Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade couple take rappel plunge after saying ‘I do’

Rebecca Shackelford and Carlos Gato said “I do,” then they said, “Let’s jump.”

The Miami-Dade couple wed Friday evening on the 19th-floor pool deck of the JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami.

They smooched, waved to their guests, exchanged bites of their beloved bacon — and plunged off the side of the building, rappelling about 200 feet to Biscayne Boulevard Way. Their guests met them at the bottom for cake and bubbly.

“I had no idea this is how she would want to get married,” said Joyce Barnes, the bride’s grandmother. “Especially jumping off a building — usually that happens much later in a marriage.”

The bride wore a lovely off-white gown, and her purple heels matched her groom’s bowtie. She changed into blue hiking sneakers before their jump; both sported hard hats and bright-yellow harnesses.

The adrenaline-fueled wedding was part of a fundraiser called Over the Edge for Miami Children’s Initiative, a nonprofit that helps kids in Liberty City. Before the couple rappelled, several local TV personalities and officials, including Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, geared up and walk-dangled down the hotel.

That the new Mr. and Mrs. Gato chose such a public stunt for their nuptials came as little surprise to those who are close to the couple.

“Calling them adventurous would be an understatement,” said her father, Fred Shackelford of Daytona Beach. “Every time I see her, it’s like, ‘Where’s that bruise from?’ And it’s, ‘Oh, that’s from mountain biking’ or ‘That’s from street surfing.’ ”

To propose in June, Carlos Gato choreographed a flash mob at Ikea in Sunrise, where the couple met almost three years ago.

The spectacle took eight months of planning and involved dozens of the couple’s friends and store employees, who danced and sang to Bruno Mars’ Marry You as Gato emerged with a ring to pop the question.

They were thinking about getting hitched in 2014, until they saw Miami Children’s Initiative’s Facebook contest this summer, looking for a couple willing to marry and jump. They beat out two other couples, earning them the high-rise wedding as well as the gown, cake and a night in the Marriott.

The groom, 30, and bride, 24, are both paramedics, although they didn’t realize they had that in common until that fateful Ikea shopping trip. They ended up eating lunch together in the store’s cafeteria (separate checks) then explored the aisles, “pretending to be an old married couple, shopping for furniture,” said Miami radio-TV personality Kelly Craig, who officiated the wedding.

Instead of a honeymoon, the Gatos are saving up for a future trip to Europe, according to Lauren Levy, one of the bride’s longtime friends.

“I’m so happy they decided to have a fun wedding like this, instead of blowing all of their money on a big party,” Levy said as her friend got fitted in safety harnesses. “But that’s her — always unconventional.”