joe Esposito, it was George Klein. A few years later, Elvis was the best man at George Klein’s wedding
Billy Smith was a cousin on Elvis’ mother’s side. He took care of Elvis’ wardrobe and served as his valet. Billy and his wife lived in Graceland for many years.
Gee Gee Gambill was married to a cousin on Elvis’ dad’s side. He had just married Elvis’ cousin three months earlier, but that gave him the family status it took to be assured a place at the ceremony.
So, Colonel Parker excluded some men very close to Elvis, most notably Jerry Shilling, Red West and Charlie Hodge. In the photo below, you can see Shilling and Hodge (second from left and second from right, respectively) as they joined Elvis at the reception. Red West was so furious about being excluded from the wedding that he refused to attend the reception.
Farther down on the pecking order, Alan Fortas and Lamar Fike did not receive invitations to anything. Larry Geller first learned of the wedding from a supermarket tabloid (Parker really did not like him).
According to Priscilla, the second wedding celebration at Graceland was a lot more fun. “Elvis and I wore our wedding clothes, greeted everyone, sipped champagne, and shared cake just as if the party were taking place after the wedding ceremony.”
Cake at First Reception in Vegas Cake at Second Reception in Memphis
It would appear she had a lot less cake to share with a lot more people at the second party, but that didn’t really matter. They had lots of champagne. “It was much more comfortable and relaxed than Las Vegas. Laughing and somewhat high from the champagne, we could really have a good time.”
Elvis and Priscilla Enjoying Champagne at Their Wedding Reception Redo
“There were no photographers watching our every move. It was fun seeing Vernon get loose.” Here is a favorite memory Priscilla has from this reception:
“Daddy, you want some more champagne?” Elvis asked, his eyes twinkling.
“Don’t mind if I do, Son. That’s pretty good stuff.”
“Yeah. Well, don’t drink too much. I don’t want my daddy gettin’ in trouble. I see that blonde you’ve been eyein’.”
Vernon stole a glance at the girl and, with the same twinkle replied, “She ain’t too bad, is she? Think I’ll go see if she needs anything.”
Go for it Vernon, you old hound dog.
The New Bride and Groom Start their Honeymoon
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