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After dating for 18 months, Tommy Pilling knew he wanted to marry Maryanne Martin. But Pilling — who has Down syndrome — didn’t have enough money to buy a ring. So he got creative and bought a plastic ring from a vending machine to propose to Maryanne, who also has Down syndrome.
When Maryanne’s mom, Linda Martin, realized Pilling planned on using a plastic band, she took him to a jewelry store to help him buy a ring.
This proposal, which caused Maryanne to “jump with joy,” took place more than 22 years ago and the British couple has been happily married ever since. At the time, some criticized Martin for allowing the two to marry because they didn't think people with Down syndrome should or could have a serious relationship. But Maryanne's family disagreed.
“My mum has been 100 percent supportive,” Lindi Newman, Maryanne’s sister, told TODAY, via email. “Anyone should have the right to marry the love of their life without prejudice or discrimination.”
Critics claimed the marriage wouldn’t last, but the couple certainly proved them wrong.
“What keeps their marriage so strong is that there is never a hidden agenda. They love each other with their whole hearts and are honest with one another,” said Newman, who shares details about the couple on their Facebook page, Maryanne and Tommy.
The wedding, an all-day event, included 250 friends and family members. Maryanne wore a white princess dress, while the wedding party — which included many of their friends with Down syndrome and other learning disabilities — wore blue.
“They had a beautiful wedding,” Newman said.
While their marriage is based on love and honesty, it’s also successful because the two are well-suited for each other. Maryanne, 46, loves to talk and Tommy, 58, is reserved and quiet.
“He sits back and listens and she likes that,” Newman said.
While Maryanne works one day a week at a local charity store, the couple spends a lot of time together and lives an active life. They bowl, golf, see movies, go to theme parks, go out for dinner and drinks and spend time with family. They live in their own apartment, which is next to Maryanne's mother's and across the street from Newman and her husband in Southend-on-Sea in England.
Newman hopes others learn from the story of her sister and brother-in-law.
“Anything is possible with love and there should be no limitations for anyone, no matter what their circumstances are,” she said.
The Pillings say they never fight and think of each other as best friends. They share advice for others hoping for a long, successful relationship: “Always be honest, make time for each other, and always have respect for each other.”