SEATTLE — Inside her Enchanted Chapel, the Rev. Zady Evans smiles, lids brushed blue, bangs curled tight, red robe draping to the floor. Three more words from her, and this marriage is made. Under the silver glitter of disco balls, the young couple waits. A plastic mountain stands by their side. Stuffed animals sit scattered by their feet. When the words “husband and wife” come, they lean in for a kiss.
Evans, 83, gives it a few seconds. Then she turns to the audience.
“Everyone get a picture of that kiss all right?” she calls out. “Do they have to do it again?”
Evans has been many things in her life, from a portrait photographer to an ashram owner to a struggling mother of five. But she may be best known as the lady who marries people in a pink- and purple-painted house.
By her own estimation, Evans, a New Age minister, has presided over thousands of weddings in this house in South Seattle, where plant vines are tacked to the ceiling and hot-pink chairs stand in for pews. Every decade, she dresses it up more — multicolored Christmas lights one year, a “kissing tree” the next.
“God help me if I ever have to move,” she said.
There was a time when this house off Myers Way South saw at least one marriage a day. But there’s no rush anymore — not even for special days like New Year’s or Valentine’s Day. Just a steady trickle of couples every week. Last Wednesday, a smudge-pot ceremony for a Native American couple. Two Sundays ago, the wedding of a couple who met after the man placed a newspaper ad in Delhi.
Performing is not always easy these days, what with old age catching up. But Evans pushes on. Social Security will only take her so far; every $50 wedding counts.
Plus, it’s pretty clear society needs her services.
Who else provides a Las Vegas-style ceremony with so much romance? A pink wicker throne for the bride to sit in. A choice of several services, bound and laminated and color-coded for ease.
If you want to travel, just say the word. Evans can marry you on a mountaintop; in a plane hangar; standing above a bathtub, bride and groom in bathing suits. She has been there, done that, before.
She draws the line at naked; but for an extra fee, almost everything else goes.
Evans got the spirit of entrepreneurship early, growing up in Idaho and watching her single mother at work. Mimi Le Favour started a clerical business, sewed on the side, anything to make ends meet.
Years later, when Evans had children to support, and a husband away at war, she followed her mother’s lead. Her first business was a photo studio; right there, on the houseboat on the Duwamish River, she took pin-up pictures of her neighbors, images they sent to boyfriends and husbands abroad.
Some are still posted in the Enchanted Chapel, where the family later moved, along with photographs of Evans herself. Head cocked and eyeing the camera. Sultry under a black hat. An entire wall of pictures.
After the photo studio, in the 1940s, came the all-hours answering service. That was an idea Le Favour brought from Idaho when she moved in with the family.
“She had the dreams, I had the muscle, and away we went,” Evans said.
At one point, there were dozens of phones, all answered by family, including the five children.
As a woman, and an independent business owner, there were wars to wage. More often than not, Evans won.
“A lot of the time it was her own cockiness that got her through,” said her son, Bernie Fleming, 59, of Bremerton.
Fleming admired that “why not” attitude. But it was not always easy being her child. On various occasions, she sent Fleming to school with a permanent in his hair, his fingernails painted red or his feet in traditional Japanese shoes.
And then there was the summer she decided a bike trip to San Francisco would cure Fleming of his asthma. So began a 1,600-mile journey — just Evans, an adult cousin and six young children.
“I think she meant well, but I don’t think she was always on the right track,” he said.
Evans was often busy developing her spiritual self. She welcomed strangers into her home for healing. She started a church school called the Northwest Ashram. She became an ordained minister and, one day, stepped in to perform a marriage for a friend.
That first marriage led to others, and soon word spread about a woman who wed anyone, regardless of race, creed or color. Couples came to her, cast out by their churches for everything from poor attendance to pregnancy. It became something of a side business. She saw herself as a woman of the world, welcoming all God’s creatures.
In a spiral-bound collection of her writing, “I am the Bubble, Make Me the Sea,” Evans elaborates on this philosophy.
“Whether I’m shaking hands with the elite, holding a murderer in my arms, watering a plant, or petting my dog, I see one thing in common with them all,” she wrote in 1968. “The soul of that particular creation is beautiful.”
After three marriages, and three divorces, Evans has this advice for young women: Find the right man.
“It makes such a difference,” she said.
The couple standing before her on this night looks happy enough. Carlos Bucio, 32, a builder in his tuxedo, admiring his bride. Clairissa Hazen, 22, a home-improvement-store employee, smiling shyly in a white spaghetti-strap dress.
Hazen looks around the room, at the forest-themed wallpaper and the hanging vines, some fake, some real. This is the first time she has seen any of it. Bucio chose the spot after attending a wedding here.
“This is weird,” she announces.
After they pick a service, and fill out the paperwork, and listen to “Chapel of Love,” the five-minute ceremony begins.
Evans stands to the side, amid the vines, in one of her many multicolored, homemade gowns. She speaks of lovers who know each other instantly and individuals who find a common road.
The bride giggles through most of it.
After the service, Evans gets down to brass tacks, arranging the couple for camera consumption. Sometimes she can coax a coy shot of the bride sitting on that pink wicker throne, looking over her shoulder, like the pin-up days of old. But Hazen is not that bride.
Getting her to sit still, and the groom to kiss her hand, is a challenge. Evans appeals to the groom, a fluent English speaker, in his mother tongue of Spanish.
“Besos!” she cries, the Spanish word for kisses.
The pictures are important. They are the record. If Evans has anything to say about it, this couple will get them right.
Who knows what will happen after they walk out the door? The soul grows. That’s how Evans explains her own divorces. But this is not the day for talking about soul growth.
So Evans gathers the bride and groom together, as she has done so many times before. She smiles kindly. Then, with all eyes on her, she delivers her favorite parting words.
“Make every day a honeymoon,” Evans says, pausing for effect.
“And every night.”