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Real Life

REAL LIFE: Meet the couple who jumped out of a plane on their wedding day

Free-falling from 14,000ft high with her groom was magic for this bride.

By Laura Trieste

Vanessa Salfus, 43, from Port Macquarie, NSW, shares her story with Take 5's Laura Trieste:

My heart raced as I locked eyes with the man standing across the room.
I hadn't intended to go out that night, but my mate had texted me.
I'm playing trivia, wanna come? she asked.
I ended up agreeing.
As soon as I walked into the pub and spotted Gav, it felt like I'd just seen the most handsome man in the world.
Without even saying a word to each other, I just knew I'd found my soulmate.It was like I'd heard someone whisper in my ear: "There he is. He's the one."
We met after trivia when our friends came together to play pool.
Talking to Gav felt so natural, like we'd known each other for years.
Me and Gav connected instantly. (Image: supplied)
We both had kids, so I wanted to get to know him before we rushed into anything.
But after a few weeks of messaging, we quickly became inseparable.
I was delighted to hear the instant attraction I'd felt that night had been mutual.
"I noticed you straight away," Gav said. "It was like you were glowing."
Being with Gav made me so happy.
We had so much in common.
We both loved riding Harley-Davidsons, playing pool and eating burgers.
I knew we were perfect for each other, especially once I saw how well he and his son bonded with my three daughters.
"I wish I had what you guys have," friends often told us.
Our love for one another was so strong (Image: supplied)
So sure I wanted to spend my life with Gav that I bought a ring for him two months after we started dating.
But I held onto it until the timing felt right.
A year later, I organised a getaway to a beach house in Byron Bay for the two of us to celebrate Gav's birthday.
It felt like the perfect time to propose.
The day before his birthday, we had a great time hanging out at the house, playing cards and having a few drinks.
Once I had enough liquid courage, I dropped to my knee and whipped out the ring.
"Gav, will you marry me?" I asked.
"Really? I should be asking you," Gav laughed. "But yes, of course I will."
I was thrilled.And I still had one more surprise.
It was time to try something different (Image: supplied)
"This is for you," I said, handing Gav the book I'd made for him.
It was filled with messages written by our children, who'd all given us their blessings to marry.
We were both overcome with emotion as Gav flipped through the pages.
Gav and I wanted our wedding to be a special day for just the two of us, but we also wanted to celebrate with our loved ones.
So we booked a trip to Santorini, where we'd elope in a beautiful hotel, and planned a party with family and friends back home.
Once we realised how complicated and expensive getting hitched in Greece would be, we decided it'd be easier to marry at a registry first and keep our Santorini wedding as a symbolic ceremony.
After struggling to find an available local registry office for the date we wanted, I tried searching online for options in Byron Bay.
Heidi Robertson's website was the first to pop up.
We had to look closer to home for our wedding (Image: supplied)
She was a celebrant who specialised in 'adventure elopements'.
That gave me an idea.
"Why don't we go skydiving on our wedding day?" I asked Gav.
We'd wanted to skydive together for so long and this seemed like the perfect time to take the leap.
That's what we were doing anyway!
"Let's do it!" Gav replied.
Heidi was all for the idea too and helped us book our elopement on a beautiful beach.
The view from above (Image: supplied)
We rode into Byron Bay wearing jeans, sneakers and t-shirts that said 'Mr Salfus' and 'Mrs Salfus'.
Our best friends, Ange and Trent, came along to be our witnesses.
Ange waited on the beach with Heidi while Gav, Trent and I boarded the plane and prepared to plummet into our ceremony from 14,000ft above.
I'd never skydived before but I knew I'd love it.
"Aren't you nervous?" friends kept asking me beforehand.
"No, I can't wait!" I replied.
A wave of calmness came over me as I watched Gav and Trent leap out of the plane.
Now it was my turn.
I crawled towards the open door with my skydiving instructor and took a deep breath before we launched ourselves into the big blue sky.
It was a small, intimate gathering. Left to right: Gavan, Vanessa, Ange and Trent (Image: supplied)
My whole body was pumping with adrenaline as we floated down towards the beach where everyone was cheering us on.
I was on such a high when we landed that I ran straight to over to kiss my groom before the ceremony had even started.
"That was incredible!" I grinned at Gav.
We held hands as Heidi stood before us.
"You both just jumped out of a perfectly good airplane," she said.
"Now you're embarking on your next adventure together."
The ceremony was short and sweet – just what we wanted – but it was magical.
Hearing Heidi pronounce us as husband and wife was the most exciting part of an already exhilarating day.
We celebrated afterwards with a meal at the same burger place we discovered on the night we got engaged.
It was such a special day (Image: supplied)
Months later, Gav and I were watching Getaway on TV.
The show was doing a Byron Bay special and I instantly recognised the location that flashed on the screen.
"That's the beach where we eloped," I said to Gav.
Our eyes widened after we heard the presenter describe the place as a nudist beach.
"That'd be right!" Gav laughed.Luckily, we hadn't seen any nude people below us as we parachuted down onto the sand that day.
A month before we were due to fly to the Greek Islands, the Australian borders shut because of COVID.
Having to cancel our Santorini and Port Macquarie celebration was disappointing.
We can't wait to reschedule our plans once it's safe to travel again but I feel so lucky that I already got to marry Gav.
Spending my life with him has been the greatest adventure of all.

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