Love was literally in the air
ON A wing and a prayer takes on a whole new meaning when you swap your heels for ballet flats and strap on a harness to get hitched.
But Coralee Russell (nee Prior) fell for her husband once – at their high school reunion 35 years after they first met – and there was no way she was doing it again on her wedding day.
So she strapped on a safety harness and stepped out onto the wing of a Boeing 747 to say “I do” to the man in her life, Warwick’s Geordie Russell.
Now what possesses a couple to complete their nuptials at such a dizzying height?
“My sister and I own a motel in Longreach and tourism has been great for us,” Mrs Russell said.
“So when Geordie and I got engaged, we planned to have the wedding at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach.
“I guess stepping it up a notch and making history by having the actual ceremony on the wing above our guests was something of a last-minute move.”
In truth it came as a complete surprise to her bridesmaids, when it was mooted by the love-struck couple just moments out from the wedding.
But knowing too well love was in the air, they hitched up their knee-length frocks to accommodate the compulsory, but not completely comfortable, five-point safety harnesses.
They also took the added precaution of swapping their heels for more practical flat wing wear.
“It was a fun thing really,” Mrs Russell said.
“Tourism is such an important business for Longreach, so we were happy to do anything to promote it.”
How this high-flying couple came to be hitched at a great height is plain – as opposed to plane – surprising.
Back in 1974 they were Year 10 school mates at Warwick High.
They knew each other from sharing classrooms, rather than being sweethearts.
Fast forward some 35 years and both returned for their class reunion in March last year.
“Geordie says the moment he saw me he felt something special but I might have taken a little longer,” Mrs Russell said.
“On the Saturday night he asked for my number. On Monday he called and we’ve spoken every day since.”
Last September her husband-to-be gave up his Warwick job as workshop foreman with Peter Stewart Ford for a move to the state’s North West.
“We were in love and we just decided to do it,” Mrs Russell said.
“We were going to keep commuting to see each other and then we just decided life is too short.”
Hence the exchange of wedding vows some 19.4m above ground on the wing of one of the world’s largest commercial planes.
And standing beside them – securely anchored to the aircraft – was Mrs Russell’s sister Annette and long-time school friend Narelle Smith, and her husband’s close friends Don Warrener and Peter (Charlie) Morrison.
“I think we are really blessed to have found each other,” Mrs Russell said.
And the newlyweds, who tied the knot just a month ago, have yet to come down from the cloudy heights of marital bliss.
“Geordie was a pretty wild boy in high school and I think I was a bit of a goody-goody but these days we work well together,” Mrs Russell said.
“And, yes, I am very grateful I decided to come back for last year’s school reunion.”