A CONGREGATION launched a major search during a marriage ceremony after the best man lost the bride's wedding ring.
The marriage of Elizabeth Gray, 29, and Lewis Aubrey, 31, at St John's Church in Redhill, had to be put on hold shortly after it started when Mr Aubrey's brother Matt dropped the ring – and it disappeared.
Flower displays were pulled apart, carpets lifted, floor grates removed and the best man's sporran was searched, but the ring was nowhere to be found.
"Everything had been going so well," said bridesmaid Kelly Love, 31, of Keats Avenue, Redhill.
"The bride and groom were there on time, the weather was lovely, the church was beautiful.
"The vicar had just started the service.
"All of a sudden I heard this 'pling'. I think the whole church heard it.
"The vicar turned to Matt and said 'was that the ring?'. Matt said 'yes'. At that point all eyes turned to the floor. We thought we would find it quickly and get on with the ceremony.
"But the more time that went by the more people came from the congregation to look. There were ushers lying on the floor, people lifting up carpets. We had all the grates in the church floor up. By the end we probably had about 20 people looking."
After about 10 minutes, Miss Gray's mum offered the use of her ring so the couple, from Redhill, could be married.
Guests not required for post-service photographs continued the hunt, but still found no sign of the missing band.
However, Reverend Nicholas Calver later returned to the church to search for another two hours, this time armed with a spade.
"I couldn't believe something could disappear so thoroughly," he said.
"I was determined to find it and went back to the church in the evening. In the end, there was a crack between the step and the raised dais. I thought it must be down there so I levered them apart with a spade to make the gap bigger, shone a torch down and saw the ring. I was delighted to find it.
"I took it down to the reception and the best man was standing outside. I poked him in the ribs and said 'you owe me a drink'. He was overjoyed.
"We went in and the groom put the ring on the bride's finger and I did the little bit about 'take this ring' in front of everybody."
The guests were gearing up for the speeches at the reception in The Cambridge Hotel in Horley, when the new Mrs Aubrey, who works at Gatwick Airport, finally received her ring from her train driver husband.
"All of a sudden Matt bowled in looking really proud of himself, holding a ring in the air with the vicar behind him," said Mrs Love.
"I have never heard a noise like it. The whole place erupted. The vicar was like a hero."