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Matt Cawley
Matt Cawley attached this $9,000 family heirloom ring to a sand dollar as part of a surprise proposal to Stacey Scanlon — but it came loose and fell among the rocks on a jetty. A lifeguard suspects the ring has washed out to sea.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 8/12/2010 6:24:46 PM ET 2010-08-12T22:24:46

A romantic engagement surprise turned into a moment of horror for a prospective Massachusetts bride Monday when she fumbled a $9,000 diamond engagement ring — and it disappeared down a rocky jetty below her.

Matt Cawley, a 31-year-old restaurateur from Deadham, Mass., was trying to make his proposal to 30-year-old schoolteacher Stacey Scanlon a memorable one. So he tied the family heirloom to an oversize sand dollar and placed it on the jetty at Bass River Beach in Yarmouth.

Cawley then took Scanlon for a stroll along the jetty, where he directed her attention to the sand dollar. “I had no idea whatsoever; we were just going on a morning walk,” Scanlon told TODAYshow.com.

When she saw the sand dollar, Scanlon said, “I went to pick it up and I heard something fall; I thought it was a rock. It was a rock! Just not exactly the rock I was expecting.”

Detached from the sand dollar, the ring tumbled down through the rocks. “It was a scene out of a movie: I can’t even describe it — it was unbelievable,” Cawley told TODAYshow.com. “I said as it was falling: ‘Stacey! The ring!’ And she said: ‘Wait — what ring?’ ”

“It was the worst feeling in the world,” Cawley added. “I won’t put it up there with a death, but I was in shock.”

No stone unturned
Little wonder: Not only was the diamond valuable — it was a gift from a family friend. After it fell, a thorough search began. Lifeguards, passersby, and even a retiree with a metal detector pitched in. One man even cut his head open while helping out and had to be bandaged by lifeguards.

“For four hours we all just worked and worked and worked, moving 200- to 300-pound boulders,” Cawley told TODAYshow.com. “It really shows you how nice people truly are; perfect strangers just helping out.”

But it was all for naught. Empty cans, fishing lines and lures were found wedged between the rocks, but no engagement ring. Lifeguard Matt Peterson told the Cape Cod Times that the ring may have washed out to sea.

“The tide does come up, and we tried to get it before the high tide reached where we were looking,” Peterson said. “As soon as the water came up, we had to stop.”

Silver lining
Meanwhile, family members who had secretly gathered to celebrate Cawley’s proposal were wondering what had happened, not knowing of the hours-long search. “This whole romantic thing was supposed to be on the pier, and I ended up asking her in the back of my cousin's Mazda,” Cawley told TODAYshow.com.

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Despite the morning’s traumatic events, Scanlon said yes. “His cousin, back at the house, was so sweet,” she told TODAYshow.com. “She made me a string ring ... It's multicolored, purple and orange. It's one of those braided bracelets.”

But though there was no diamond, there was a silver lining: Unbeknownst to Cawley, just three days before the ill-fated proposal, his mother had had the ring insured. “I swore my mom knew,” Cawley told TODAYshow.com. “She insured the ring knowing something could happen. These things only happen to me.”

Now a jeweler is working on making a replica of the lost ring, with a replacement diamond, and the couple are thinking about a wedding in Cape Cod, hopefully in August. But, Scanlon emphasized, “definitely not near a jetty.”

Steve Veres contributed reporting to this story.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Explainer: Brides and doom: 13 wedding disasters

  • Image: Wedding disasters
    Getty Images stock

    Many women spend their entire lifetimes dreaming about their wedding day.


    But could anyone ever imagine that bridal bliss could turn this sour?


    We’ve found tales of women vomiting onto their wedding dresses, being catapulted out of horse-drawn carriages, swallowing their engagement rings and tangling with the police.


    One bride even got hauled off to jail and had her mug shot taken — in her wedding gown.


    Here are 13 — that’s right, 13 — eye-popping tales of nuptials gone awry.

  • Now that's a mug shot

    Image: Adrienne Samen
    South Windsor Police Services
    And yes, the person in the mug shot is wearing a wedding dress. Meet Adrienne Samen, a Connecticut bride who had quite the wedding night back in August 2003.

    Several things went wrong:

    First, she apparently got intoxicated.

    Second, she yelled obscenities and threw cake and vases at her new husband.

    Third, witnesses told police that she “flipped out” when the bar at the reception stopped serving drinks for the night.

    And then there was the obscene gesture at the police, the attempt to bite an officer who put her in the back of a police car and the moment when she kicked a police-car window out of its track.

    Charges: breach of peace and criminal mischief. Fine: $90.

  • Get me off this island!

    Image: Beach in Santo Domingo
    Erika Santelices  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Like many couples, British citizens Simmone Edwards and Samuel Hibberd thought a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic would be romantic and memorable.

    But because the couple had been given incorrect information about the Dominican Republic’s wedding waiting period, they had no choice but to wed three days earlier than planned without any of their guests present.

    Then on the day of the reception, the bride, groom and many guests got food poisoning.

    “I was so ill ... that I vomited outside the restaurant where we were eating three times and almost fainted,” the bride told the UK’s Evening Post. “It completely ruined what was supposed to be the best day of my life.”

  • Horse ran roughshod over her big day

    Image: Wedding carriage
    Featurepics
    Sophie Clarke, 29, of England spent three years planning a fairy-tale wedding that included a $3,000 dress, handmade invitations and a horse-drawn carriage.

    But during the carriage ride to the church with her father, Clarke almost lost her life.

    The horse got spooked and bolted, throwing the driver and his assistant from the carriage and leaving no one at the helm.

    As the horse sped into the pathway of an oncoming truck, Clarke’s father pushed his daughter from the carriage and jumped out after her. Clarke was left badly injured with a concussion and covered with blood.

    In January, six weeks after the accident, she eventually married her fiancé in a much more intimate ceremony.

    “I had a life-changing experience,” Clarke told the Daily Mail. “It put into perspective for me that all of the fancy things, the posh invites and parties are not important. The only important thing is becoming Karl’s wife.”

  • Jilted bride throws party for retirees

    Talk about a Halloween nightmare – initially, at least!

    Teanne Harris' fiance stood her up shortly before their planned Halloween-themed wedding on Oct. 31, 2009. Harris, 34, of Illinois, tried to get her deposit money back from the reception hall, but she was denied because she made her request too close to the date of the event.

    Crushed, she sat with her mom in the reception hall parking lot — and then she noticed the Asbury Court Retirement Community across the street. In a matter of minutes, an idea was hatched: Instead of hosting a wedding reception, Harris would throw a Happy Halloween party for hundreds of senior citizens.

    The party was a huge hit. Harris also donated her bridal bouquet to the retirement community's chapel, and she made her way to Hawaii honeymoon destination on her own.

    "I say good for her," Mary Eichenfeld, the retirement community's resident services director, told the New York Daily News. "I hope she finds a nice guy who deserves her."

  • Gimme those conga drums

    Image: Fabiana Reyes, left, Elmo Jesus Fernandez
    Port Chester Police Department
    Fabiana Reyes, left, Elmo Jesus Fernandez.
    Fabiana Reyes and her husband, Elmo Jesus Fernandez, thought it would be nice to renew their wedding vows last year — in a church this time, since they didn’t have a church wedding the first time around.

    Everything went fine until the reception, when the band stopped playing to give the DJ a turn.

    Reyes got so frustrated that she “knocked over and damaged the band’s conga drums valued at $600, a speaker valued at $350 and other equipment,” according to the New York newspaper The Journal News.

    A fight ultimately erupted between police and Reyes, her husband and their 21-year-old daughter. All three family members went to jail.

  • You may not touch the bride

    Sure, the bride and the groom had endured their share of troubles. They had even been married once before, and she had once gotten an order of protection against him. But should that really stand in the way of their second wedding?

    Well, when the pair tried to tie the knot in New York last summer, groom Timothy Cole was arrested and charged with first-degree criminal contempt for being too close to the bride.

    The arrest probably wouldn’t have happened if Cole hadn’t quarreled with one of the wedding guests.

    When police arrived, they recognized Cole from his previous arrests and his past clashes with the bride.

  • Want my dress? I'm not using it!

    Image: Richard Jefferson
    D. Clarke Evans  /  NBAE via Getty Images file
    It made national headlines in July 2009 when NBA star Richard Jefferson dumped former Nets team dancer Kesha Nichols just five days before their $500,000 wedding. (And he broke up with her via e-mail!)

    Nichols was devastated — but since the high-profile split, she's been bouncing back nicely. She started her own dance troupe and has been filmed for a reality TV show.

    And she decided to make quite a production out of offloading the $10,000 wedding dress that she never got to wear. Her plan? To give the dress away to an essay writer who could explain how she "danced through life" and overcame adversity.

    "I'm sure I could have sold the dress for a good amount of money," Nichols told the New York Post. "But I would rather give the dress to someone who would never have the chance to wear a $10,000 couture, one-of-a-kind dress."

  • Massive brawl wrecks lesbian wedding

    When firefighter Vanessa Mayo married her partner, Gail Hines, at a civil partnership ceremony in England in 2006, she never imagined that the reception would turn so violent.

    A male relative made a comment that got the people around him all riled up, and within minutes, about 20 guests were embroiled in a full-on melee.

    Mayo wound up with a black eye, and the reception abruptly came to a halt.

    She left sobbing as she headed off for her honeymoon in Turkey.

  • One of Hollywood's shortest marriages

    Image: Eddie Murphy, Tracey Edmonds
    Kevin Winter  /  Getty Images
    Eddie Murphy and Tracey Edmonds had a lavish — and non-legally binding — wedding ceremony on a French Polynesian island on New Year’s Day in 2008.

    The ceremony, part of a multiday occasion rumored to have cost $500,000, happened at sunset and was the stuff of fairy tales.

    A mere 14 days later, the couple split. Rocky relations between Edmonds and Murphy’s mom were said to have contributed to the speedy breakup.

  • Gulp! I swallowed the ring!

    Image: X-ray showing wedding ring
    TODAY
    Reed Harris put a lot of thought into how he would pop the question to the love of his life, Kaitlin Whipple.

    In the end, he decided to hide the engagement ring in a Wendy’s Frosty milk shake and let her discover it.

    She reached the end of the milk shake, and — uh-oh. No ring. It took an X-ray to make Whipple believe Harris’ urgent story about what had happened.

    Once Whipple was in possession of the X-ray image of the ring inside her, Harris dropped to one knee and proposed.

    Yes, Whipple did manage to retrieve the ring, clean it and wear it.

    Video: Milk shake proposal gone awry
  • What would you do if you learned your fiance was cheating?

    Image: Kyle Paxman, right, and Patricia Carbee
    Caleb Kenna
    Kyle Paxman, right, and her mom Patricia Carbee.
    How about if you received news your fiance was cheating mere weeks before your elaborately planned wedding day?

    Here’s what Kyle Paxman decided to do: She went ahead with her Vermont reception anyway and turned it into a charity benefit to honor strong women.

    Money raised from the 2006 event went to the Vermont Children’s Aid Society and CARE USA.

    Yay, Kyle!

  • A proposal to remember

    Image: Don Walling, Gina Pellicani
    TODAY
    Don Walling wanted to propose to Gina Pellicani in one of the most memorable settings imaginable: on the pedestrian walkway above the Brooklyn Bridge, with a sweeping view of New York before them.

    Walling took Pellicani to the perfect spot earlier this year for the big moment.

    “I got on a knee, said, ‘Will you marry me?’ opened the box, and it flew out,” Walling told TODAY.

    He watched the ring fall to the roadway below, and then he acted fast by climbing down the bridge’s superstructure.

    This sparked a suicide-jumper alert, but he managed to make police believe that he had no plans to jump.

    After all that, he did retrieve the ring.

    Video: Fiance: Ring ‘fell out of the box’ on bridge
  • Those stone crabs can really get you

    Mary McPhail of Ohio has one of those legendary wedding-day horror stories.

    "We had our rehearsal dinner at the restaurant where my husband and I met, and as a surprise gift, they gave us this big, beautiful tray of stone crabs,” McPhail told LifeWire. “The next day, I had a very upset stomach but just attributed it to nerves.”

    It turned out that she had food poisoning. At some point during her lengthy ceremony, she clamped her hand over her mouth. The priest quickly wound things up and sent the couple back up the aisle.

    “We got to the back of the church and I just lost it all over my gown,” McPhail recalled. “It was a really small wedding, and everybody knew. I was mortified, but it was the highlight of everyone’s day.”

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