I attended a wedding recently. From a distance it seemed like a typical wedding, a church ceremony, cocktails, dinner, speeches, dancing and an open bar. The bride and groom who met as youngsters on a swim team where marrying after almost two decades of friendship and romance. But this wedding was different, it was different because the bride and groom both have Down’s Syndrome.
This was the wedding of my longtime friend Katy who was marrying her partner Clint. I met Katy ten years ago. Over the years we kept in touch, sometimes we would see each other regularly, sometimes we wouldn’t speak for a few months and then a letter addressed to me in her unmistakable hand writing would arrive and we’d be back in touch.
Soon after Katy and Clint began courting she was already talking about getting married. The date was always a year or two away but she was insistent that it would happen and that we would all be invited to the wedding. I didn’t believe her, I knew several adults with Down’s but I had never heard of a person with Down’s getting married, I wasn’t even sure if that was legally allowed.
I remember seeing her a few years ago at a Friday night social dance for young adults with special needs. She was there with Clint, there were both dressed in black leather jackets and dancing. They looked like a great couple. We spoke a few weeks later, the wedding talk continued, she was talking about having her mom as her bridesmaid and Clint making a proposal, but the dates were sketchy and I still didn’t think a wedding would actually happen. I’m glad I was wrong.
In June I received an invitation to Katy and Clint’s wedding. I was now living 750 miles away and it was unlikely that I could attend. I thought about Katy a lot before declining the invitation; about how dedicated she had been to me writing letters, regular phone calls, and never forgetting my birthday when she would get on the phone with her karaoke machine and dedicate the latest pop song to me. I creatively re-arranged my work schedule and was able to book a flight home for the wedding.
During the ceremony the celebrant told the crowd that he had married many couples and he assured any doubters that this couple was among the most prepared for married life. He said that despite their disabilities Katy and Clint don’t have the distractions that often leads other couples astray. They have both faced immense challenges in their lives and this has prepared them well for the challenges of married life.
At the wedding it was said a few times that the parents of the couple never imagined that they would see the day when their children would be married. At the end of the speeches Katy and Clint got up to the microphone. Katy yelled out “is everybody having a good time?” and the crowd roared, when the room quieted down she then read out a carefully scripted thank you speech to all who had been involved in the wedding preparations. I suspect that her speech had been written by her parents but in her own unique way Katy reminded us that her independence is something that she must continually strive for.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.