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Elvis look-alike wants to be Hernando wedding king

Elvis impersonator Christopher John poses for a portrait in the Las Vegas-style chapel, which will open Nov. 1 in Spring Hill.

LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN | Times

Elvis impersonator Christopher John poses for a portrait in the Las Vegas-style chapel, which will open Nov. 1 in Spring Hill.

235 Marriage ceremonies performed last year by Clerk of Courts Office.

960 Marriage licenses issued last year in Hernando County.

$150 Cost of a "nuts-and-bolts" wedding ceremony at the Chapel of Love.

$15,000 Cost of a top-end wedding package at the chapel.

SPRING HILL

Christopher John has been on stage from South Florida to Las Vegas for some years — as an award-winning Elvis impersonator and an impressionist with some 200 voices.

When he wasn't playing places like the MGM Grand, John was the set-up guy for Las Vegas weddings at such venues as Silver Bells, Cupid and Little Wife.

Now, John is bringing his expertise to Hernando County. On Nov. 1, he will open the Las Vegas-style Chapel of Love in Winchester Plaza, 5130 Commercial Way. The chapel is attached to Spin City, a licensed sweepstakes gaming establishment.

"The whole concept is that what happens in Las Vegas can happen in Spring Hill," John said. "Why go out there when you can have it brought to you?"

Mike Salerno, owner of Spin City, is John's partner in the endeavor.

From the dim interior of the gaming room, the chapel is bright. Decor bends traditionally to white silk floral arrangements, an ivy-laden matrimonial arch with tiny white lights, tulle hangings along the walls and chairs for up to 50 attendees.

But tradition can end there.

John, impersonating Elvis — or any number of celebrities or politicos — will escort the bride down the aisle, with suitably spoken asides and a brilliant tenor singing voice. It will be more of a fun, giggly wedding than a solemn one.

"If you can dream it, we can do it," John said.

Of his partner's banter, Salerno says: "It's got to put a lot of fun into your marriage. He's good with audiences and people."

John struts in his Elvis jacket, gold lame with iridescent rhinestone lapels and cuffs — tailor made. At age 36, he's got a luscious head of black hair.

Abreast of the chapel archway is the gaming room. Then there's a pink Cadillac to whisk the wedding party a couple of miles down U.S. 19 to the Shoppes of Towne Square, where there's an indoor entertainment center and a garden and gazebo for outdoor partying.

The wedding chapel will host a free grand opening wedding ceremony and reception, valued at $8,000, for a winning couple on Nov. 1.

John is still seeking the donation of a wedding gown from a local boutique, fresh floral arrangements and a wedding cake. He's already received applications from two couples who, he says, "can't afford to get married."

Future weddings will be priced from $150 for a "nuts and bolts" ceremony to packages from $375 to $15,000, the latter for an "all-out, best food, best entertainment, best service," John said.

How much demand is there for civil wedding ceremonies in Hernando County?

The Clerk of Courts Office performed 235 ceremonies last year. About 960 marriage licenses were issued last year in Hernando County.

The chapel has two notaries on hand to perform ceremonies and is working with a Christian minister to officiate, if requested.

Beth Gray can be reached at graybethn@earthlink.net.

>>Fast facts

Win a free wedding ceremony, reception

The Chapel of Love will host a free grand opening wedding ceremony and reception for a winning couple on Nov. 1.

Contestants must apply by writing a 250-word essay by Sept. 10 telling why they are deserving. The request may be for a first wedding or a renewal of matrimonial vows.

Essays may be submitted via e-mail to doorock@wrgoradio.com, a Cedar Key radio station, WRGO-FM 102.7, where Christopher John has a program from 6 to 8 p.m. every Sunday.

The giveaway will include the ceremony, photography by Captured Images by Augie of Tampa, a cocktail party for up to 100 guests, a dinner for up to 70 and a performance at the ceremony and after dinner by the Dixie Cups, a vocal trio of 1960s fame. The package is valued at $8,000.

Elvis look-alike wants to be Hernando wedding king 08/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 3:53pm]
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