Watch CBS News

Jon Batiste, Suleika Jaouad announce they were secretly married

Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad sharing life beyond cancer
Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad sharing life beyond cancer 08:52

Grammy-winning musician Jon Batiste, the bandleader of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," and Suleika Jaouad, author of the bestselling cancer memoir "Between Two Kingdoms," revealed that they were secretly married in February, they told "CBS Sunday Morning."

The couple, who have been together for eight years, decided to wed after she was recently diagnosed with leukemia for a second time. "We got married the day before I was admitted to the hospital to undergo my bone marrow transplant," she told correspondent Jim Axelrod.

"We have known that we wanted to get married, I think, from the first week that we started dating. That's when Jon first brought up the topic of marriage to me. So, we've had eight years. This is not, you know, a hasty decision!" she laughed.

Jaouad said that the suddenness of the "tiny, beautiful, little ceremony" meant they made do without formal rings. "We used bread ties," she said.

To watch a web exclusive video about their secret ceremony, click on the video player below.

Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad on their secret wedding by CBS Sunday Morning on YouTube

Batiste said that the whirlwind ceremony "isn't gonna interrupt the plan that we have. This is just a bump in the road."

"And something like getting married can be an act of optimism, an act of declaration, an act of, 'We have a future,'" said Axelrod.

"Yes. It's an act of defiance. The darkness will try to overtake you, but just turn on the light. Focus on the light. Hold onto the light."

Jaouad said that after she got her diagnosis, Batiste revealed his plans to propose had been months in the works. "He said to me, 'I just want to be very clear, I'm not proposing to you because of this diagnosis. It's taken me a year to design your ring. So, just know this timing has nothing to do with it. But what I do want you to know is that this diagnosis doesn't change anything. It just makes it all the clearer to me that I want to commit to this and for us to be together.' But once we realized we had this tiny window before the bone marrow transplant, we decided to go for it.

"And thanks to a friend, we were able to arrange to get a marriage license at the very last minute, while I was in the OR getting a catheter placed into my chest. And it was absurd! There were nurses around, there were surgeons around. We had this computer. I was in a hospital gown. But we made it happen. And that night we went and bought our wedding outfits together, very last-minute, lots of laughter. But it was, you know, not anything like what we'd imagined. There were maybe four people present. It was private. It was tiny. And it was perfect."

"And I'll tell you, we walked into that bone marrow transplant unit on cloud nine," Jaouad said. "We were so happy, so brimming with love and positivity from this beautiful evening that we'd had. And I really believe that that carried us through. That sense of community, that sense of love, that sense of joy and spontaneity were so important."

To watch more of Jim Axelrod's interview with Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad click on the video player below.

Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad sharing life beyond cancer 08:52

UPDATE: Jon Batiste won the most Grammy Awards Sunday night, bringing home five trophies, including album of the year, for "We Are" (topping fellow nominees Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Justine Bieber, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, H.E.R., Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and Kanye West). He also won for best American roots performance and best American roots song (for "Cry"); best music video (for "Freedom"); and best score soundtrack for visual media (for the Pixar film "Soul").

READ AN EXCERPT: "Between Two Kingdoms" by Suleika Jaouad

For more info:

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.