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Couple seals wedding vows with forest leaps in Shutesbury

With the help of a harness and tether, Corinne Shaw, above, completes her wedding ceremony by jumping into the waiting arms of her betrothed, Sarah “Charlie” Fahey, from a 35-foot-tall tree stripped bare at the Morse Hill Outdoor Education Center in Shutesbury on Sunday. Shaw, whose mother, Victoria Shaw, is the program director at the center, is originally from Leverett and Fahey is originally from Ireland. They now call Hadley their home.
(Gazette/Kevin Gutting)

With the help of a harness and tether, Corinne Shaw, above, completes her wedding ceremony by jumping into the waiting arms of her betrothed, Sarah “Charlie” Fahey, from a 35-foot-tall tree stripped bare at the Morse Hill Outdoor Education Center in Shutesbury on Sunday. Shaw, whose mother, Victoria Shaw, is the program director at the center, is originally from Leverett and Fahey is originally from Ireland. They now call Hadley their home. (Gazette/Kevin Gutting)

SHUTESBURY — The highlight of the Fahey-Shaw wedding Sunday was, of course, the taking of the vows and the first kiss of a married couple.

A close runner-up would be what happened about an hour and a half later, when Corinne Shaw climbed to the top of a 40-foot pole in the forest, stood upright and leaped into the waiting arms of her bride, Sarah “Charlie” Fahey.

The descent was more butterfly landing than swan dive. Shaw was strapped into the rigging of a high ropes course.

But the power of the metaphor was not lost on any of the almost 60 guests who ventured into the woods to witness the spectacle.

“I love the symbolism and I love the idea of her flying through the air and them starting a new life together,” said Hollis Chatelain, Shaw’s aunt. “It was very cool.”

Shaw said the significance of taking what she calls the “leap of faith” at the high ropes course at the Morse Hill Outdoor Education Center near Lake Wyola, which her mother, Victoria Shaw, helped found 15 years ago, was all about commitment and faith.

“In this world of divorce and instant gratification, creating a relationship and a marriage is having a lot of faith and really committing to it and committing to do the work,” said Shaw. “It can be scary and it might be daunting, but if you and your partner commit, you will always be there to catch each other during the hard moments.”

Fahey, who took the “leap of faith” after Shaw, said afterward that for her it symbolized “trust.” It was also a personal achievement because she had to overcome her fear of heights to climb up that high. “I was scared, but when I got to the top it was great,” she said.

Shaw, 32, grew up in Leverett and is a 2000 alumna of Amherst Regional High School. She now lives on Aqua Vitae Road in Hadley, where she runs the “Free to Be” home daycare for 10 children. Fahey, 41, moved to the Pioneer Valley from Boston two years ago so she could be with Shaw. She is originally from Ireland and works as a nanny.

“We both are really into child care and changing the future through youth and teaching love and compassion through nature-based education,” said Shaw.

Boe Morgan, president of the 107-strong Moving Violations Motorcycle Club, officiated at the ceremony. It is the oldest motorcycle club for women in New England and, she said, “we are Charlie’s Boston family.” Fahey has been riding with the club for four years.

During the ceremony, Fahey wore black-and-white plaid sneakers with slacks and a vest over her shirt and tie, which was also plaid and matched her sneakers. Her short dark hair was combed into a bleached racing stripe down the middle of her head.

Shaw had on a flowing white wedding dress. The backless garment revealed the tattoo of a tree growing toward her neck and over one shoulder. “It is the ‘tree of me,’” she said and it is a work in progress.

During the ceremony Shaw told Fahey as part of her vows, “I feel so privileged that you choose to spend your life with me, I love who you are and that we share morals and ideals about the world. In my life I have struggled, and maintaining my mental well-being has been a huge priority. You support me through my dark times and by doing so lessen them. My life shines so much brighter because of you.”

For Shaw, taking her guests out to the high ropes course was very special. “This is my happy place and to combine it with my wedding is priceless,” she said. “My mom, ever since I was little, has run an adventure camp and that’s how I grew up. My mom is an inspiration and taught me about empowerment, strength and commitment.”

Shaw was not expecting Fahey to also leap. “I was floored and surprised that my wife did it, too,” she said. “It sums up our relationship. Always stepping up. Always trusting each other and being committed to it.”

Fahey’s mother, Mary Margaret Vallence, came from Ireland to attend the wedding. She lives in Knocklong, County Limerick.

The leap of faith, she said, was “lovely … it was different and it made the wedding more interesting.”

One of the guests, Amanda Tyler who came from Taunton, said the dual leaps of faith were “a great bonding experience.”

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