From Performing Onstage to Performing at the Altar

The cast of characters at Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, including co-owners Ron DeCar as Elvis and, next to him, Jamie Richards. | Photo by Jon Estrada

The cast of characters at Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, including co-owners Ron DeCar as Elvis and, next to him, Jamie Richards. | Photo by Jon Estrada

Then: From 1985-99, Ron DeCar was a lead singer in Folies Bergère as well as for Las Vegas headliners Debbie Reynolds, Jim Nabors and the McGuire sisters. Jamie Richards was an ice skater and dancer in the Las Vegas Hilton’s City Lights, the Stardust’s Lido de Paris and Folies Bergère from 1990-94.
Now: Co-owners of Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel and Ron DeCar’s Event Center.

For DeCar and Richards, the wedding business is still show business.

DeCar began singing in wedding chapels as a side job to his Folies Bergère gig. One day, a wedding coordinator asked if he’d do a celebrity impersonation for a couple, and DeCar has been wearing an Elvis jumpsuit—as well as costumes depicting Tom Jones, Alice Cooper and Dracula, among many others—ever since.

When a chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard North was vacated in 1999, Richards sketched out an ad for the business on a Tropicana napkin and soon made the wedding business his full-time job. The couple boasts that Viva Las Vegas is the only gay-owned and operated chapel on the Strip.

“If I’d had any sort of real business experience at the time,” DeCar says, “I never would have done this. But I’m the kind of guy who jumps into a bucket of nails and comes out with a tree house.”

Richards oversees the business end of things, making sure the shows can go on, while DeCar handles the creative side of the themed weddings. Recently, they expanded with an event center to host dinner theater, cabaret nights, quinceñeras and fundraisers.

Over the years, they’ve plucked their best employees from the ranks of fellow former Strip performers. “Dancers, singers, backstage people, we’re a different breed,” DeCar says. “We juggle. We value being onstage on time always. When we’re having one of those crazy days—like on 11/11/11 when we did 230 weddings—we want someone who’s thinking like a performer, who’s ready for the next set and won’t let their stress show.”

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