Frozen in time. Jim and Sandy Zahn celebrated their 50th anniversary on Thursday, December 22, by returning to their wedding night hotel and paying the original price of only $28.13.
The Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington allows previous guests who once celebrated a special occasion at the site to return for the price on their original receipt.
“They’re giving us the same room. It’s an executive suite now,” Sandy said in a new interview with ABC News.
Casey Barks, the hotel’s senior marketing and PR manager, explained that it is a privilege to welcome former guests. “If they have documentation, a receipt or something, and it’s a special occasion, we love to honor this kind of stuff,” she shared with the outlet.
On Thursday, Jim and Sandy gathered with their children and grandchildren in the hotel’s iconic Georgian room to remember that special winter day back in 1966. “They’re being very nice and honoring us by letting us have lunch in there because they normally only do tea,” Sandy said.
Her husband was equally impressed by the hotel’s hospitality. “It’s really, really neat that the hotel would even consider honoring their guests this way,” Jim, 75, said. “I don’t think [it’s] so much about being married for 50 years; it’s just a standard thing. But nowadays, if a marriage lasts that long, you’re doing really well. It’s interesting that, wow, it is kind of a big deal. It’s quite romantic.”
On their anniversary, the couple reminisced about the challenges they faced on their wedding day all those years ago. Jim received his draft notice just hours before the ceremony.
“We didn’t know until the morning of our wedding when I got the letter,” Jim recalled. “I said, ‘Oh no. This is not good.’ I sort of expected it might come a couple months after we got married, and here, all of a sudden, it was in the mail on our wedding day. It was sort of a downer, I guess you could say. But we weren’t going to stop our plans at that point. It’s all in God’s plan, but it’s a tough situation to be married and go right into the service.”
Sandy, now 72, was only 18 when Jim initially proposed. “I told him ‘yes,’ but that I had to finish my education first,” she shared. Four years later, Jim asked again during a telephone conversation. “She was in Hawaii teaching, and I was in Seattle finishing my architecture degree at the University of Washington,” he said.
Because Sandy was so far from home, she asked her mother to plan the entire wedding, which she managed to pull-off in just four weeks. “I bought the dress in Hawaii, and then my mom did everything else,” she recalled of the sped-up process. “My mom sewed the bridesmaid’s dresses and white fur muffs.”
The couple had three children, but Jim’s career as a secret agent often kept him away from his family. To make matters worse, he was forbidden to tell Sandy of his whereabouts.
“I gave birth while he was a secret agent in Europe,” Sandy shared. “I was alone back in Washington, D.C., with no family, and my mom and dad couldn’t get away, so my aunt flew out for a couple days after I gave birth. I couldn’t reach him, but I didn’t feel too worried. It was just the way it was. Because he was a secret agent, I wasn’t supposed to know where he was. He could only call occasionally.”
Jim was in Berlin when Sandy gave birth to their first child. He received a secret message that their daughter, Cheryl Renee Zahn, had been born. “The first part of my service was during the Cold War, and the Pentagon had me flying all over the world to different places.” he explained.
Jim and Sandy credit open communication as the secret to their successful marriage. “Divorce wasn’t in the vocabulary back then. Love each other and communicate,” Sandy said.
Jim added that the couple’s parents and faith “probably had a lot to do with it.”
“There’s a lot of things that the Bible tells us about how we should act and take care of our lives, and in doing that, love is really the most important thing there is,” Jim told ABC News.
Exploring the world has also been an important part of Jim and Sandy’s lives. “Our adventures, traveling, and meeting so many people all over the world is so special,” Sandy shared. “Travel and expand your horizons. It’s the best thing you can do.”
Despite their love of adventure, the couple couldn’t wait to enjoy a relaxing night at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. “We had a big evening wedding and late reception; we checked in really late,” Jim concluded. “This time though, we’re going to stay overnight and enjoy the morning. We’ll enjoy the hotel more this time.”