Couple marry among 20,000 animals with rings made from London Zoo itself

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Matt Robbins and Alison Russell got married at London Zoo with a pair of special rings (PA) (Zoological Society of London)
Matt Robbins and Alison Russell got married at London Zoo with a pair of special rings (PA) (Zoological Society of London)

A pair of lovebirds tied the knot at London Zoo with the help of two rings made from one of the attraction’s historic structures.

Once their favourite date spot, animal lovers Matt Robbins, 39, and Alison Russell, 36, from Romford Essex hoped to marry at the zoo in October 2020, but were forced to delay the wedding due to pandemic restrictions.

After staff heard of their rearranged plans, they repurposed aluminium from the Grade II-listed Snowdon Aviary to make two rings for the pair.

The rings the pair exchanged were made from the zoo’s own materials (Zoological Society of London)
The rings the pair exchanged were made from the zoo’s own materials (Zoological Society of London)

“It seemed fitting for these two lovebirds,” said chief operating officer at ZSL London Zoo, Kathryn England.

“Legend has it that Lord Snowdon, when designing the Aviary in the 1960s, placed a secret tribute to his wife, Princess Margaret into the design – when viewed from above, the walkway formed the shape of an ‘M’ for ‘Margaret’.

“It’s been a romantic spot for generations of couples ever since.”

The aviary itself is being transformed into a new eastern black and white colobus monkey enclosure – more than 3,800 square metres of mesh was removed in the process, with some passed on to the zoo’s workshop where designers created the rings for the pair.

The demeshing of the Snowdon Aviary at London Zoo (Zoological Society of London)
The demeshing of the Snowdon Aviary at London Zoo (Zoological Society of London)

The newlyweds often visited the historic aviary over the course of their five-year relationship before deciding to make it their wedding venue.

“Whenever we visited London Zoo we’d see the aviary rising high above the treeline as we approached the entrance,” Mr Robbins said of the building.

“It always felt like it marked our arrival to what is such a special place for us.

“As animal lovers, we’ve always been supporters of the incredible wildlife conservation taking place at the Zoo and we couldn’t think of anywhere more fitting to celebrate our marriage.”

Matt Robbins (right), 39, and Alison Russell, 36, from Romford, Essex got married at London Zoo with a pair of special rings (Zoological Society of London)
Matt Robbins (right), 39, and Alison Russell, 36, from Romford, Essex got married at London Zoo with a pair of special rings (Zoological Society of London)

The structure is due to reopen in the summer of 2022 as Monkey Valley, helped by a grant of more than £4 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, in addition to support from keen zoo-goers.

“We can’t wait to visit the new Monkey Valley when it opens, especially knowing that we’re carrying a part of its history with us,” MS Russell added.

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