‘A Big White Wedding’ For Desiree and Ryan

Happy talk

The big day is Saturday, but a giddy Desiree Romero and Ryan Hanson seem none the worse for the stress that comes with tackling all the last-minute tasks involved in changing your life forever. Ask the mothers of the bride and groom and you get a different vibe.

“We wanted them to have a 10-year engagement,” Magdalena Romero, Desiree’s mom, says with a laugh. “Then maybe we’d have more time to do everything.”

Desiree, 28, gives her mom a quizzical look as we sit in her aunt’s Santa Fe home days away from her walk down the mile of aisle in the cavernous Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi – the biggest church in Santa Fe.

They’re going to need it. By last Monday, the RSVP count to the Romero-Hanson wedding was nearing 700.

“It’s a big wedding,” Desiree says with a smile. “A big white wedding.”

Just like she always dreamed it would be.

And don’t be fooled. Mama Romero has all the details covered, from the bouquets of red, pink and white roses to the sparkly veil that will adorn her only child’s head.

Both Desiree and Ryan, 26, have been blessed with supportive, attentive, diligent families who have helped them become the winsome, actualized young adults they are.

That support is crucial, because it may not be as easy for Desiree and Ryan as for other newlyweds because they both have Down syndrome.

And then again, perhaps their simpler, sweeter view of what love means, what marriage means, makes them potentially the perfect couple.

“I love her so much,” Ryan says, his bright almond eyes gazing on his beloved as if she were the only other person in his world. “I promise I will always love her forever and that we will have the perfect life and the perfect family.”

They met – the mothers-in-law can’t decide exactly what year – during a bowling tournament sponsored by Special Olympics New Mexico, where both are decorated athletes, have competed internationally and have served as “global messengers” to spread the word about just how accomplished those with intellectual disabilities can be.

“He never talked to me at first,” Desiree recalls. “But when he finally did, I was so happy.”

The two saw each other regularly at Special Olympics meets across the state and went on “dates,” which included both families coming together for barbecues, baseball games and dinners at each other’s house.

Logistics for this love affair were daunting – she lives with her mother in Tesuque; he lives with his parents, Darcy and Michael Hanson, in Farmington.

Somehow, with the help of their caregivers and their families, they made it work.

Love has a way of doing that.

And though it wasn’t the 10 years the mothers-in-law only half-joked about, it was by no means a short engagement.

It happened in August 2009 at an Albuquerque Isotopes game, and everybody in the families but Desiree was in on the plan.

“I proposed to her on a Jumbotron,” Ryan says.

When the words “Desiree Romero will you marry me?” flashed upon the huge screen, Ryan got down on one knee, offered her a diamond ring and his heart.

Desiree said yes.

“And she cried and cried,” he says. “It was like a magic carpet ride.”

The ride is just beginning.

The couple plan to honeymoon on a cruise ship to the Bahamas – with their parents coming along. After that, they will split their time living with Ryan’s family in Farmington, where he works as a busboy for the local country club, and Desiree’s mother in Tesuque, where Desiree volunteers her time delivering meals to the elderly, working in hospice care and dancing with the Ballet Folklorico de Santa Fe.

They will both continue to compete in the Special Olympics (though Ryan admits, reluctantly, that Desiree is the better bowler).

This Saturday is a celebration not just of Desiree and Ryan’s marriage but of the accomplishments of two families who worked hard to teach their children that disability does not always mean unable, that they can still fly even though their wings may be different.

Desiree and Ryan have learned to love, because they have been loved. They will grow together, because they have been allowed to grow.

It’s as simple as that.

And, yes, the families will continue to help the couple as they embark upon their new journey as man and wife.

But it’s their journey.

“I want to have my own family. We will have our own family,” Ryan says, cradling Desiree’s arm. “We will have our own dream.”

Love has a way of doing that.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline Gutierrez Krueger at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor. — This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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