Over the years, I have done a lot of weddings—At least 1200 by my count. Someone who has been to that many weddings is bound to see some unusual, unexpected, or funny things. Oh, the stories I could tell! My hope is that the day, the ceremony, the rehearsal, and the reception will go off without a hitch. We all want weddings to be perfect, but perfect weddings rarely happen.
For the past 10 years, most of my weddings have been done in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. That means I have done a lot in Pittsburgh. I think I have done a ceremony at every major Pittsburgh landmark! Heinz Field, PNC Park, The Point, Heinz Chapel, the Strip District, Station Square, the Heinz History Center and on multiple bridges.
One of the most famous spots in Pittsburgh is Mt. Washington. You go through Mt. Washington by way of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. When you emerge from the tunnel, the whole of the City of Champions opens before you as the three rivers of Pittsburgh converge. You cross the Fort Pitt Bridge and enter the downtown sections of Pittsburgh. On top of Mt. Washington are breathtaking views and some of the city’s finest restaurants.
Mt. Washington also has an incline railway. It is a famous train that carries people up the side of the mountain. The cable-train cars are nearly a century old and the incline is one of the few remaining in the country. At the top of the Duquesne Incline is an observation deck that allows you to see the city from a majestic height. It’s a perfect spot for a wedding.
Stacey and Matt asked me back in 2013 to perform their ceremony. Their vision was cool and creative. Though they lived elsewhere in the country, they grew up in the steel city and loved Pittsburgh. They were huge Steeler fans, and they wanted the love of their city to be a part of their wedding day. The bride, groom, and wedding party would ride up the Duquesne incline and take pictures on their journey upwards. I was invited to ride as well. Once the wedding party arrived at the top, everyone got out and arranged themselves on the observation deck. The family and guests took the few seats set up on the deck, and we began the ceremony.
It was perfect, the weather was nice, and the bride and groom were happy. What could possibly go wrong?
The ceremony was moving along great. We talked about the couple, honored the families, shared vows, and came to the moment where the couple would exchange rings. Traditionally, the Best Man or the Ring Bearer holds the rings and gives them to the minister when asked.
However, Stacey and Matt wanted to do something a little more special. They had their mothers hold the rings. Stacey’s mother held Matt’s ring (which was also Stacey’s late father’s ring, so it was very special). Matt’s mother held Stacey’s ring.
I asked for the rings. And almost in slow motion. Stacey’s mother held up her hand and then opened her fingers. Whether it was nerves or excitement… the ring came out of her grip, hit the floor of the observation deck, bounced a few times, and rolled off. Yes, off the observation deck! It fell hundreds of feet below.
A quick-thinking bridesmaid (Stacey’s sister) pulled her wedding band off, handed it to Stacey and the ceremony went on.
Everyone was silent until the moment I pronounced the couple. “Mr. and Mrs. Matthew and Stacey Carroll!”
At this point, everyone jumped up. Mom began to cry, and everyone rushed to the rail to peer over the edge. But the ring was nowhere to be seen.
The search was on.
The manager of the incline took a few of the wedding party into the bowels of the mountain. The Duquesne Incline actually has a few stories of machinery built into the mountain. They scurried down a few flights of maintenance stairs and opened a secret door, known only to the manager.
The groomsmen, with shiny shoes, suspenders, suits, and all began looking for the ring. People at the top were trying to direct those on the hillside to make sure their judgment of distance was correct. After a few minutes, someone uttered the best phrase of the day. A phrase even better than the “I Do” that everyone looks forward to.
“Is it Silver? I found it!” declared the excited groomsman.
The day was saved. Stacey and Matt were married, the ring was found, and the Steel City had another story of victory to add to the record books.