A Colorfully Whimsical Wedding at a Texas Zoo

Holly and John

Jillian Zamora Photography

In late November of 2011, John Knudsen IV wasn't traveling home to Alabama as he usually did for Thanksgiving. Instead, he stayed in Fort Worth, Texas, and spent the day after the holiday with some friends at a dive bar downtown. That's where he met Holly Callahan through mutual friends, and the two started a round of darts, immediately hitting it off. "Hours later we looked up from our conversation and realized all of our friends were gone!" says Holly. "We were together from that day forward."

Two years later, John's company was sold and he found himself out of a job. "I figured if she loves me, she won't care if I have a job or not. She'll trust that I'll always provide her with a proverbial 'blanket' from the cold," says John, who now works as a vice president and chief financial officer for oil and gas chemical companies. "So I asked her to marry me at my house, and the next day we flew to Fiji to spend a week in paradise celebrating our engagement and our uncertain/exciting future to come."

The couple took the next 19 months to plan their dream wedding—a colorful fête with gorgeous flowers and wild animals at the Forth Worth Zoo on April 25, 2015. Surrounded by 330 guests and a mix of birds, reptiles, and mammals, the bride and groom celebrated with whimsical décor and classic rock music that kept them dancing into the night.

Watch Holly and John's Wedding Video

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The Bridal Bouquet

Jillian Zamora Photography

The couple chose their late April wedding date so that Holly—the owner of Flower Vibes (a wedding and special events floral design company) and a self-proclaimed "flower snob"—could have the best flowers that spring has to offer. The Southern Table created an overflowing bouquet of peonies, poppies, fritillaria, garden roses, sweet peas, anemones, and ranunculus.

As for her ensemble? The bride wore an ivory Claire Pettibone gown with Victorian embroidery and a flower crown of ranunculus and roses on her head.

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The Accessories

Jillian Zamora Photography

Holly carried a Jessica McClintock floral clutch and wore light pink Swedish Hasbeen clogs that she added little, silk, hot pink ranunculus flowers to for her portraits and ceremony.

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The Elephant Bowtie

Jillian Zamora Photography

The black-and-white elephant bowties and pocket squares that John and his groomsmen wore from Mrs Bow Tie represented the mascot of the groom's favorite football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Later in the night, John changed out of his black Jos. A. Bank tuxedo jacket into a white dinner jacket for the reception.

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The Bridesmaids

Jillian Zamora Photography

Bridesmaids each wore a long, black dress of their choice and dainty head wreaths of hyacinth in various shades of pink. The small bouquets they carried mirrored the bride's, with trailing ribbons to add a bit more color.

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The Flower Girls and Ring "Bears"

Jillian Zamora Photography

The littlest flower girl, Holly's niece Kelly, wore a homemade white dress while John's niece, Meredith Grace, wore a white dress from FattiePie. Both carried wands made by The Southern Table. The two ring "bears," Holly's nephew Jack and John's nephew Knox, wore black suits, bear ears, and elephant bow ties to match the groomsmen. At first the boys were not too excited about their bear roles, but they soon got into character and began growling and pawing at each other.

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The Ceremony

Jillian Zamora Photography

The couple held a Christian ceremony at the Robert Carr Chapel at Texas Christian University (John's alma mater). The ceremony was officiated by Reverend Rob Morris, and John's father (a former minister) read from Ruth 1:16, 17 and 1 Corinthians 12:4–8.

"During the ceremony, Holly started saying her vows but was looking at the pastor, and he had specifically warned her about that. She said, 'Wait. We talked about this!' and we all laughed after he pointed toward me," recalls John. "Very funny and very Holly."

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The Location

Jillian Zamora Photography

"We chose the zoo because it's the most special venue in Forth Worth. Everyone loves the zoo!" says Holly. Opened in 1909 with only a handful of species, the Fort Worth Zoo is now home to over 7,000 native and exotic animals. Thanks to the zoo's Special Events Pavilion, Holly and John were able to accommodate their large guest list in an outdoor, covered setting for the reception.

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The Cocktail Hour

Jillian Zamora Photography

Held in a smaller pavilion at the zoo, the cocktail hour offered guests the opportunity to see a giant snake, an owl, a parrot, and a possum up close.

Pepper jack-stuffed chicken strips wrapped in bacon, crisp artichoke hearts with goat cheese and parmesan, and miniature BLT's with a garlic aioli were passed while Jamed Pendley played the keyboard.

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The Guestbook

Jillian Zamora Photography

Combining their first names to make "Jolly," Holly and John had guests sign this floral animal poster designed by Chris Riise, Holly's preschool friend. As a first anniversary gift to John, Holly had it matted and framed for their home.

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The Cocktail Hour Décor

Jillian Zamora Photography

An elephant vase filled with peonies, fritillaria, king protea, ranunculus, and delphium sat next to the poster-turned-guestbook.

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The Reception

Jillian Zamora Photography

"Our floral vision really started with the head table design. I had dreamed of it the moment we got engaged!" says Holly. "I wanted flowers above and all around us. It was beyond my dreams!" The Southern Table created the display of ribbons and hanging macramé plant-holders stuffed with greenery and filler flowers to go over the head table.

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The Table

Jillian Zamora Photography

The bridal party sat at a long farm table lined with mint chairs, the other guests surrounded them at round tables.

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The Centerpieces

Jillian Zamora Photography

An assortment of geometric flowerpots held brightly-colored peonies, garden roses, fritillaria, sweet peas, and greenery. Small, gold candleholders also lined the table.

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The Place Settings

Jillian Zamora Photography

Posh Couture Rentals' ivory chargers were flanked by gold flatware and ornate glassware. On each plate was a floral cloth napkin and a triangle-shaped name card created by Jen Rios Weddings, along with a tiny animal keepsake.

The couple also thanked guests for celebrating with them by leaving a rolled up two dollar bill at each seat with a note that said, "John and Holly give you this $2 bill in honor of his late Mor Mor, Margaret J. Clark and her beloved Donald W. Clark. On special occasions, John could always count on receiving a sweet card from his Mor Mor telling him how much she loved him and it would have a $2 bill inside. Similarly, John and Holly want to tell each of you how much they love you and give you a $2 bill."

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The Reception Décor

Jillian Zamora Photography

A colorful streamer wall created by The Color Condition provided a backdrop for anyone taking pictures at the reception.

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The Happy Couple

Jillian Zamora Photography

The bride and groom shared a kiss while sitting in their chairs, which were decorated with giant paper flowers from Jen Rios Weddings.

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The Cake

Jillian Zamora Photography

The bride's cake—a three-tier vanilla cake with strawberry and cream cheese filling—was decorated with gold, a floral pattern, and a handmade, ceramic topper of a unicorn bride and elephant groom from Melabo Wed. Sugar Bee Sweets Bakery designed a cinnamon roll groom's cake with cream cheese frosting in the shape of the couple's beloved bulldog, Gertie.

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The Desserts

Jillian Zamora Photography

The dessert table included Oreo animal cake pops, macarons decorated with animal prints, cinnamon roll cupcakes with penguin toppers, Reese's parfaits, cheesecake bites with strawberry drizzle, and rice krispie elephants made by Sugar Bee Sweets Bakery.

"Sadly we had to leave the zoo at 11 p.m! We could've stayed all night," says Holly. Nonetheless, the couple was all smiles as guests sent them off in a cloud of bubbles to the after-party at Thompson's Book Store.

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Jillian Zamora Photography

Photography, Jillian Zamora Photography
Location, Robert Carr Chapel (ceremony); Fort Worth Zoo (reception); Thompson's Book Store (after-party)
Event planning, Jen Rios Weddings
Catering, Fort Worth Zoo
Flowers, The Southern Table
Videography, Mnemonic Films
Officiant, Reverend Rob Morris
Stationery, Chips and Salsa Designs
Calligraphy, A Whimsical Script
Cake, Sugar Bee Sweets Bakery
Music, Bayou Gypsy
Rentals, P.O.S.H. Couture Rentals; Perch Décor
Bride's gown, Claire Pettibone
Bride's accessories, Jessica McClintock (clutch); Swedish Hasbeens (shoes)
Engagement ring, Brilliance
Hair and makeup, Beauty and the Blush Artistry
Flower girl dresses, Fattie Pie
Groom's suit and menswear, Jos. A. Bank
Groom's bowtie, Mrs Bow Tie
Lighting, It's Your Night
Transportation, Cowtown Bus Charters
Streamer installation, The Color Condition
Welcome poster, Riise Marketing
Photobooth, 3eighty Booths
Animal cake topper, Melabo Wed

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