EVERETT — It’s sort of Everett’s version of a Vegas wedding chapel, but with the Rev. Barbara Rasberry, not Elvis.
After more than two decades of “I do’s,” the Purple Wedding Chapel is in the red.
Friends set up a GoFundMe to maintain the landmark venue of $100 weddings. The purple rambler with cutout heart shutters and a white picket fence is also Rasberry’s home.
Day or night, she’ll host a wedding. She’s had 125 attend. More often, it’s the couple and a few witnesses. Doesn’t matter to Rasberry. Love is love.
Rasberry, 73, has hitched hundreds of couples. Her husband, Don, died in March, and she faces an uncertain future due to the economic challenge of keeping the house. As a reverend through the nondenominational Awareness of Life Church in Renton, she says the wedding fees support the church and she pockets the tips.
The house is at 10814 4th Ave. W., a busy street off Everett Mall Way. Even with the constant roar of traffic, a certain serenity prevails.
The deep backyard is an alternate universe with fruit trees, a gazebo and seating for dozens. Indoors is a chapel room with 20 chairs and a wallpaper garden mural backdrop. The chapel is the largest room in the house that Rasberry shares with Mocha the dog and her youngest son, Mark, 47, who moved in to help care for Don.
Don died a week before the couple’s 44th wedding anniversary. They were married on April Fool’s Day in 1978 at the Eagles Club in Lynnwood.
Rasberry has health issues. She said she went from 178 pounds to 95 pounds, from Size 16 to Size 2, in the past 18 months. She can’t lift chairs or tables.
But she’s got the same Rev. Rasberry gusto.
During Tuesday’s interview, she excused herself to get ready for a wedding booked for an hour later. She scurried away in jeans and a tunic tee to her bedroom, directly off the tidy living room with a few recliners and a TV. She emerged five minutes later in crisp black slacks and a white blouse, her face freshly made up, ready to roll.
She likes to be prepared, in case couples show up early.
For years, she was open 24/7. She still takes drop-ins. That’s right, you can knock at the door, during reasonable hours, please. And if you have a valid marriage license and $100, you can walk away wedded.
“Has to be cash,” Rasberry said. “I started out taking checks. When I got enough bounced checks to paper that bathroom, I said, ‘That’s it.’”
For the record: The bathroom is painted purple.
“My purpose is to give people a nice wedding, nice memories and not to wake up the next morning going, ‘Oh my God, we’re thousands of dollars in debt,’” she said.
It’s not a quickie. She blocks out two hours for each service, so there’s time to celebrate over cake and food, whatever the wedding party brings.
Couples come decked in white gowns, tuxedos, the whole regalia. Some come back years later to repeat their vows.
Rasberry used to offer a dozen scripts, but most couples chose the one she crafted, so it became the mainstay. “Duty makes us do things well, but love, love makes us do them beautifully,” reads a line, popularized by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, at the part before rings are exchanged.
Couples can write their own vows.
“It’s their wedding, their way,” she said.
Those words apply to everything: Who they invite, what they wear, when they come, where to tie the knot, how they walk down the aisle, why they are getting hitched.
“I’ve had brides where I so wanted to take them aside and say, ‘Please, think about this.’ But it’s not my place,” she said. “One gal has been here five times.”
She does give advice when it comes to couples doing a potluck after the ceremony.
“I warn them, ‘Keep track of who’s bringing what or you’ll end up with 10 salads and six bags of chips,’” she said.
Mocha is the wedding dog. The 6-year-old miniature dachshund entertains the kids and, upon request, will strut down the aisle.
Don was her right-hand man. He got ordained to help officiate with the overflow, mainly those requests off site. He was a long-distance truck driver and good at directions, she said.
His gender also came in handy. “Back then, you’d get it from guys, ‘I’m not having a woman marry me,’” she said.
Once upon a time, the house was white.
“Don came home with purple swatches and said, ‘What do you think of this?’” she said.
Rasberry said a sheriff’s deputy told her the purple house was a focal point on the scanner to give directions to the scenes of crimes, fires and injuries.
It was also the perfect color to name their wedding biz after.
For her son Mark, it’s the story of his life.
“When I was a mover, I’d see my mom’s picture on their wall,” he said. “I’d say, ‘You got married at the Purple Chapel.’ And they’d say, ‘Yeah, how did you know?’ And I’d say, ‘That’s my mom.’”
He gets introduced as “Purple Chapel Mark.”
“I was at the casino the other day and someone said, ‘This is Mark. He lives in the Purple Wedding Chapel,’ and they said ‘Oh, we got married there,’” he said.
People come from all over the state and from Canada. Or Rev. Rasberry goes to them.
Before the pandemic, she traveled to the Monroe Correctional Complex to officiate when a groom or bride is behind bars. Now she’s a virtual reverend, using the indoor mural to add a chapel vibe to the service.
Rasberry doesn’t keep albums of her marriages. The dozen photos on the fridge is her gallery.
Amid the brides and grooms is a Polaroid picture of Bill Nye, the Science Guy with an autographed note. He officiated at her chapel in 2005 for an episode of “The Eyes of Nye — GMO Foods.” Dressed in a suit, Nye married two stalks of wheat in the gazebo.
“Do you, domesticated wheat, take this wild wheat to be your lawfully wedded hybrid?” Nye asks in the video. “Breeding food crops is a lot like a marriage.”
His note to her reads: “Dear Reverend Rasberry — Help them mix genes!”
Nye did not choose the Purple Wedding Chapel, though, for his nuptials in June of this year at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Officiant was Robert Picardo, who is known for playing The Doctor in the “Star Trek” franchise.
Heather Kalia is behind the effort to help Rasberry. Kalia has attended about 10 weddings at the chapel over the years. She and Shawn were married there July 31. The service was at 10:30 p.m. because they work late at their business, GND Market, Liquor And Wine, in Everett.
“This woman has been an icon for our town for marrying people,” Kalia said. “She lost Don and is fighting to keep her house. I’m just praying the community comes together to help this woman.”
The couple set up a GoFundMe for Rasberry at: gofund.me/42d3a00a.
There are plans for a car wash fundraiser. For more information, call 425-353-7250.