By Polly Keary
June is a month for weddings, and Snohomish County offers many beautiful venues in which to exchange vows.
In the hills above Monroe, under towering maples and cedars, the area’s newest wedding venue offers an unlikely amenity; the bride and groom there can wed on their own private island.
Nestled into a quiet stream, tree-dappled sunlight fires the honey-quartz flagstones that pave the tiny island to gold in the mid-afternoon, and guests looking on from amphitheater seating on the gentle bank can celebrate afterwards amid striking pieces of outdoor sculpture, wandering between a rustic banquet and an modern bar and dancing on an outdoor floor or dining at tables spread across the manicured lawn.
It is Elegance in Nature, and it is the labor of love of Don and Terry Coates of Monroe, who have transformed much of their five-acre Wagner-area property into a romantic destination they hope will become one of the crown jewels of the county’s growing wedding industry.
Don Coates’ usual profession is a far cry from creating romantic wedding-scapes. Until recently, he traveled all over the world doing specialized brickwork on such things as giant industrial kilns.
But when the Coates’ daughter, Carly, got married three years ago, he and his wife Terry hosted the wedding on their property, setting a bridal arch on the little natural island that extends into serene Ghost Horse Creek, which passes through their property.
“So many people said, ‘You guys need to have weddings here,’ but at the time I was working, and it wasn’t in my plan,” said Don.
But when he found himself out of work recently, he and Terry decided it might be time to change direction.
So with no previous experience with wedding venues, using only Don’s extensive building and engineering skills and Terry’s decorating ability, along with lots of ideas from website Pinterest, over the course of four intense months they transformed their property.
The couple added a small one-room building for the bridal dressing room, lined with a wall of mirrors and even a hair salon chair.
There is an open-air bar facing a rustic buffet, lit with vintage Edison lights and framed by climbing ivy.
Eight truckloads of bark line trails winding through the tall timber. A smooth outdoor dance floor is edged by a small stage for a DJ.
The Coates created a large parking area and a wide graveled path leading to the grounds.
Everywhere are small, unusual details. Antique glass resistors can spell out the names of the bride and groom along one edge of the path. Birdhouses, lights, and small benches are scattered around the property.
There are pieces of original sculpture, much of it created by Don or by his friend, local artist John Barton. A shovel head forms the back of a metal bird in one striking piece, and shiny metal leaves on a tall metal plant catch the sun in another installation beneath a giant tree.
But the centerpiece of the whole property is the island upon which the wedding party gathers for the vows.
Connected to the bank by a small bridge, it is paved with honey quartz, striking against the deep amber of the placid waters that surround it.
Framed by ferns, a flower-bedecked arbor stands at one end, with sun-dappled woods and giant ferns forming a backdrop on the far bank. The deep hush of the woods is punctuated by the cries of birds and the occasional croak and splash of bullfrogs.
“We both just love landscaping, and getting out in the yard, and this is what we created,” said Don, standing beside Terry and smiling at the little golden island.
There were some marathon days involved; one day Don laid 770 stones by nightfall, and on another, most of 2,000 square feet of sod.
Even some neighbors pitched in.
“It’s a team effort,” said Terry.
The outcome may have some extra good luck attached to it because of the success of the marriage of its creators. Don and Terry Coates have been together since 1977, when they were high school sweethearts. And they have come through some very hard times, including the loss of their son, Brady, in 2006.
“We believe in the sanctity of marriage, and we work well together, even through hard times,” said Terry.
Now they hope to pass that happiness on to other couples entering into lifetime commitments to each other.
“We want the people who come out to be happy,” said Don. “We want to make a special time for them to make their union.”
Terry agreed, looking out over the property she and Don built together from raw land years ago, now brilliant with blooming flowers and ready to become part of the memories of many other couples.
“It’s time to share,” she said.
Elegance in Nature will soon have a website up and running at eleganceinnature.com. Watch for information about an upcoming open house.