Denise Vasi may work the dating scene as fashion maven Raquel on Vh1 drama Single Ladies, but offscreen the actress is a happily married woman. On October 14, 2013 she wed photographer and director Anthony Mandler in a stunning ceremony held at a wine vineyard in Santa Ynez, California and Jennifer Hudson sang her down the aisle.
The creative couple first met in 2011 when Mandler, who has directed videos for Rihanna, Mary J. Blige and Beyoncé, was asked to direct a music video for Lil Wayne’s ballad “How to Love.” Vasi had fallen in love with the song and was impatiently waiting for the video to come out. She considered it fate when she got a call to be in the video and agreed to meet the director to discuss the concept. “He was running a little late,” Vasi recalls of Mandler. “He came from behind me and apologized. I turned around and thought ‘Oh my God, that's my husband.’” The duo spent 27-hours together over two days shooting the video. Wayne and his team ended up going in a different direction and shooting an entirely new video concept, but the bond between the director and his new muse was already cemented. “Obviously it was disappointing to have the video not come out, but it was such a blessing,” she says. “I got something much better.”
Vasi was new to Los Angeles so Mandler invited her to ride bikes around town together. She wasn’t sure she knew how. “Talk about problems of a girl who didn't have a dad,” she says with a laugh. Mandler taught her how to ride a bicycle then took her to a scenic Italian restaurant where the entire second floor was cleared for them. “He got up and blew all the candles out all around the restaurant except for the candle at our table. He took his chair and sat right next to me then said, ‘Now this is a first date.’" The couple quickly transitioned into a serious relationship. Soon Vasi got a call for another job, the hit Vh1 show, Single Ladies. She had to move to Atlanta to tape the series and her man came along to help her get settled. “While I was at work getting situated and attending meeting after meeting, he was getting furniture delivered, making sure the car came on time and going to Whole Foods to do the food shopping,” she recalls. “There are so many things I love about him. He puts me before anything else.”
After wrapping filming on the show in the summer of 2012, they planned a three-week trip to Europe that began in Greece. On their first day, Mandler was adamant they get dressed and go see the sunset. “I just came off working five and a half intense months where I had to be on a schedule so I wasn’t excited,” she says. “I'm telling myself, he's trying to be romantic, don't have an attitude.” The couple headed to a private beach and climbed up a rock hanging over the Mediterranean Sea. “As the sun set he asked me to be his wife,” she recalls. “It was the most beautiful place and the most beautiful moment.”
For the wedding, they chose to make their own traditions. They selected a gorgeous vineyard for their venue in Santa Ynez, California. Jennifer Hudson sang "Whenever You Call" as Vasi walked down the aisle with her own twist. “I walked part of the aisle by myself because I've been living on my own since I was a teenager,” she says. “Then my stepfather walked me further down to my grandfather, who then presented me to Anthony.” The reception included cigars, cognac and music by a band and DJ D-Nice. The newlyweds sat in chairs that said “99 problems” for his and “ain’t one” for hers, a nod to their carefree lifestyle, love of Jay Z and Vasi’s childhood in Brooklyn. The couple’s African honeymoon included helicopter rides, scuba diving, a safari and more as they visited Tanzania, Mozambique and Mnemba island. “We've been in a newlywed glow since we met,” Vasi says. “I think it'll last quite some time.”
No one was more surprised by her wedding than Vasi, who thought she’d never marry. But good love can convert any of us from a single lady to a happily married woman, just like that.