When they got married in 1995, they were thought to be the first married couple with Down syndrome. 22 years later, their love and marriage are unblemished.
Times were different more than two decades ago, and when Maryanne and Tommy Pilling tied the knot back in 1995 they were faced with inevitable skepticism, even criticism. They were thought to be the first ever husband and wife with Down syndrome.
22 years later, they have proven everybody wrong. Now, this inspiring couple has shared their remarkable story with the world.
Maryanne and Tommy dated for 18 months before Tommy proposed. They were married in July 1995 at the St. Mary’s Church in Shoeburyness, Essex, England.
Maryanne’s sister, Lindi Newman, has set up a Facebook page that chronicles the adventures of this unique couple. The page has almost 17,000 followers.
Lindi shared the story of how her sister and Tommy met and fell in love.
“The day Maryanne met Tommy she came home with the biggest smile on her face. She couldn’t stop talking about him and asked if he could come for dinner. They dated for about 18 months and then he approached my mom, Linda, to ask if he could propose. He had a toy ring from a vending machine. My mom immediately said yes but wanted them to do it properly so took him to a jewelry shop to buy a proper ring. She received a lot of flak at the time for letting them get married but she insisted it was their decision.”
And it was a fairytale wedding indeed, and the couple has faced both stigma and encouragement over the years.
“Maryanne had dreamed about a big white wedding since she was a little girl and that’s exactly what she had. It was a beautiful day,” her sister Lindi said. “When they walk down the street holding hands they make a statement but in a good way. Some people stare, they assume people with Down Syndrome and learning difficulties can’t get married.”
“But we also get so many lovely messages from people who are inspired by their story. People worried about their own children or grandchildren with Down Syndrome get hope from Maryanne and Tommy’s story. Hope that their children can also fall in love and live happily ever after.”
Maryanne spoke about her wedding day, 22 years ago.
“My wedding was the best day of my life. I was shocked when Tommy proposed but I didn’t have to think twice about saying yes. Tommy and I never argue. I love my husband very much. He is my best friend.”
The happily married couple live on their own, but their family lives next door in case they need any assistance.
And a message from February the 25th posted to their Facebook page by a girl with a similar story shows just how big of an inspiration Maryanne and Tommy have been to people worldwide.
“I would just like to say a big thank you to your sister Maryanne and your brother in law Tommy, for they have been a true inspiration. I have a disability called Apert syndrome. I have been with my boyfriend for three years and it’s been the best three years of my life. We are both madly in love with each other and hope to one day get married. Your sister and brother in law are the best role models ever for anyone with a disability because we are entitled to live our lives just like anybody else.”