Covid: Couple with Down's syndrome stop shielding to plan wedding

By Catherine Evans
BBC News

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media captionChris Miller and Ffion Martin are waiting for Covid restrictions to ease so they can have their dream wedding

As a young man with Down's syndrome growing up in rural Wales, Chris Miller was not sure he'd ever find "the one'".

But the 38-year-old is now waiting for Covid restrictions to ease so he can have the wedding of his dreams with his 22-year-old fiancée Ffion Martin, who also has Down's syndrome.

Professional actors Ffion and Chris met while working at a theatre company.

After two years of dating, Chris popped the question during the first lockdown - and Ffion said "yes".

"In the first lockdown, we were in the back garden and to be honest it was magical when he proposed," said Ffion.

"It felt so amazing, I felt like I love this guy more than ever, he's an amazing guy to be with.

"It just made my heart proud and I'm glad."

'You make my heart fly'

Ffion and Chris, both from Carmarthen, have been dating for more than two years. They met at the Hijinx theatre company, which works with actors who have learning disabilities.

Both had received letters asking them to shield during the second lockdown, as they were considered clinically vulnerable because they have Down's syndrome.

This meant the couple were kept apart, having to speak solely on the phone until lockdown rules were relaxed.

Getting down on one knee to re-enact the proposal during a walk in Carmarthen Park, Chris said: "Ffion, you make my heart fly. Can I have your hand for marriage? My heart is always with you, every time."

image captionActors Chris and Ffion got engaged after two years of dating

While Covid restrictions only permit outdoor wedding receptions in Wales from 26 April, the couple are afraid to set a date in case of any changes and would prefer to wait a little longer for their dream wedding.

The couple have been enjoying online dance lessons through the pandemic - and want to incorporate the waltz and some jazz into their plans for a "big posh wedding".

"What kind of wedding I'd like is emotion, feeling… like the first day I met her, a beautiful feeling," said Chris.

image captionThe couple learned to waltz during lockdown and would like to perform the dance at their wedding

Ffion's plans for a wedding in the registry office near her home are a little more practical.

"I'd like to keep it very brief," she said.

'Can't choose dress'

"The flowers will be roses. It's going to be a big wedding. Everyone thinks it's going to be a big, grand gesture but it's going to be nice little details in there.

"I can't go shopping so I can't choose a dress or have fittings yet. I would like the girls from Hijinx to be my bridesmaids but I'm having two and there are eight of them!

"I'm thinking of Elton John's Your Song for our first dance and Chris loves jazz."

In the meantime they plan to "stay together and be strong together", enjoying their favourite long romantic walks together - and a bit of waltzing - now that they have both had the full Covid vaccinations.

image captionChris had managed to secretly buy an engagement ring during lockdown

"I love her so much. I trust her and she is my best friend," said Chris.

"I'm looking forward to the wedding and planning some hot dates!"

Asked what she loves about her husband-to-be, Ffion replied: "I love everything about him. And he has lovely hair."

She added her life philosophy was "believe in yourself - it doesn't matter if you get it wrong or right, you can do it".

'So proud of them'

Their mothers, Elizabeth Miller and Janice Martin, who each adopted their children when they were babies, could not be prouder.

image captionJanice, Ffion's mother, says their big family does not want to be left out of the wedding plans

"There is a myth... parents are told that their children with Down's syndrome won't do this, won't do that," said Ffion's mum Ms Martin.

"When she was two, the consultant paediatrician said, 'she won't be an engineer, will she?'.

"I said, 'no - she might be a consultant paediatrician!'. Nobody knows what any child will do.

"They can be whatever they want to be, as long as they've got the support and they're safe."

The couple are now hoping for Covid restrictions to ease enough so that they can enjoy a big celebration with their nearest and dearest.

"It's very romantic. Chris is a real born romantic and Ffion laps it up," said Ms Martin.

"The family thinks it's fantastic; they can't wait for the wedding. I've got two grown-up sons, they both want to give her away. Everybody wants to get involved.

"We've got a big extended family who've said 'please don't have the wedding without us'. It'll be fantastic and I'll be so proud of her. I am proud of her."

'Long time coming'

Ms Miller, Chris' mother, said: "I never thought he would actually get married. I wanted him to, but he's 38 so it's been a long time coming.

image captionChris' mum Elizabeth is delighted he has found love with Ffion

"He said would it be alright if he asked Ffion to marry him and I said of course. She's a lovely girl and they go well together.

"He loves her very much and they're both very loyal, so once they've made the commitment that's it. They won't change their minds now.

"Chris thinks it's wonderful. He thought he was the only person with Down's syndrome in Carmarthen, then he found out that he wasn't. And then he found out that he wasn't the only adopted Down's syndrome person."

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