When You Marry at the Maryland Zoo, Your Wedding Pictures Include Penguins and Giraffes

They got engaged with the help of a hawk and married in the company of a penguin, and that’s just the start of the magic that is Jessica (Jess) Kim and Gene Chun’s wedding at Maryland Zoo. See for yourself in the photos below by Ethan Yang Photography.

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After meeting online through eHarmony, Gene and Jess met up for their first date just over a month for a shakshuka breakfast. Though Gene had though that shakshuka was one of Jess’ favorite foods—when in reality, she’d never tried it before—she was a good sport about it and the date went off smoothly. 

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Jess carefully tracked every one of their dates, and on their 217th date—a year and a half after their first—Gene took her to the Omni Homestead Resort. Birds are Jess’ favorite animals and that she had volunteered to help rehab injured birds of prey, so when she suggested they sign up for the resort’s falconry class, Gene agreed. This was all according to plan, however, as Gene had already arranged with the falconer to write a message to Jess on two leather strips, which a falcon delivered to her during their private lesson. As soon as the bird landed on Jess’ gloved hand, the falconer told Jess to look for the special message. As she read the words, “Jessica Kim, will you marry me?” Gene got down on one knee. 

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With such an epic proposal behind them, it only made sense for this pair of Maryland native’s wedding to be equally remarkable and animal-involved. Guests were welcomed into their wedding by a penguin statue made by event team Ella & Christina, followed by cocktail hour with zoo animal “ambassadors”—an African penguin, a Flemish bunny, and an African raven. Jess and Gene also had a chance to snap photos with animals around the zoo, including an elephant, giraffe, flamingos, and all the characters on the carousel.

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For the reception, gold animal figurines served as place card holders, while mini terrariums depicting individual dates from Gene and Jess’ relationship acted as table numbers. The animal theme was also carried out in the cake, a four-tier confection made by La Cakerie of “Cake Wars.” At the end of the celebration, Jess and Gene made their exit under a shower of sparklers before continuing the animal fun with whale watching on an Alaskan cruise honeymoon.

VENDORS

Venue: Mansion House at Maryland Zoo | Photographer: Ethan Yang Photography | Bride’s Gown: Maggie Sottero, Love Couture Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Vera Wang, Jos. A. Bank | Hair & Makeup Artist: Up Do’s For I Do’s | Cake: La Cakerie | Florist: Crimson & Clover | Caterer: Rouge Fine Catering | Transportation: The Ivy Hotel | Videographer: Paul Kwak Productions | Music/Entertainment: Bruce Pike Productions | Invitations: Designed by bride, produced by The Dandelion Patch | Decor: Ella & Christina

Want help pulling off the wedding theme of your dreams? Start with our list of the area’s best wedding planners and designers

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Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.