Saving the day: Local diver retrieves wedding ring dropped in Tahoe during ceremony

Laney Griffo


The couple could see through the pier where their ring landed under water, but it was not there the following morning. Provided

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A wedding day is already an emotional day, but for Marlee and Andrew Kent, their special day took on extra emotion when a wedding ring was dropped into Lake Tahoe.

The Kent’s tied the knot on Friday, March 12, on the pier at Sugar Pine Beach, five years to the day from when they first started dating.

The couple, who live in Vancouver, Wash., travel to Lake Tahoe every summer.

“[Sugar Pine] is our favorite beach, we love jumping off the pier,” Marlee Kent said.

It was just Marlee and Andrew, a photographer and the minister on a cold but beautiful, clear day.

The ceremony started and when it came time to exchange vows, Andrew pulled out the ring box. He opened it and the ring came tumbling out, fell through a crack in the pier and into the lake. Marlee said they could see the ring sitting on a rock in the water.

Andrew said his first thought was that he could jump in and get it. Their minister, local resident Sharon Rusk, told him the lake was too cold and convinced him not too.

So, the couple both stood up and moved on with the ceremony. Rusk said that of the many years she’s been doing weddings, she’s never seen anything like this.

“I had just gone over a part of the ceremony about how marriages can be met with challenges,” Rusk said. “Nobody freaked out, when we started back on the ceremony, I brought up the line about challenges again.”

Andrew said that while it was upsetting, it was still a joyous moment.

“It’s just a thing and there was a reasonable chance we could get it back,” Andrew said.

Marlee had a ring on her other hand that they used as a placeholder. They finished with the ceremony and went to dinner at Riva Grille.

That evening, the couple, who had heard about the efforts of Clean Up the Lake, went on to the Facebook group Tahoe Scuba Diving and posted a cry for help to get their ring back.

“We got an overwhelmingly high response,” said Marlee.

The group’s founder, Phill Abernathy, said he could help them the next morning.

When they arrived the next day, Marlee said she could no longer see the ring in the water and was panicked. Rusk had drawn a heart on the pier above where the ring had landed.

Abernathy said he didn’t think the ring would’ve moved too far away and with the heart, he had a general idea of where to look.

He started by moving smaller rocks but eventually got to a large boulder. He found a rusty pipe to wedge the boulder out of the way. He looked in a crack and saw a crawdad guarding the ring. He used a nail to shift the crawdad and hook the ring and navigate up through the rocks.

“I came out of the water and said I had another question,” Abernathy said. “I asked, ‘Is this what your ring looks like?’ and presented them the ring.”

Phill Abernathy presenting the couple with the wedding ring he retrieved in Lake Tahoe.

Abernathy said they were clearly excited.

“He saved the day, he saved the whole weekend,” said Marlee.

Both Kent’s couldn’t say enough about how nice and helpful Abernathy had been.

“Whether you’re on the top of the mountain or the bottom of the lake, you feel like you’re on top of the world seeing people’s faces light up,” said Abernathy.

The Kents said the ring was “seasoned” by spending the night in the lake.

“It makes the ring a little more special,” Marlee said.

“We’re happy to have that experience in such a beautiful place,” Andrew added.

To learn more about Rusk, visit

Abernathy said for small item recoveries, to learn to dive or for any other questions, visit

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