They say true love stands the test of time, and for Sandy and Jim Zahn, who celebrated their 50th anniversary on Dec. 22, that has certainly proven true.
The lovebirds commemorated their golden anniversary by spending the night in the same hotel room where they celebrated their wedding night — and for the same price: $28.13.
“They’re giving us the same room. It’s an executive suite now,” Sandy, of Olympia, Washington, told ABC News of getting to relive her cherished bridal memories 50 years later with the love of her life.
Seattle's Fairmont Olympic Hotel, which just celebrated its own 92nd anniversary, has a unique policy allowing former guests who shared a special occasion at the hotel to return for the original price on their receipt.
“If they have documentation, a receipt or something, and it’s a special occasion, we love to honor this kind of stuff,” Casey Barks, the hotel’s senior marketing and PR manager, told ABC News.
Sandy and Jim, donning their Sunday finest, joined their children and grandchildren for lunch in the iconic Georgian room to reminisce on years past and reflect on their winter wonderland wedding.
“They’re being very nice and honoring us by letting us have lunch in there because they normally only do tea,” said Sandy.
“It’s really, really neat that the hotel would even consider honoring their guests this way,” said Jim. “I don’t think 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.”
Their oldest daughter, Cheryl Kotschevar, said being able to celebrate this momentous occasion with her parents was “amazing.”
“So many times we take our parents for granted and even relationships in general,” she said. “Unfortunately you don’t realize how special things are until you have some pinnacle moments. I feel really privileged, blessed, that we’re even in a solid family still. And the traditions they have set for us are invaluable. You can’t take all your stuff with you in life, but you can leave a legacy for your family -- what it means to show love and self-sacrifice.”
The Zahns married on Dec. 22, 1966, despite Jim getting his draft notice the very same day.
“We didn’t know that until the morning of our wedding when I got the letter,” Jim, 75, 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,” he added. “But it’s a tough situation to be married and go right into the service.”
The wedding, which had been planned in just four short weeks after Jim’s second proposal, still went off without a hitch.
“He had asked four years earlier when I was 18,” said Sandy, now 72. “I told him ‘yes,’ but I that I had to finish my education first.”
“I proposed over the phone,” Jim said of his second attempt. “She was in Hawaii teaching and I was in Seattle finishing my architecture degree at the University of Washington.”
Being so far away, Sandy had her mother plan the entire last-minute wedding at their church.
“I bought the dress in Hawaii and then my mom did everything else,” she recalled. “My mom sewed the bridesmaid’s dresses and white fur muffs.”
The lovebirds had three children, but that, too, wasn’t without its hiccups.
Jim had a successful career in the Army, and was eventually offered a prestigious position he couldn’t refuse. Although, the job meant spending lengthy amounts of time away from Sandy.
“I was selected to go into the military intelligence group,” he explained. “There was only two of us out of our companies there and I was selected by the Pentagon to work for them.”
Jim said his position as a military intelligence officer overseas prevented him from telling Sandy where he was at times. Sandy gave birth to their first child while he was in Europe.
“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,” Sandy said. “I couldn’t reach him, but I didn’t feel too worried. It was just the way it was. I wasn’t supposed to know where he was. He could only call occasionally.”
After his time in the service, Jim reunited with his family and they settled in Hawaii for 17 years. The Zahns had two more children together.
Their secret to success
“Communicate,” Sandy said without pause. “Divorce wasn’t in the vocabulary back then. Love each other and communicate.”
Jim said their parents and their 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,” he said.
The Zahns said they look forward to sharing many more adventures together.
“Our adventures, traveling and meeting so many people all over the world is so special,” said Sandy. “Travel and expand your horizons. It’s the best thing you can do.”
And on their 50th anniversary, the happy couple planned to relax and enjoy their hotel getaway.
“We had a big evening wedding and late reception,” Jim recalled. “We checked in really late. This time though, we’re going to stay overnight and enjoy the morning. We’ll enjoy the hotel more this time.”