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Law & Order: SVU fans have always been swept away by the chemistry between Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). Little did they know that a real romance was unfolding off-camera—between Mariska and a recurring guest star, actor Peter Hermann!
Flash forward to today, and Mariska and Peter have been together for 19 years and happily married for 16. In honor of their epic romance, let's take a look back at where it all started—behind the scenes of SVU!
How did Peter and Mariska meet?
These days, Peter is well known for his role as Sutton Foster's swoon-worthy boss on the hit TV Land series Younger. (Team Charles for life!) But when Peter met Mariska on the set of SVU in 2002, he was guest starring as defense attorney Trevor Langan, while she was starring as Lieutenant Olivia Benson (duh). When Peter asked Mariska to attend church with him, it was all over.
The actress told People that she knew he was the one right then and there, and she became so “overwhelmed” by her feelings that she started crying in the middle of their date!
“I just started sobbing. Peter thought I was crying because I was so moved by the service,” she said. “No, it was because I was just overwhelmed, realizing he was the one.”
After the date, Mariska called her friend and told her, "This is it. This is the man I’m going to marry," she recalled.
Now, almost 20 years later, she knows she made the right decision.
“I never knew I’d so often be reminded on this journey that I married the right one,” she said. “I waited and married the right one.”
When did they get married?
The couple tied the knot in Santa Barbara in 2004 in a magical ceremony that featured a gospel choir singing "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough." So romantic! After they exchanged vows, the couple joined their 200 guests at a reception at a Montecito estate.
With 16 years of marriage under their belts, Mariska and Peter are just as in love as ever—but they still keep it real about how much it takes to make a marriage work.
"I think that we make it work like everybody bumping their way through a marriage, you know?" Peter said in a Fox News interview. "Sometimes we are wonderfully elegant in the way we make it work and sometimes we’re not at all, and it devolves into, 'Why didn’t you pack the right sneakers?' Or, "I thought you got lunch ready.'"
At the end of the day, Peter knows how lucky he is to have Mariska in his life.
“But, the fact is, we just get to do it together...and I cannot tell you what a gift it is to get to do all of it with her," he added.
Do they have children?
Yes! Peter and Mariska share three children: sons August Miklos, 14, and Andrew Nicolas, 9, and daughter Amaya Josephine, 10. The couple adopted Amaya and Andrew in 2011.
Mariska told People that she loves nothing more than being a mom to her kids.
“The thing that’s made me a better parent is my kids,” she said. “Because they taught me to really listen. My husband is my North Star, and my kids are my teachers.”
How does Mariska's family remember her mom, Jayne Mansfield?
If Mariska's children are her teachers, then her mother is her inspiration.
Even some of the biggest Mariska Hargitay fans might be surprised to learn that she comes from a famous family—her mom was the legendary bombshell Hollywood star Jayne Mansfield. Jayne tragically died in a car accident in 1967, but Mariska says she still feels her mother's love every day.
"Someone once said about [remembering] my mother: 'All you have to do is look in the mirror,'" Mariska told People in 2018. "She’s with me still."
“My mother was this amazing, beautiful, glamorous sex symbol—but people didn’t know that she played the violin and had a 160 IQ and had five kids and loved dogs,” she added. “She was just so ahead of her time. She was an inspiration, she had this appetite for life, and I think I share that with her.”
Mariska's loving relationship with her husband and kids is living proof of that!