Dee Dee Duffy grew up on Marrowbone Creek Road in Pike County — “about as rural as you can get” — wondering how she could see the world.
There you can have your ceremony — be it a marriage, vow renewal or even a joke ceremony that will really get your Facebook friends reeling — in the presence of, and accompanied by songs from, The King.
The final tune will always be “Viva Las Vegas,” because who does not associate that line about needing “a strong heart and a nerve of steel” with the joy of matrimony?
Hugh Bonneville and his wife Lulu Williams stopped by in early August to renew their marriage vows. The British actor, who played Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, on “Downton Abbey,” and Williams first married in 1998.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal, reporting on the proceedings, wrote, surely tongue in cheek, that the chapel “is almost as old as Downton Abbey itself, having stood in the same spot on the Strip for more than 50 years.” (Highclere Castle, the stand-in for the Downton Abbey house, was built in 1679.)
Bonneville was only the most recent celebrity to check in at the Graceland chapel.
Rocker Jon Bon Jovi and his wife Dorothea married there 27 years ago. Duffy considers Bon Jovi “by far the biggest” star to have married at the chapel, but she is a self-professed Bon Jovi superfan. Bon Jovi even returned to the chapel to walk a fan down the aisle, Duffy said.
Billy Ray Cyrus, father of Miley Cyrus, and his wife Tish renewed their vows at the chapel. Ironically, in his new CMT show “Still The King,” Cyrus plays “Burnin” Vernon Brownmule, a former country star who winds up as an Elvis impersonator and preacher.
Musician Aaron Neville of The Neville Brothers got married there; so did World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler Shawn Michaels, musician and film director Rob Zombie and Lorenzo Lamas. Blaine and Robert Trump, brother of the presidential candidate, renewed their vows there (they have since divorced).
Guests have included Beyonce, Jay-Z and Jay Leno.
Although the chapel offers traditional wedding packages, it is the Elvis packages for which it is known: The “Viva Las Vegas” package, for $199, includes the use of the chapel, Elvis escorting the bride down the aisle and singing two songs, and a copy of Elvis and Priscilla’s marriage certificate.
At the other end of the spectrum, the “Concert with the King” package adds more Elvis songs, a DVD, photos and you get to pick your Elvis theme (gold lamé, black leather, jumpsuit or aloha).
You can even livestream your wedding.
Elvis may remind the bride never to treat the groom like a hound dog, among other sage advice. “It’s so much fun,” Duffy said.
Johnny Depp was in during filming of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry filmed part of “Fools Rush In” at the chapel. A leg of the CBS competition “The Amazing Race” was also filmed there.
The British are particularly fond of the chapel, Duffy said. On a recent shift, she said, of 10 couples who had ceremonies, four were British.
Some ceremonies are more eccentric than others. Duffy recalled a bride who arrived in a trench coat, which she doffed on her way down the aisle to reveal she was wearing only a g-string underneath. One woman wanted to marry her dog.
The chapel also goes along with couples who want to prank their friends and family, letting them post a “Just Married” sign in photos from the chapel, and, minutes and much anxiety later, a sign that reads “Just Kidding.”
On the way to Las Vegas, Duffy lived in cities including Lexington, Boston and Atlanta before moving to Las Vegas with Paul. Her mother, Shirley Coleman Creech, still has a home in Lexington.
After Duffy and Paul married, Paul got a job at the chapel working two days a week as an Elvis impersonator, and the couple were able to buy the chapel in 2003.
Duffy has two sons, Cole, 16, and Cash, 14. Cash, named after Johnny Cash, is a basketball player “who’s hoping someday to play for UK,” according to Duffy.
Duffy still treasures her Pike County and Kentucky background.
“That part of my life I will cherish forever, small town, value system, just the best,” Duffy said. “It truly taught me everything I need to get through this life.”
Now, she said, she hopes telling her story sends a message “to those little girls in Eastern Kentucky that are sitting on their porch and they’re not sure how they’re going to see this big world, that they just need to dream big. Because sometimes dreams really do come true.”