Mr and Ms Pilling offer beacon of hope to parents of children with the condition
A husband and wife who were thought to have been the first couple with Down’s syndrome to get married in the UK, have celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary.
Maryanne and Tommy Pilling were greeted with wave of scepticism and some criticism when they tied the knot in an Essex church more than two decades ago.
The pair had been together for around a-year-and-a-half after meeting at a day centre, before Mr Pilling, now 59, proposed.
Now, 22 years on, they are still happily married, and the couple have racked up a strong following of supporters on social media.
“My wedding was the best day of my life,” said Ms Pilling, now 45. “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.”
A series of photos on their Facebook page, which is managed by Mrs Pilling’s sister Lindi Newman, shows the couple over the years spending quality time together, including visiting an Elvis Presley museum and visiting an aquarium.
The happy couple have proven wrong a number of people who had assumed allowing them to marry was a bad idea, telling Ms Pilling’s mother it was wrong to let them wed.
Ms Pilling’s sister, said their mother had “received a lot of flak at the time for letting them get married, but she insisted it was their decision.”
She said: “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.”
Ms Newman added that while they are often viewed as an unusual couple, her sister and her husband offer a beacon of hope to parents of children with Down’s Syndrome.
“When they walk down the street holding hands they make a statement but in a good way,” she said.
“Some people stare, they assume people with Down’s Syndrome and learning difficulties can’t get married. But we also get so many lovely lovely messages from people who are inspired by their story.
“People worried about their own children or grandchildren with Down’s Syndrome get hope from Maryanne and Tommy’s story, hope that their children can also fall in love and live happily ever after.”
The couple live independently with family living in the house next door to help out when needed.
Their Facebook page, which has 7,300 followers, has been inundated with messages in recent days as people congratulate them on their anniversary and wish them more happiness in the future.
One Facebook user posted: “Congratulations on your wedding anniversary. What a lovely and happy couple they look, they are blessed they found each other. Hope they have many more happy years together.”
Another, writing from France, said: “Congratulations for your 22nd anniversary from France! I wish you many happy returns!”