The rapper tells PEOPLE that the couple wasn't legally married for several years after first announcing themselves as husband and wife, leading to an event-filled weekend in Las Vegas
After their first meeting in 2001, which was followed by a whirlwind romance that stretched from coast to coast, the two said they got married in Jan. 2002.
"We told everybody we were married, but we weren't legally married," the longtime Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star and rapper, 65, tells PEOPLE in a recent interview.
He and Austin, 44, didn't actually obtain a marriage license until New Year's Eve 2006 during a trip to Las Vegas. That night, their previous, non-legal union led to some confusion a Las Vegas clerk's office, where the employees thought Ice-T and Austin had already tied the knot. Not only that, but they wanted something in return for the official paperwork needed to certify their union.
"She’s like, 'Y'all getting no license unless you take a picture with me,' " Ice-T recalls one of the workers telling him. "So, I had to take a picture with all the girls there and we came out and there’s a limo outside. They really want to get you married. You know, short and sweet across the street."
He adds, "But I said, 'We’re not just doing it in any chapel.' So, we went back to Caesar's Palace, where we were staying. It was New Year's Eve and I said, 'We got to get married tonight.' "
Ice-T remembers calling the hotel's chapel, telling them that he and Austin wanted to elope. "He's like, 'We’re closed for the night,'" he says. "I never say my name but I said, 'It’s Ice-T.' He said, 'Bulls---.' So, I went down to the elevator to the fifth floor and walked in. The guy was like, 'No f------ way.' "
Surprised to learn that it was indeed the rapper, Ice-T says that the chapel decided to stay open for an extra hour to give the couple time to exchange their vows.
Once Coco was all dressed up, the two hopped into an elevator to head down to the chapel. At some point, a group of kids got onto the Caesar's Palace elevator with the couple. Ice-T then recalls, "Coco had the bouquet in her hands. The kids were like, ‘Ice-T, yo! Y’all just got married?'"
And thats when the couple found themselves in the middle an impromptu celebration. "So, they threw us a reception in the elevator. They were partying and blowing horns and s---," he recounts.
Later that night, Ice-T and Coco officially said "I do" during an intimate ceremony. When they got back to the hotel room, they changed and went out to celebrate the new year.
"We never really told anybody about this because everyone thought we were already married. So, we never did a true celebration," he tells PEOPLE now.
“Then finally we made an agreement that we would renew the vows in five years. We didn’t. We did it in 10 years on Ice Loves Coco. We had a big thing in L.A. and it was better, because we had been married 10 years,” he reveals.
Since their official wedding day in Las Vegas, the couple experienced more memorable moments together, including welcoming their daughter, Chanel, in November 2015. They have also made frequent public displays of their affection, from walking the runway together with Chanel in 2017 to celebrating the rapper's 2021 Grammy win.
In 2021, the couple also celebrated their 20th anniversary, marking two decades together with an intimate New Year's Eve dinner attended by close friends and family.
Most recently, Ice-T paid tribute to his wife with a sweet message on her 44th birthday in March. "Thank you for being my incredible Partner, Lover, and SuperMom to @babychanelnicole. You are the nicest person I've ever known in my life. You HONESTLY get BETTER every year . . . I Love you," he captioned a selfie of Austin posted to Instagram.
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Read the original article on People.