Robin and Patricia Graham

updated 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

THE brides—all 2,075 of them—wore white. All the grooms wore blue. They were from every corner of the earth, and some of them had met for the first time just days before. A few could communicate with their mates only through an interpreter. Some of their parents showed up as guests; others picketed outside, screaming, "Give me back my child." All were members of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church and were matched by Moon himself. The church has sponsored a dozen such mass weddings over the years, including one for 30,000 couples (10,000 of them taking part via satellite hookup) in Seoul in 1992. But the ceremony on July 1, 1982, at New York City's Madison Square Garden, was the one Patricia and Robin Graham will remember. It was their wedding day.

Patricia Kehrli, a 25-year-old from Valhalla, N.Y., and Robin, 26, from Newcastle upon Tyne, England, had met before as classmates in Moon's seminary in Barrytown, N.Y., in early 1979. But, says Patricia, "I don't think we had so much as a cup of coffee before we were matched." At the May 1979 engagement ceremony, Moon had the men and women form circles, then pointed to Robin and Patricia and shouted, "You!" After an awkward silence, recalls Patricia, "We said, 'Let's go eat cheesecake.' "

It was a sweet beginning, but bitter episodes were to follow. Although they had had a happy—and celibate—engagement, says Patricia, her parents didn't "trust" the church, and she didn't invite them to the wedding. Robin's family, who in 1976 had unsuccessfully tried to deprogram him, didn't attend either.

Both the Grahams have since reconciled with their relatives. The couple now live in Irvington, N.Y., with their four children (Kristi, 10, Jeremy Patrick, 8, Kascia Marie, 5, and Michelle, 1), and while their marriage seems as strong as any begun under more conventional circumstances, their involvement in the church has lessened under the pressure of family responsibilities. Their marriage, they say, is like any other. "When we were first matched," says Robin, a costume jewelry manufacturer, "people said, 'You're lucky you have such a nice match.' It's not luck. You work. We've had to work at caring for each other."

But do they love each other? "One day when we were first engaged," says Robin, "I asked Patricia if she really loved me. She said I should ask her in 15 years." He should have a reply any day now.

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