CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Before the strong-man act and the trick riding, a clown and a dance captain will walk the tightrope of love.

Max Richardson, a clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Marissa Young, in charge of the circus' 15 dancers, will take the center ring Saturday for their wedding.

''It's something different, something to remember,'' Young said. ''I'll be riding an elephant instead of walking down the aisle.''

The ringmaster will sing and serve as emcee. Four clowns and four dancers will be in the couple's wedding party and a clown will escort family members into the ring.

A justice of the peace will perform the ceremony and the newlyweds will be carried out on a bandwagon, said Ringling spokeswoman Amy Gorton. The wedding will be 45 minutes before showtime at Charleston Civic Center, so spectators who come early can watch.

Young, 21, and Richardson, 23, plan a church wedding Monday.

Richardson had a little bit of the clown in him when he proposed March 18, 1993.

''He made me go on a wild goose chase,'' Young said. ''He said he would give me a surprise but I might not like it. I had to wake people up to get clues. There was a clue under a slice of cheese that said to go to my room, close my eyes and tell him to give me a surprise.

''He gave me an engagement ring,'' she said. ''I was so excited I wanted to run and shout at everybody.''