Couple Married 10 Years After Interracial Marriage Became Legal Goes Viral for Their 46-Year Love Story (Exclusive)

Jeri and Mike Wirtz, who first met in 1976, got married a year later in 1977, only 10 years after interracial marriage was legalized

<p>Jeri & Mike/Instagram</p> Jeri and Mike

Jeri & Mike/Instagram

Jeri and Mike

Jeralyn and Mike Wirtz have easily become one of TikTok's most beloved couples, simply because of their beautiful story and enduring love.

The long-term couple met back in 1976, during a hot summer's day when they were hanging out by a pool at their apartment complex. Both were with their respective group of friends, but it was Mike's friends who initiated the first conversation.

"He was in the hot tub with his friends and I was sitting at a table by the pool with my friends," Jeri tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview.

"We had ordered pizza so when the pizza man was coming by, one of his friends looked up and said, 'Bring it over here!' My friend then hollered 'Go to apartment number 320!' or whatever the number was at the time, and later they did."

By the time Mike and the boys made it to the apartment, Jeri admits she had already "spotted him and thought he was an attractive man."

While at that same party, one of her friends informed her that Mike wanted her phone number and she obliged.

The rest is history.

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Jeri and Mike would get married in 1977 at Artesia Cerritos Wedding Chapel. The garden wedding was small and filled with personal touches as Jeri made her wedding dress as well as her bridesmaids' dresses. Her uncle, who was a pastor, was also their officiant.

Though the Wirtzes had the full support of their family and friends, their special day did not exactly go off without a hitch.

"It was a beautiful day, except the cake came one hour late," she reveals. "And when it came, it was the Leaning Tower of Pisa because it had fallen apart and they had to repair it. If you look at some of our pictures, the wedding cake is crooked."

Adding salt to injury was also the fact that they had gotten someone else's cake — not the one they ordered.

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Still, as it would be the foundation of their matrimony, Jeri and Mike focused on the bigger picture and decided to enjoy their big day.

And while Jeri and Mike's story reads like a modern-day fairytale, it wasn't without its challenges. At the time of their meeting and nuptials, Loving v. Virginia — the court case that took down laws barring interracial marriages — was only 10 years old, so perceptions and opinions on interracial relationships were still changing.

That never deterred the lovebirds.

"I saw her, I was attracted to her and I had immediate interest in her," Mike tells PEOPLE.

"Naturally you're going to think, 'If I start dating her, what are people going to think?' and are they going to think of it in a negative way or positive way," he admits. "But as far as my feelings were concerned, I wasn't going to let that stop me from dating someone I was interested in."

"We knew prejudice was out there," Jeri adds. "But we were determined not to let that interrupt our lives. We were going to focus on us. The world was going to do whatever they wanted and we were going to take care of what we needed to take care of — starting a family, raising our kids."

And that's how the Wirtzes have navigated their now 46-year marriage. Since their wedding day, the two have decidedly taken on every challenge as a unit. They welcomed their two children Nicole and Ryan and are now proud grandparents of three.

Their love and blatant choice to be happy is part of the reason people seem to be drawn to their growing social media platforms. Their content creation journey began in the pandemic when their son Ryan created a video about how they weren't able to see each other in person but managed to always FaceTime the grandkids. That video went viral back then, but the Wirtzes let it rest, until about a year ago.

"It was our anniversary and our son, instead of going out to buy a card, created this video for us to watch, and it was about our marriage and how we met. He posted that," Jeri explains. "That went viral so he said to us, 'Mom and Dad, I don't know what it is, but people are interested in your life. You guys should do more videos.' So we just started doing them like when we go to visit our grandkids, we would take clips of us playing with them, and that's how it took off. And we enjoy it."

Jeri and Mike's social media pages are filled with heartwarming videos of their love story. One video shows the couple's journey in building and creating their first home, another one shows Jeri trying on her wedding dress 46 years later and several others showcase their lives as parents and then grandparents.

When it comes to their newfound popularity, the couple is still getting used it, though the positive feedback has been reassuring.

"We're scratching our heads trying to figure out why," Mike jokes, as Jeri interjects, "I am very happy that people are seeing our videos and getting the message that family is important and love and respect for each other is important and just sticking together is important. So hopefully, that's a message that interracial marriages work."

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Outside of the fact that they're an interracial couple, Mike also believes that part of their appeal is the fact that they share relatable stories about some of the ups and downs they've faced.

"We've posted about some of the trials we've had, Jeri's a cancer survivor, she has breast cancer, I had prostate cancer," Mike tells PEOPLE. "So we've included that into our story also and people look at you as just almost like everybody else. You are human, you have positive things going on, but then there are other things negative that you have to deal with in life also."

Come what may, it's clear that Jeri and Mike will be facing it together. Their mission today remains the same as it was on their wedding day back in 1977: To stay focused, stay close and always put their family first.

"Happiness," Jeri responds when asked what she would want people to take from their social media pages. "To be happy in life and to live life to its fullest and enjoy life and know that sticking with your family and being involved with your family is important."

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