Strange things about Nicole Richie and Joel Madden’s marriage

The age-old adage that “opposites attract” is true — even in Hollywood. One of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon in action is the relationship between The Voice coaches Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, who, as the “God Gave Me You” crooner himself told Billboard, “Could not be, on paper, any more different.” However, 2006 was a big year for opposites attracting in Tinseltown: while John Legend met model Chrissy Teigen — the “All of Me” hitmaker later explained to People, “I was always a little bit more buttoned-up, and she was always more brash and free.” – this also marked when socialite Nicole Richie began dating Good Charlotte rocker Joel Madden. 

However, theirs is a unique case of opposites attracting. The notoriously outgoing Richie and her more low-key musician husband didn’t rush into marriage and have unfortunately been forced to debunk tabloid gossip of marital strife for the majority of their nearly 15-year relationship. But it seems to be the, uh, simple things in life that make these two tick: “His dream day is probably watching football and playing video games,” Richie once quipped to E!, “and my dream day is watching Real Housewives.”

Of course, there’s more to know about this romance than a brief relationship timeline and opposite TV binge choices, so we decided to dig deeper and discover all the strange things about Nicole Richie and Joel Madden’s marriage.

Nicole Richie and Joel Madden can't agree on how they met

Usually, no matter how different a couple may be, one thing that they tend to agree on is the story of how they first met. Nicole Richie and Joel Madden? Well, they are the exception to this rule. 

According to PopSugar, Madden believes he met his future wife at one of his concerts back in 2006. Meanwhile, Richie has a very different, very vivid memory of the married pair’s real-life meet-cute. She told 60 Minutes Australia in 2013, “I was at my girlfriend’s party, and he was there hanging out with my girlfriend’s sister, and we met very, very, briefly. He was very shy … just kind of kept to himself. I couldn’t get a read on him for the life of me.” 

So, how did they break the ice and end up bonding? “He said, ‘Have you ever watched The Wire?'” Richie later told On Air with Ryan Seacrest. “And so I lied and said that I did so he would hang out with me.” She added, “He literally dropped me in like … Season 3 Episode 4, and I was like, ‘Ah!’ And I just pretended to know everything and it was horrible and then I hated the show.” Oops! At least the payoff was eventual marital bliss? Perhaps after over a decade together, these two should get their meet-cute story straight before bed one night.

Wait … how many times did Joel Madden ask Nicole Richie to marry him?

“People don’t know this, but I asked [Nicole Richie] to marry me 10 times before she actually said yes,” Joel Madden once told the Australian radio show, Fifi & Jules (via Us Weekly). “I was asking every other Tuesday.” However, “The Anthem” singer later confirmed the quote was just a joke on 60 Minutes Australia. This makes sense, as no healthy relationship could survive 10 proposal rejections. 

Still, despite his prior relationships with stars like Hilary Duff, Madden believes he’s an acquired taste, admitting, “I’m not for every woman … I’m not like the tall, dark handsome guy. But I think that it’s once you get to know me, like how I got Nicole, I’m always like, ‘Just give me a shot, just give me one date.”‘ However, Richie simply seemed happily unmarried before the couple decided to tie the knot. “One day I would love to get married,” she told People in 2009 (via E!). “It’s not something we’re talking about right now. If my kids ask me to get married, I’d get married.” 

The actual proposal was what we’d expect from the low-key couple who already had two kids, daughter Harlow and son Sparrow. “It was a Tuesday,” Madden told 60 Minutes Australia. “… I just woke up one morning and I said … ‘What am I doing, I’m a fool, why have I not asked her to marry me?'” He popped the question that night and the rest is history.

Nicole Richie and Joel Madden had a very unusual wedding guest

When Nicole Richie and Joel Madden finally got married in December 2010, the reality star-turned-actress had a very specific vision of the day. It was a low-key affair, according to People. About 150 of the couple’s closest family and friends gathered at the bride’s father Lionel Richie’s estate in Beverly Hills … and were greeted by an elephant. Yes, you read that right, and yes, Madden was just as surprised that one of his wedding guests had a trunk. 

“I was like, ‘What?'” Madden told the outlet. “Then I just laughed — Nicole getting an elephant and not telling me is typical of our relationship. I am so the ‘no’ guy. But if there’s one time I want her to have the craziest thing she wants, it’s the day we marry.”

According to People, Nicole had always wanted an elephant at her wedding, because the animals symbolize luck. But unsurprisingly, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was not amused by the choice, and stated in part to E!: “We’re sure [Nicole Richie] didn’t know that Have Trunk Will Travel — the company that likely provided Tai the elephant, who was taken from the wild as a baby more than 40 years ago — trains its elephants with bullhooks and electric shock prods.” PETA vowed to write to the star to make sure she knew that elephants wouldn’t want a spot on her guest lists in the future.

Nicole Richie and Joel Madden's son shares a name with a bird

Okay, we admit that Nicole Richie and Joel Madden didn’t give their second child such a unique name that it needed to be changed for legal reasons (looking at you, Elon Musk and Grimes), but as far as celebrity kids’ names go, Sparrow Midnight Madden is still a pretty uncommon one — let’s be honest. 

Explaining the moniker they chose for their son, who was born in September 2009, to People (via E!), the married pair revealed that they both liked the name for very different reasons. “I liked the way it sounded with [his sister] Harlow, and there’s the Captain Jack Sparrow connection,” Richie said. Meanwhile, Madden liked the name precisely because of how strange it was, telling the magazine, “It reminded me of the Johnny Cash song ‘A Boy Named Sue.’ My worry raising a son in Hollywood is what will he have to struggle for? I wanted to give him a name that he’s going to have to stand up for.” 

That is a very specific reason for a name choice and we approve. Richie was just happy they found a name they could agree on, no matter their individual reasoning: “We have different tastes in names. Sparrow was one we both liked.”

Their kids call out their famous parents' NSFW social media posts

As of this writing in 2020, Nicole Richie and Joel Madden’s kiddos, Harlow and Sparrow, are almost teenagers. And just like every other mom, the Great News star found herself struggling to keep them entertained, educated, and socializing in the new reality of quarantining and social distancing. “I spent 10 years preaching no screens and now they’ve become kind of a lifeline over here,” Richie said on Live with Kelly and Ryan that March. 

While managing kids’ time in front of screens simply seems to be good parenting (cue applause for Richie and Madden), it’s worth noting that Richie was a notorious party girl before she settled down with Madden, potentially begging the question: Has she been keeping her children away from screens lest they accidentally stumble upon something from her past that she’d rather keep hidden? Hm. 

We kid, of course. But as Richie hilariously shared on Instagram in August 2020, they had already dug up one such moment: a Snapchat of the star attending a bachelorette party while wearing a very NSFW headband and using a cat filter, which she’d captioned with, “This Puss loves a D!” One of her kids called her out with a text that simply read, “Mommy…” For her part, Richie jokingly pleaded with her Instagram followers, “HELP! I’m the mom of pre-teens and my past posts have come back to haunt me!” In the age of social media, we’re sure this mom’s not the only one.

Does father-in-law know best?

Rock star Joel Madden knows he’s never looked like the ideal partner fathers have in mind for their daughters on the outside. But in 2013, legendary singer Lionel Richie joked with 60 Minutes Australia that he quickly changed his mind about Madden when Nicole Richie brought the singer home — because he had a good income and wasn’t a drummer. Lionel sweetly added, “And then, of course, you got the picture right away, which was he really loves my daughter.” Since then, Madden and his father-in-law have bonded, especially over being in the music business — which Nicole apparently doesn’t want to hear about. 

This familial situation is all very nice, except for the admittedly weird thing that happens whenever Nicole and Madden argue. Explaining that he would see “that look that only Nicole can give you, where you’ve been spun” on Madden’s face, Lionel said, “She does the web around you and then you get all confused ’cause you can’t remember what the argument was in the first place.” He added, “… I said, ‘Joel, from now on I can make this relationship very easy. When you have an argument, before you say anything else, pick up the phone and call me.'” A father usually has many more years of experience dealing with his daughter than her partner, after all. Madden confirmed the arrangement. 

So, the secret to a successful relationship is apparently getting your father-in-law in the middle of your fights? It doesn’t really track for us, but to each their own.

Nicole Richie's parody show Nicki Fre$h keeps it all in the family

Since Nicole Richie and Joel Madden lead a very private life together these days, it was surprising (though not exactly shocking) to learn that she was starring in the Quibi series, Nikki Fre$h. Premiering in April 2020, Richie plays a heightened version of herself as a trap music star, making “conscious” comedic bops that parents and organic eaters alike could relate to about saving bees and eating ugly vegetables. It seemed like the multi-talent was returning to her roots on The Simple Life

“I’m not discussing anything that I personally don’t partake in,” Richie told People that May. “I do wear crystals … I grow my own fruits and vegetables. I do love bees and I have bees. So it’s all things that are active parts of my life.” She also got people who are active parts of her life to participate in the series, including her husband, father Lionel Richie, and brother-in-law Benji Madden. The Madden brothers play record executives on the show. Admitting that “being on TV is not [her husband’s] favorite thing,” Nicole said of working with Joel, “It was fun and exciting and intimidating and frustrating in moments. He was in the room and I was like, ‘I need you to close your eyes.’ After that, it ended up being so much fun. I loved going to the studio with him.”

That fall, Nicole planned to release a Nikki Fre$h album called Unearthed.

The Madden family basically lives The Simple Life now

Nicole Richie became famous in 2003 she began starring alongside frenemy Paris Hilton on Fox’s The Simple Life. The girls — known for partying and occasionally breaking the law — would perform manual labor like work on farms. When the series was canceled in 2007, Richie was already dating Joel Madden, pregnant with their daughter, Harlow, and prepared to serve the outstanding four-day jail sentence she had for a DUI. “This is my way of paying my dues and taking responsibility and being an adult,” she told ABC News‘ Diane Sawyer of facing consequences. “I want my child to look up to me and be proud of me, and I want to be the best parent that I can be.”

Richie has lived up to that promise since, and Madden later told 60 Minutes Australia that meeting his wife was “like a religious experience,” adding, “That’s like a life-changing cathartic event.” He continued, “When I met her, I think we were both on different trains and we might’ve just for a second got off at the same station, met each other, and then we both got on a completely different train.” 

Erm, okay, we think we understand this sweet sentiment — there are apparently trains in heaven. But here on Earth, the Maddens have at least eight chickens, two turtles, and edible garden at their home in Los Angeles, so they’re basically living the simple life IRL. Weird how things sometimes come full circle like that.

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