Jon Bon Jovi and Dorothea Bongiovi met as high school students in 1980
Jon Bon Jovi and Dorothea Bongiovi are high school sweethearts.
The rock star met his future wife when they were both students at Sayreville War Memorial High School in New Jersey. The couple waited nine years to get married and eloped in Las Vegas in 1989 at the height of Bon Jovi's career.
They went on to welcome four children: daughter Stephanie and sons Jesse, Jacob and Romeo. Bon Jovi and Dorothea also founded the JBJ Soul Foundation together in 2006, and they've since opened three pay-if-you-can restaurants in the U.S.
The pair are often asked what the secret to their decades-long relationship is. "We really like each other. We want to hang out," Bon Jovi told PEOPLE in 2020. "I always said I was good at spotting potential too. I have a gift," Dorothea added.
From meeting in high school to their charity work, here is a look at Jon Bon Jovi and Dorothea Bongiovi's relationship timeline.
Bon Jovi and Dorothea met when they were high school students.
"She let me cheat off her in history," he told PEOPLE in 2020. "I was immediately drawn to her from the minute I saw her and that never changed."
While Bon Jovi and Dorothea quickly hit it off in high school, they did not get married until nine years later. In 1985, they briefly broke up, and Bon Jovi dated actress Diane Lane for five months, as Lane later recalled on Watch What Happens Live. Eventually, he and Dorothea reconciled.
The couple got married in 1989 in Las Vegas while his band was enjoying incredible success. "We had the No. 1 album, the No. 1 single, and we were playing three nights at the Forum in L.A.," he told Men's Health in 2010. "I turned to Dorothea and said, 'I got an idea. Why don't we go right now?' She said, 'You're out of your mind.' I said, 'Come on. What's better than this, right now, this moment?' And so we ran off to Las Vegas. Didn't tell a soul."
On May 31, 1993, Bon Jovi and Dorothea welcomed their first child, Stephanie Rose, in Red Bank, New Jersey.
The couple are very protective of their children and have strived to keep them out of the spotlight. However, when she was 7 years old, Stephanie joined her dad on stage to perform "I've Got The Girl," and she did so again in 2017 at one of his Las Vegas shows.
The couple welcomed their son, Jesse James Louis, to the family on Feb. 19, 1995. Jesse would later play football at the University of Notre Dame and launch his own wine label, Hampton Water, alongside his dad in 2018.
Bon Jovi and Dorothea welcomed their second son, Jacob "Jake" Hurley, on May 7, 2002. However, the "Livin' on a Prayer" singer nearly missed the birth.
On May 6, Bon Jovi played a show in New Orleans, and fans discovered how to reach the rocker's hotel phone. He turned off the phone, but when Dorothea called in the middle of the night to tell him her water broke, she couldn't reach him. Luckily, Bon Jovi's tour manager woke him to break the news, and he took a private plane back to Monmouth County, New Jersey, making it back just in time for Jake's delivery.
According to his Instagram profile, Jake is now pursuing a career as an actor. He is also currently engaged to Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown.
Romeo Jon, the couple's fourth child, was born on March 29, 2004, in New Jersey.
Two years earlier, Bon Jovi opened up to PEOPLE about being a father. "You think you're in love when you're a kid and you meet your wife and get married, but you know you're in love after you have a child," he said.
In 2006, Bon Jovi and Dorothea founded the JBJ Soul Foundation, an organization that works "to break the cycle of hunger, poverty and homelessness." The nonprofit kicked things off by renovating 15 houses in Philadelphia, but eventually began working across the U.S. building and renovating homes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
Since its founding, the Soul Foundation has built over 500 affordable housing units and opened three volunteer-run Soul Kitchen restaurants. Dorothea came up with the idea for the "pay-if-you-can" restaurants, which allow those who can afford a meal to pay for those who can't. "We have been so blessed and so lucky," she told PEOPLE. "To see people not be able to feed their families, it's just not acceptable."
During an interview with Men's Health, Bon Jovi spoke about why his and Dorothea's long-lasting marriage works, crediting his wife for her compassion and support. "I'm not a saint, and I have not been a saint," he told the outlet. "I missed tons of birthdays and school plays. ... Dorothea has been in it the whole game. She understands what it means. It's my life, and it is what it is."
In 2012, Bon Jovi and Dorothea's oldest child Stephanie, who was a teenager at the time, called from the hospital and told her dad that she -
had overdosed on heroin. Thankfully, Stephanie recovered and her drug charges were dropped. But the experience rattled both Bon Jovi and his wife.
"It was horrible, a horrible moment," the singer later told The Daily Mirror. "It was my worst moment as a father. The first thing she said, 'I'm all right,' but then she said, 'This is what happened.' You wake up, you shake it off and put your shoes on and say, 'Okay, I am on the way home.' "
A few months later, Bon Jovi, Dorothea and three of their children attended the Winter Whites Gala at Kensington Palace. The event raised money for the homeless charity Centrepoint and the family spent time with Prince William and his family.
Bon Jovi and Dorothea are often asked about the secret to being in a long-term relationship. In November 2016, Dorothea told PEOPLE, "Somehow it works. I think because we grow at the same rate. We grew equally and not in opposite directions."
Bon Jovi added, "She's the glue ... I'm the crazy visionary with all kinds of things flying, and the seams are all splitting. She's the one following me with the glue and the thread and needle, keeping it all together."
After 35 years as a group, the band Bon Jovi were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. The singer's entire family showed up to support him.
In 2018, Bon Jovi and his son Jesse founded Hampton Water, a brand of rosé sourced from a vineyard in the south of France. "When you're in a band, you always say it's like a family. But when you're really working with your family, it's totally different," Bon Jovi said after the brand's launch. "We walk into meetings together and I go, 'Wow, it's Mini-Me.' He's thinking the way I'm thinking. It's been a dream."
The next year, Bon Jovi and Dorothea celebrated Hampton Water's Los Angeles launch with their son.
Just shy of his 30th wedding anniversary, Bon Jovi shared that his fans' were distraught after he and Dorothea got married. "It was like Harry Styles or Justin Timberlake getting married," he told The Mirror. "I was that to the young girls in my time. When I came back from Vegas my manager was furious. He was like, 'America's boy is now married… that's not a good career move.' The record company was also despondent."
After 40 years together, Bon Jovi opened up about his relationship with Dorothea and what makes it possible. Their secret? "Mutual respect," he said. "Having grown up together and grown together. And we really like each other. We want to hang out."
On the couple's 32nd wedding anniversary, Bon Jovi shared a touching tribute to Dorothea. Alongside a black-and-white photo from their Las Vegas wedding, he wrote, "If I got one thing right back in high school it was falling in love with this girl. Happy 32nd anniversary baby." The sweet post also included an old video of the couple embracing.
Bon Jovi wished Dorothea a happy birthday on Instagram in September 2021. He shared two photos: one of the couple embracing and another photo of their family on the red carpet. "Happy happy birthday to THE LOVE OF MY LIFE," he wrote in the caption.
The following year, Bon Jovi celebrated his wife again on Valentine's Day. He posted a black-and-white throwback photo of the young couple smiling on a motorcycle and wrote, "My forever valentine."
Bon Jovi and Dorothea made an appearance on SiriusXM's The Howard Stern Show, during which Dorothea spoke about celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary and reminisced on the early days of their relationship.
She said her husband was "100%" the cutest guy in high school but admitted that while she "knew he played in a band," she wasn't impressed by that fact until she heard him perform.
"I just remember being impressed that you could sing," she told her husband. "He was very good."
However, not everyone in her life was convinced by Bon Jovi's musical aspirations.
"That was the family's response," Bon Jovi joked to Stern about how Dorothea's family frowned upon her desire to be with someone who had unstable career goals.
Dorothea added, "That was everybody's response. And I remember somebody told me a story and then I said, 'Well, my boyfriend's gonna be a rock star,' and they were like, 'Good luck with that.' "
The rockstar and his wife were spotted in the crowd at Wimbledon on day six of the tournament. Bon Jovi donned an all-black ensemble, while Dorothea wore a colorful dress and a white fedora. During one of the matches, the couple were seated next to Today's Savannah Guthrie.
Dorothea accompanied Bon Jovi to the 2024 MusiCares Person of the Year gala in Los Angeles, where the singer was honored for his philanthropic work. They were also joined at the event by their daughter, Stephanie.