Disabled couple Paul Forziano and Hava Samuels' wedding 'dream come true'
Their love story is nearly complete.
Paul Forziano and Hava Samuels -- a young couple with mental disabilities who are fighting for the right to live together -- Sunday spoke the words that transformed them into Mr. and Mrs. Forziano. But the now-married couple, who live in group homes about 3 miles apart in Manorville, still face a court battle with the state and operators of their homes to live together after the honeymoon.
During the afternoon wedding ceremony Sunday in Wading River, officiated by Rabbi David Altman of the Mastic Beach Hebrew Center, Forziano, 29, wiped away tears as Samuels, 35, stood at his side, draped in an ivory dress and sheer, sparkling veil.
"I have done many weddings, but none has touched me more," Altman said under the wedding canopy. "I know and feel that God has blessed this marriage."
Both agencies -- Independent Group Home Living Program and Maryhaven Center of Hope -- have told the families that they don't want to house a married couple together, and that the bride and groom are too disabled to enter into a sexual relationship, according to court records.
Their families have argued that while they are not able to live independently and need supervision, the couple does know what love is -- and they've experienced it for the seven years they've been a couple. After their honeymoon at an indoor Pennsylvania water park resort, the newlyweds will continue to live apart -- unless they win their lawsuit.
But courtroom battles were far away from the East Wind event hall in Wading River on Sunday, where 185 family members and friends gathered to celebrate the couple's nuptials.
Samuels walked around the bridal suite in her gown before the ceremony, fingering the white and lavender bouquets laid out on a table for the wedding party.
"Nervous?" one of her bridesmaids asked.
"Nope," she said.
When Forziano walked in to sign the ketubah -- the Jewish marriage contract -- and saw his soon-to-be wife in her wedding dress for the first time, his smile was radiant.
"Hava looks beautiful," he said.
"Handsome," the bride-to-be said of the groom, in a black tuxedo with sparkling vest and bow tie. With the ketubah signed and the bride veiled, the wedding procession made its way to the Jewish wedding canopy. A friend of the family sang "Somewhere" from West Side Story: "There's a place for us. Somewhere a place for us." They gazed into each other's eyes, listening to the lyrics that seemed to carry an extra meaning for them.
After Forziano broke a glass -- traditional in Jewish weddings -- and kissed his new wife twice, the couple walked back down the aisle, hand in hand, followed by their tearful families and friends.
"I feel very happy," the groom said after the ceremony. The couple spent the day holding hands, each wearing a gold wedding band with the other's name engraved inside.
"We're married," Forziano said after the wedding. "It's like a dream come true."
Their parents, Frank and Roseann Forziano and Norm and Bonnie Samuels -- who said they were shocked when the couple first approached them with the idea of marriage -- reflected on how far the couple has come.
"We're finally here," Norm Samuels said. "It's beyond a dream."
"We're still climbing up that hill," Bonnie Samuels added. "We're not at the top of the mountain yet, but we're getting pretty close."