On the way to the chapel, I receive a call from Brenda.
“We can just sit outside or in the hallway,” she said. “Sorry. I left my keys with Elvis.”
I learn it’s an occupational hazard.
I pull off Music Row East into the stuccoed building’s three-car lot. As I pull in, Brenda gets out of her own car.
“I’m sorry,” she says, apologizing again. “One of my officiates has one key, and Elvis has the other.” This is the first time we are meeting face to face.
Yesterday, when I visited the venue for the first time, I was skeptical that I had the correct address. There used to be a sign, but Brenda explains that the owners of the building requested it be removed. They believed it overwhelmed their own less ostentatious sign.
The building houses the Rhinestone Wedding Chapel, and Brenda Enderson is its proud sole proprietor.
Nestled in Suite 111 at 44 Music Square East, Rhinestone is, at present, Nashville’s only Vegas-style wedding chapel.
It is also the only wedding chapel that boasts an Elvis impersonator in an even greater radius. “Not even Graceland has one,” said Enderson, smiling.
Enderson opened the Rhinestone Wedding Chapel in September of 2010 in the same building as her previous entrepreneurial endeavor. She first had a vintage clothing store, Rowtique. Unfortunately, her college-student customer base left her struggling perennially when school let out.
“They went home for the summer, and it always dried up,” she said. The idea for a chapel came to her while watching “Live! With Kelly.”
On one particular episode, Kelly Ripa recalled her own Vegas elopement, which involved an Elvis impersonator.
Enderson was immediately inspired. After some very quick research, she saw an opportunity that presented no competition.
Enderson claims that she has made every business and advertising mistake since creating the chapel. However, she is now seeing consistently impressive success.
She estimates—conservatively—the chapel performs about 50 weddings each month.
This month included the wedding of Megan Brutto to Perry Horkins. They kindly agreed to allow me to observe their ceremony. I ended up playing a more active role than I anticipated.
Brutto is in at-least-four-inch nude heels, and a strapless wedding dress cut far above the knee—with a veil.
Horkins is in flip-flops, jeans and an untucked, un-ironed double-pocket button-down shirt buttoned low enough to expose chest tattoos.
She leads the way into the tiny office suite that is the chapel. As Phillip Smith, the most called-upon officiate in Enderson’s stable of ordained ministers, fills out the preliminary paperwork, I have an opportunity to speak with the happy couple.
I first ask them how they met. They make eye contact for a beat, then giggle.
“He’s my ex-boyfriend’s best friend’s little brother,” she answers.
She is 27. He is 21.
“We hung out at my birthday party and—bow-chicka-bow-wow!—and then we weren’t supposed to get serious, but we did,” explains Brutto. “We fell in love really fast.”
Their forbidden love blossomed over seven months. Horkins says that he proposed about four months ago. Brutto is quick to correct him.
“Really I asked you to marry me,” she says.
The couple explains that with tax season looming, they intended to get married earlier, and have been putting it off for some time now.
“We finally decided to just go ahead and get it done,” said Brutto. She heard about the Rhinestone Wedding Chapel through a friend.
“My co-worker Ashley knew about it—she knows all about these trendy little places,” she explains. “Then we came here, and this is perfect, this is exactly what I want.”
Before beginning the ceremony, Smith gives a brief run-down of the events to come, and is very clear about his role.
“I’m not here to preach to you, that’s not my job here today,” he says. “I’m here to help you get through this.” He hands them his business card before proceeding, should anything go wrong in filing the paperwork. If anything ever should, Smith promises that he will take care of it.
After the procedural, the ceremony begins.
But not before Brutto thrusts her iPhone into my hands and informs me that I will be taking the pictures.
Smith moves through the vows and scripture deftly. Brutto, overwhelmed, is unable to control herself.
She bursts into laughter as Smith finishes the reading. It does not faze him, and he continues.
Although the couple paid for a full 15 minutes of wedding ceremony, Smith is able to accomplish the task in less than 10.
Though he is a natural talent for officiating elopements in a timely manner, this is not his full time job. “I’m a pastor,” he tells me.
He is the executive preacher at Goodlettsville Nazarene Church, and a happily married man with four children. Smith was not married in a Vegas-style chapel, but does enjoy his part time job. Enderson hopes to soon convince him to don the Elvis outfit himself. She believes he will be willing. He does not know that he is about to be asked.
That day, another wedding also took place, and several were scheduled for the week, including a number of Elvis wedding packages.
Enderson was sorry that I did not have the opportunity to experience a full Elvis wedding spectacle.
“Those are really fun,” she said. One of her most memorable wedding moments to date included an incident with the Elvis.
“Elvis is a ham, so he had his foot up on the pew, singing to the bride,” she said. “Well, his foot got stuck, and the bride helped him out—she flipped him, she karate flipped him. Elvis was embarrassed.”
It seems most Elvis weddings make for a good story. Stories that people would want to watch—and may have the opportunity to watch.
“We have been approached numerous times about doing reality TV,” Enderson tells me. Just last week the chapel was contacted by a major network that Enderson prefers not to disclose. However, it is not a prospect she intends to rush into.
“It has to be the right fit,” she says. She believes there is much at stake.
Enderson is intensely passionate about the history of music row. As we sit on the front steps, she talks emphatically about the surrounding buildings and their stories. She waves at each tour bus that drives by. There are several that pass over the course of our conversation, and she stops to engage each one.
The chapel building, which is owned by an AM radio station, has its own history. It was originally owned by Audrey Williams, Hank Williams Jr.’s mother, and it still houses a recording studio.
Enderson is proud to be a part of it.
She is measured in selecting a reality T.V. partner because she recognizes the impact it could have—on everyone.
“We’re going to try to pump it back up,” she says of Music Row. “If the reality show works out, if it gets purchased, we’re going to try to pump it back up. You’ve got the 12th South, you’ve got the Gulch, you’ve got Broadway, but we need something more touristy here, and we need the history preserved here.”
If there is anyone and anything that can do it, it is Brenda Enderson and the Rhinestone Wedding Chapel. Should all things go according to plan, she’s going to bring a little life back into Music Row, one Elvis-themed elopement at a time.