Gettin' Hitched

By Nicole Reino

April 18, 2008 5 min read


Imaginations trigger concept for Wild West wedding

By Nicole Reino

Copley News Service

The phrase "shotgun wedding" had literal meaning for Patricia Ryan and Rich McLaughlin.

Just as the San Diego couple's ceremony got under way, Rich's son, Adam McLaughlin, verbally objected to the marriage, then proceeded to be disruptive.

What choice did the justice of the peace have other than to pull out a gun and shoot him?

OK, maybe he could have just politely asked Adam to be quiet, but that would have ruined the bit.

This scene, after all, was just an act, staged to resemble something straight out of an old Western. In fact, the entire wedding followed suit.

Western re-enactors dressed as Pinkerton detectives and bounty hunters and 105 guests dressed in Old West attire populated this couple's atypical wedding, which was held inAugust in the remote city of Ely, Nev.

"We called it the 'destination to nowhere wedding,'" Rich said.

Ely is approximately 250 miles north of Las Vegas and approximately 250 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. It has a population of about 7,000, according to Evie Pinneo, executive director of the White Pine Chamber of Commerce.

While it's small and out of the way, it does have something that Rich, 56, and Patricia, 53, found particularly intriguing: a 100-year-old steam engine.

"I'm just a train nut," said Rich, the director of strategic programs at Cubic Applications and vice president of the Train Riders Association of California. "Being on a steam engine that's blowing its whistle - it's orgasmic."

Patricia, who also works at Cubic Applications, has come to love trains as well. She and Rich have taken multiple vacations via train since meeting in 1995, and Rich proposed to her on one.

Having a wedding celebration aboard a steam train was an obvious choice for these two.

The couple's first step was getting permission from Nevada Northern Railway to charter a train, and making sure guests would have a place to stay. As it turned out, Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall, an 80-year-old fixture in downtown Ely, was able to accommodate everyone. Nevada Northern Railway told Rich and Patricia about the re-enactors.

"We thought, 'If we're going to do a shotgun wedding, let's do a Wild West theme,'" Rich said.

The theme began with the idea of having everyone in attendance dress up. From there, the couple began mapping out the plot.

"I'm sitting at the computer," Patricia said, "and all of a sudden I say to myself, 'Wanted posters - wanted for marriage. The bounty hunters will come onto the train with the wanted posters and they'll be looking for Rich.'"

From that, the entire plot was built.

Guests arrived at the train station's freight barn the afternoon of Aug. 10 for a pre-ceremony reception. At around 6:30 p.m., the steam engine pulled into the barn and everyone but Patricia got on board.

As the train began to move, the bounty hunters jumped aboard with the "Wanted" posters, found Rich, put him into irons and marched him through the train.

All the while the guests were wondering what in the world was going on. While they were told the wedding would have a Wild West theme, they were not informed of the extensive plot.

About 10 minutes into the ride, the train stopped next to a platform on which the wedding party, justice of the peace and Patricia stood. Patricia gave the bounty hunters their reward for finding Rich and the ceremony began.

No sooner than it commenced, Rich's son Adam performed his memorized objection.

"He said he didn't want Patricia to dilute the bloodline," Rich said of Adam's speech.

When the justice of the peace had heard enough, he pulled the trigger and Adam lay there "dead" for the rest of the ceremony, which concluded with the conductor blowing the steam engine's whistle and the re-enactors firing their guns in the air.

The newly married couple boarded the train and the three-hour ride continued. Guests enjoyed food, beer, wine and, of course, the train's ability to make them feel as though they had been whisked back in time.

"My friend said, 'You had a Wild West wedding, a lot of saloon girls, a lot to drink, a lot of guns and there were no fights - it was a success,'" Rich said.

There were no fights - just a "shooting."


Interested in having a destination Wild West wedding like Rich and Patricia's Contact:

Nevada Northern Railway: 866-407-8326 or

Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall: 888-406-3055 or

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