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Celebrating the power of love at the zoo

Guest post by Dave and Jacqui Kramer

Editor’s note: Dave and Jacqui Kramer are Seattle writers who celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal in front of some tuxedoed guests at Woodland Park Zoo —Humboldt penguins! In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing the love birds’ story, written in their own words.

Twenty years ago, our wedding was a small affair conducted at the side of a small lake. We paid a little extra for the Justice of the Peace to come out of his office, where he joined a few of our friends, family members, and a pair of swans who appeared unprompted to attend our short ceremony. We were both underpaid, small-town newspaper reporters, so there was no reception and our honeymoon was one night away and then back to work on Monday.

The happy couple on the night of their vow renewal at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo courtesy of Dave and Jacqui Kramer.

For our 20th anniversary, Dave proposed renewing our vows and having a large reception for family and friends. While exploring the vast array of unconventional party rentals options that reflected who we are as a couple, Jacqui found that not only does Woodland Park Zoo offer party spaces, but you can enjoy an evening with her power animal: penguins!  Not to mention the zoo, a space in our community devoted to conservation, also symbolized our commitment to preserving endangered species—a cause that is very dear to our son.

A penguin glides underwater at Woodland Park Zoo’s award-winning penguin exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Penguins have always been special to us as a couple. You’ll find them all over our home—in stuffed animal form, that is. Jacqui collects them, and the pride of the collection is a giant body pillow-sized Emperor penguin.

Guests encounter a scene out of Peru’s Punta San Juan coast when approaching the penguin exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

So, obviously, we were thrilled to host a party at the zoo’s award-winning Humboldt penguin exhibit! The penguin exhibit is a large, meandering space with plenty of nooks and crannies in which our guests could watch the penguins swim, dive and play. "We were all delighted to be out there with the penguins having a good old time!" said Jacqui's mom, one of the many out-of-town guests who flew in for the event. "Their choice of venue was emblematic of their shared creativity, playfulness and love of animals." We invited some of our son's friends, and they loved running around the large open space taking pictures with disposable cameras while the adults mingled, sipping wine and chatting before the short but sweet ceremony.

A casual cocktail event set-up at the zoo’s penguin exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The friendly zoo staff helped us determine our layout and the best use of the space in which to entertain our guests. As a result, we were able to make the open aired venue feel intimate, romantic and comfortable at our late July reception.

We made food and beverage arrangements with Lancer Catering, the zoo’s exclusive catering company, and smartly attended one of their free seasonal tasting events. This tempted us to add a few delicious items to our menu, notably cheesecake served in martini glasses with a wide selection of scrumptious toppings. These were a big hit! For venue d├ęcor, we tracked down colorful penguin erasers, and arrived early to place these around the floating candle arrangements on the elegant, white-clothed tables peppering the exhibit. 

A simple yet playful table arrangement at the Kramers’ vow renewal. Photo courtesy of Dave and Jacqui Kramer.

Throughout the evening, we were serenaded by the distinctive honks of endangered Humboldt penguins. It was the perfect soundtrack to our perfect night.

The penguins bring their own tuxedo to your special event. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

If you are looking for the perfect place to celebrate your one-of-a-kind love in a venue as unique as you are, Woodland Park Zoo offers indoor and outdoor spaces for daytime and evening rental. Explore the options at Then contact the zoo’s group sales team at or 206-548-2590 to start planning your event.