Couple's all-autism wedding aims to change people's view of the disorder
Something special happened when Anita Lesko and Abraham Nielson met six years ago in a support group for autistic people.
"It was something when our eyes met," she told ABC News. "Sparks were lit in our hearts as soon as we saw each other. Even more so, our first hug was the night we realized that we did not want to let each other go."
And they didn't. The Florida couple — who got engaged over Christmas 2014 — married Sept. 26 during the Love & Autism conference in San Diego, California. They had a special requirement for those asked to be in their wedding party: They had to identify as autistic, too.
"One of the things Anita shared with me is so many times people on the spectrum are excluded from weddings," conference host Jenny Palmiotto, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told ABC News. "She really wanted to have an open wedding so people of all ages and abilities could attend."
The entire wedding party — including the two flower girls and two ring bearers — along with the harp player and the officiant identify as being on the autism spectrum. The teen who baked the three-tier wedding cake is also autistic.
Lesko, who received her diagnosis at age 50, was saddened to learn that her experience of being left out of parties and happy events for most of her life was the norm. "When I found out that this was kind of the norm among people on the spectrum, I was relieved that I wasn't the only person," she told People, explaining why it was important for her. "But I'm still troubled by the fact that this is the way it is."
So she wanted their wedding to be completely different.
"I want people to know that people with autism have real emotions... We may not tend to show emotions like other people do, but inside, we're feeling the same thing — sometimes even more."