San Diego Zoo hosts underwater wedding

Timm and Sherrie Burks use cards to communicate their vows during an underwater wedding ceremony in the new African penguin habitat at the San Diego Zoo’s Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks. (courtesy of San Diego Zoo)

San Diego Zoo hosts underwater wedding

Guests who came to experience the new African penguin habitat at Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks the Wednesday morning, July 26, were surprise witnesses to a unique, one-time-only event that held special significance for a San Diego couple. Surrounded by African penguins and California leopard sharks in the Cape Fynbos habitat, Timm and Sherrie Burks — both high-level certified diving instructors — renewed their wedding vows before 20 invited family members and friends, as well as San Diego Zoo guests.

(courtesy of San Diego Zoo)

The couple met in 2012 while they were both teaching students to dive at a dive shop in San Diego. They became friends, but shortly after that, Timm was diagnosed with cancer. Sherrie was there to support him through his treatments, and his recovery. In 2014, Timm’s cancer returned. With only a few days before his treatments were scheduled to begin, the couple decided they wanted to get married right away. They exchanged their vows at the courthouse in downtown San Diego, but without any of their family and friends present.

“Because we weren’t able to include family and friends in our ceremony in 2014, we are very thankful for the opportunity to renew our vows with the people we care about, here with us today,” said Sherrie Burks. “We love to go to the San Diego Zoo and hone our photography skills. While on safari in South Africa last year, we had the opportunity to see African penguins on the beach — so, to be married underwater in the African penguin pool is surreal.”

Family and friends toast Timm and Sherrie Burks after their underwater wedding ceremony (courtesy of San Diego Zoo)

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global. Visit

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