Tommy and Maryanne Pilling brought viewers to tears after they appeared on a morning talk show to celebrate 23 years of marriage — despite doubters who claimed they wouldn’t last because they both had Down syndrome.
During an appearance on This Morning on Friday with his wife and mother-in-law, Linda Newman, Tommy became emotional while recalling his wedding to Maryanne in July 1995.
“I was excited. I was going to get married,” Tommy told hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield.
“I do love her,” he said as he couldn’t contain his emotions.
Newman, who received criticized at the time for allowing the two to get married, reached over and rubbed his back, saying, “It’s all right. It’s okay.”
Also during the interview, Maryanne was elated when she remembered her wedding dress.
“I had a white dress, my hair was tied back. I wore my crown,” she said. Maryanne was walked down the aisle by her mother, although Newman said she ran the last few steps to Tommy.
“I was told off by my mum,” Maryanne said of the moment.
The pair is considered to be the first couple with Down syndrome in the United Kingdom to marry — although their union received a barrage of criticism from people claiming their learning difficulties would make it impossible for them to remain married.
Tommy and Maryanne proved all their naysayers wrong, as they prepare to celebrate 23 years of marriage on Sunday.
The couple lives in their own apartment next door to Newman, and across the street from Maryanne’s sister, who is their full-time caretaker.
“They lived with me for the first 10 years, when they were first married,” Newman said. “I taught them to cook and to be as self-sufficient as possible. And then the flat came up next door, and we thought it was a wonderful opportunity — a safe move.”
She added, “They have lots of support. It’s better for them and better for me because they get their independence and their private time. I’m there if they need me.”
Maryanne’s sister Lindi created a Facebook page for the couple with updates on their lives. For their 20th wedding anniversary, the duo celebrated with a special ceremony at a church surrounded by several family members and friends.
Tommy cheekily added he would “like” a party for their anniversary.
“They’ve had more parties than anyone else I know,” Newman said, laughing.
The lovebirds were treated with four tickets to a West End production of Strictly Ballroom, as well as a romantic dinner, which was given to them by Willoughby and Schofield.
Maryanne and Tommy, who first met at a local training center for people with learning difficulties, had been dating for about 18 months when he asked her to marry him with a toy ring from a vending machine after her mother gave him her blessing.
A few months later, in July 1995, the couple tied the knot in a church ceremony in Essex surrounded by supportive friends and family.