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Newlyweds with cerebral palsy hope to inspire others through their love

Zachary and Denise Gauthier, who both have cerebral palsy, don't let a disability stop them from living their lives to the fullest. (Family photo)

WARWICK, R.I. (WJAR) - “You don’t see two handicapped individuals get married every day,” Zachary Gauthier told NBC 10 News.

Zach, 30, along with his wife, 27-year-old Denise Gauthier, has cerebral palsy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines cerebral palsy as a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.

But the newlyweds don’t let it rule their lives, as it didn’t stop them from having the wedding of their dreams.

“Marrying Zach was the best day of my life, hands down,” Denise said. “Everything was so perfect and I’ve loved him since the fourth grade. When we got married and it actually happened, I thought I was dreaming.”

Zach agrees, adding that he had been looking forward to the big day since he was a little boy.

“Ever since I was 9 years old, I wanted to get married,” he said. “I know that sounds crazy, but it’s the absolute truth. I knew I was somewhat different, but my mother told me I could do anything I wanted to do. So, I wanted to get married. And I want to have kids.”

Denise said she has the same outlook, which is one of the many reasons why their relationship works.

“We never looked at our wheelchairs as things to stop us,” she said. “It’s hard to overcome obstacles, but in overcoming those obstacles, we learn a lot about other people and each other.”

Zach and Denise, who met in elementary school, started dating about 10 years ago. She was friendly with Zach’s sister, Francesca, and had a crush on Zach from the start.

“She always liked me, but I wasn’t into her right away,” Zach said with a laugh. “But when I was in high school, I was like, ‘I’m going to give you a chance.’”

So, Zach called Denise and told her how he felt. He asked her out to the movies, but she turned him down because she was dating someone else.

“I said no at first, but he persuaded me to go and the next day I didn’t have a boyfriend anymore,” Denise said.

About a decade later, they exchanged vows at the Imperial Room in Warwick on June 17. They were surrounded by loved ones, including Francesca, who served as the maid of honor, as well as Zach’s mother, Lynn, who helped Zach propose to his bride.

“I had my mom open up the ring box,” Zach told NBC 10. “Denise was like, ‘Oh, my God!’”

For Lynn, it was both an honor and privilege to witness such a special moment.

“Denise was crying, Zach was crying. It was really something,” Lynn said. “To be part of all these things with him is not anything that I would have ever imagined, but it’s just wonderful.”

Lynn also shared a moving moment with Zach at the wedding during the mother/son dance. With Zach in his wheelchair and Lynn perched on his lap, the two danced to Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.”

“I was just thinking what a great moment it was,” Zach told NBC 10. “I think about all the things my mother did for me growing up and just the fact that I married, someone like me, is a big accomplishment and hopefully there’s a movement around the world that says, ‘Hey, just because you’re handicapped doesn’t mean you can’t get married.’”

Lynn shared similar sentiments, noting that dancing with her son “was really remarkable.”

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Lynn said, adding that Denise also shared an emotional dance with her father, David. “He held her and danced to the whole song with her in his arms. There were 150 people in the room and everyone was filled with love and inspiration, not judgment. Everyone was partying and dancing together. It was so beautiful.”

Zach’s aunt, Elizabeth DiLuglio, was at the wedding. She said there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

“It was absolutely gorgeous and heartwarming,” DiLuglio said. “They should get recognition because they are wonderful kids.”

For Zach and Denise, they are looking forward to planning a honeymoon. They thanked everyone for making their nuptials memorable.

“I just feel so grateful that I got to share our moment with everybody that was there,” Zach said.

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