Couple escapes house fire on morning of wedding: 'It was a nice ending to a rather horrendous beginning'

A newlywed couple from Maryland tells Fox News their wedding “turned out beautifully” despite their family’s home catching fire on the morning of the nuptials.

Matthew and Coral Denakis (nee Ben-Atar) were planning to celebrate their marriage with friends and family on Sunday, with many of them flying in from Israel and the Pacific Northwest to stay over at the Ben-Atar family home in North Potomac, WJLA reported.

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The couple had already married in a courthouse, but planned to hold a ceremony for family and friends on Sunday.  (Megan Bennett Photography)

Around 2:30 a.m., however, a fire broke out inside the house, forcing the bride and groom, as well as their in-laws and many people in the wedding party — 17 in total — to flee the home in the middle of the night.


“I wake up, the room is filled with smoke, my mother in law screaming fire,” said Matthew, an active-duty Army specialist stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia, to WJLA. “My wife and her friend were running out of the house.”

Matthew also told Fox News he was only able to grab his wedding ring and his wallet before rushing outside to watch “several pieces of gas-powered lawn equipment” catch fire and explode in the garage.

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Matthew Denakis tells Fox News his in-laws' garage burned down, as did one side of the home. The roof had also collapsed on the hallway and some of the rooms.  (Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service)

Firefighters soon arrived to extinguish the blaze. Matthew says that, once they learned his wedding was planned for later that day, they asked what they needed to retrieve from the house “to make the wedding happen,” and grabbed his Army uniform and shoes from the Ben-Atar home, both suffering only minor smoke and water damage.

“Luckily, the night before, we stored [Coral’s] wedding dress in my truck and it was saved,” Matthew added.

Despite the blaze, however, the couple and their families decided to continue with the wedding as planned, in order “to make a happy day out of a sad one,” Coral said.

“We’re not going to let this take over, we are going to enjoy ourselves,” Matthew told WJLA. “It’s brought our families closer together. It’s very uplifting.”

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Matthew and Coral Denakis say their wedding was a "dream" despite the day starting on a much more unfortunate note.  (Megan Bennett Photography)


Coral also told Fox News that the wedding was a “total dream” for her and Matthew, who actually married in a courthouse last year, but had planned Sunday’s ceremony as a way to celebrate with friends and family.

“The wedding turned out beautifully. It was a total dream and I am so happy my parents pulled it off,” she said.

“My siblings helped us all push through,” Coral added.

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Coral Denakis credits her family and siblings with helping her and Matthew make the most of the day.  (Megan Bennett Photography)

Authorities have since determined that smoking materials may have started the fire, and estimate the damage to the home to be somewhere around $400,000.


The families, on the other hand, are just happy no one was hurt, and Coral and Matthew still got to celebrate their big day.

“My wife was gorgeous and breathtaking, and my uniform was cleaned. Decorations that were saved were amazing,” remembers Matthew.

“It was a nice ending to a rather horrendous beginning.”