San Diego

San Diego Couple Renews Vows While Surrounded by Penguins in Underwater Zoo Exhibit

Cancer previously prevented the couple from having a full-blown wedding ceremony

With penguins and leopard sharks swimming beside them, a San Diego couple renewed their vows at an underwater wedding ceremony Wednesday, inside the Africa Rocks Penguin Pool exhibit, according to San Diego Zoo Global.

Surprised guests at the San Diego Zoo pulled out their phones to take pictures. At first, they didn't realize Timm and Sherrie Burks were renewing their vows inside the tank, clad in full scuba gear. Both are certified scuba instructors.

California leopard sharks and African penguins swam around the tank, as the couple exchanged their vows on underwater placards, said Zoo Global officials.

Twenty family members were invited to see the ceremony. Timm and Sherrie met in 2012, while they were both working at dive shops in San Diego.

“Tim and I were married under extreme circumstances a few years ago” said Sherrie.

While they planned to get married in 2014, Timm suffered a cancer relapse. A few days before the treatment was scheduled to begin, the couple decided to tie the knot anyway, said Zoo Global officials.

“You know, go to the courthouse and get married is not necessarily the ending of a story that a man wants to give to his new bride. It’s what we had to work with at the time,” said Tim. "Having the ability to share that with loved ones, friends, family and everyone at the zoo means a lot to me.”

They exchanged their vows at the courthouse in downtown San Diego, without having their family and friends present. Although they were eager to get married before Tim's cancer treatments, they missed the chance for a more romantic ceremony, according to San Diego Zoo Global.

“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.

This time, the couple shared a truly unique and memorable ceremony. After waving their vows and mouthing, "I do," the couple bonked their scuba equipment together for a kiss.

Spectators cheered and clapped as they watched.

“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," added Sherrie.

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