Inside Selena Quintanilla's Marriage

Singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, widely known as the "Queen Of Tejano," was a force to be reckoned with. By 1994, she had already released four Spanish language studio albums and won a Grammy for her live album. The Mexican-American singer was working on her fifth studio album, an English crossover album called Dreaming of You, before her death. The Texas-born musician learned to sing in Spanish at the urging of her father, Abraham Quintanilla, according to Biography, and breaking into the English language market would be a full-circle journey for her. On top of being a music superstar, Selena was also a fashion designer and the owner of two boutiques in Texas called Selena Etc

The renaissance woman also fulfilled a dream that many of us hope for in our personal lives even if we don't sing: She fell in love. In 1992, she married the guitarist in her band Los Dinos, Chris Pérez. The two were together until Selena was shot and killed by her former fan club president and manager of her boutiques, Yolanda Saldívar, on March 31, 1995. 

Their love story ended in tragedy, but Selena and Pérez's relationship burned bright. Here's a look at Selena Quintanilla's marriage.

Music brought Selena and her husband together

Selena Quintanilla met future husband Chris Pérez when he became a guitarist in her band, Los Dinos. As he recalled in an interview with News 4 San Antonio, he was ultimately recruited by Selena's brother, Abraham "A.B." Quintanilla III. He told the outlet that A.B. needed him on short notice, and he respected Selena and Los Dinos enough to end his other commitments. "I had to make some phone calls and wiggle my way out of some stuff and that was it," he said.

Pérez and Selena's attraction grew over time, and they would eventually become a classic case of opposites attracting. Pérez was a reserved guy and a fan of heavy metal music. "[Selena] was lively and outgoing, and loved being in the center of attention. Meanwhile, I quietly observed whatever was going on in the fringes," he wrote in his book "To Selena, With Love." In both the 1997 movie "Selena" and Netflix's "Selena: The Series" his character is single, but Pérez revealed in his 2012 book that he had a girlfriend when he joined the band.

Pérez told ET that Selena brought out a different side of him. "I'm a shy person," he said. "And there was just something about her where she was able to kind of just pull me out."

Chris Pérez did not want to mix business with pleasure

Regardless of his relationship status, Chris Pérez told News 4 San Antonio that he was very hesitant to mix business with pleasure when it came to Selena Quintanilla. "Look, 100%, I'll be honest. Of course...from day one, I thought she was beautiful, I thought she was amazingly talented," he said. "I also knew for a fact that there could be nothing between us because this is work. And, in my experience in the past, things like that just tend to get in the way because nine times out of 10 they don't work out.'s weird on everybody involved not just the two people that were in the relationship."

He shared that he spent a lot of time with Selena alone because they occasionally ended up in situations where they were the only two members of the band under 21, which meant they couldn't get into clubs with the others. As the pair grew closer Selena did not act as cautiously. She recruited brother A.B. Quintanilla III to ask Pérez about his feelings for her."I'm like, 'Oh, she's cool, dude. Yeah, I'm having a great time,'" he recalled to News 4 San Antonio. "He goes, 'No, stupid. What do you think about her.'" Pérez kept his guard up. "I'm just like, 'Nah, your dad will kill me,'" he remembered telling A.B., who laughed off his worries. 

Love was in the air at Pizza Hut

Selena Quintanilla was a Coca-Cola spokesperson, and the band went on a trip to Mexico to celebrate a jingle they wrote for the brand. It was there that Chris Pérez's feelings for her began to deepen. As he wrote "To Selena, With Love," Quintanilla was "truly free to be herself" on that vacation and he began to realize he was catching feelings for her.

On the plane ride home from that trip, fate stepped in. "We were sitting next to each other. Long story short we hit turbulence and we just started holding hands," Pérez told News 4 San Antonio. He said that part of him was excited and another part of him was worried about the potential drama a relationship with Quintanilla would start with regards to the band. He ultimately followed his heart. "It felt right, it felt special, it felt different, and then that was it pretty much," he recalled.

The couple naturally got closer and closer, helped by the fact that they worked together so often. But when they actually said the three magic words, they were enjoying an iconic American delicacy — Pizza Hut. As Pérez shared with News 4 San Antonio, Selena said the words first. "I told her that I loved her back and I almost choked on the words," he said. "It was so real. It wasn't just the words themselves it was the feeling behind it." Honestly, we're all choked up right now.

Selena's father didn't approve of the relationship at first

Selena Quintanilla and Chris Pérez knew that Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, would disapprove of their relationship. So, they hid it from him as long as possible. When Abraham learned of what was going on, he confronted Pérez outside of the Los Dinos tour bus. "He just goes, 'Look, I don't know what's going on between you and Selena but whatever it is, it stops right now, Pérez told News 4 San Antonio. Pérez said he felt "unbalanced" after the conversation but all he could do at the moment was agree.

Abraham remembered the moment slightly differently. "I didn't realize what was going on until we were coming home one time from McAllen and I saw them hugging. I stopped the bus in Harlingen at two or three o'clock in the morning and exploded," he said in Texas Monthly. "I fired Chris on the spot. I dropped him off in a Whataburger parking lot and said, 'You find your way home.'" In the aforementioned News 4 San Antonio interview, Pérez called his departure more of a "combination quitting/'get out of here' type thing." But he said he "never had any intention" to stop seeing Selena.

"I saw him as a threat," Abraham told Texas Monthly. "What if they got married and he pulled her out of the band? All the work we did all those years would go down the tubes."

So, Selena and Chris Pérez eloped

When someone's life gets made into a feature film, some details may get exaggerated for the sake of drama. But according to Chris Pérez, one of the most intense parts of the "Selena" movie is extremely accurate. "I will say this, out of all the scenes in the movie the scene where ... [Jennifer Lopez as Selena] comes to the hotel room knocking on the door like, 'I can't handle this anymore, let's get married,' That scene is the most realistic when it comes to [Selena] and I," the guitarist told News 4 San Antonio. "When I saw that, I remember I told [Jon Seda], I was like 'Dude, you nailed that.'"

Pérez said that just like the movie portrays, he made Selena think about what she was asking him to do before they jumped into getting hitched just for the romance of it all. He was scared about what marrying Selena would do to his relationship with her father Abraham Quintanilla and Selena's career. He tried to remind her of the dreams she had of a big wedding, but once he saw Selena was sure that her dream wasn't going to happen, he agreed to elope.

The couple got married at the Nueces County courthouse on April 2, 1992. Pérez told the outlet that though Abraham was upset at first, once he calmed down, getting back into the band was simple because marriage was a sacred institution to Abraham. "He just, I dare I say, was supportive," Pérez said.

Selena's art accidentally imitated life

The lyrics of many of Selena Quintanilla's songs feel like they came out of diary entries about her relationship with Chris Pérez. For example, "Amor Prohibido" — which translates directly to "Forbidden Love" — seems like it could be about Selena and Pérez hiding their relationship from her father, Abraham Quintanilla. But Selena's brother, Abraham "A.B." Quintanilla, told BuzzFeed that the song is actually about his and Selena's grandparents, whose own parents did not approve of their love.

Selena's hit "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," on the other hand, may be more directly related to Pérez. In a 1994 interview with Don Francisco on "Sábado Gigante" (via PopSugar), Selena said, "It's the sound the heart makes when you see a man pass by. It sounds like, 'Bidi bidi bom bom." PopSugar also reported that A.B. Quintanilla said she wrote the song soon after Pérez was added to the band, which totally makes sense. 

A.B. also told BuzzFeed that the song originally had a completely different theme. "It used to be called 'Bidi Bidi Bubbles," the music producer said. "She would say she was a fish under the sea and all kinds of jibber jabber." It's catchy either way.

Chris Pérez didn't know where Selena was the day she died

Yolanda Saldívar killed Selena Quintanilla on March 31, 1995, just two days before the singer's third wedding anniversary with Chris Pérez and two weeks before her 24h birthday. As Texas Monthly recounted, Saldívar, who was a former president of Selena's fan club who also managed her boutiques, bought a pistol after Abraham Quintanilla confronted her about accounting issues.

Selena's former manicurist Celia Macias was with the singer when she got the first call from Saldívar begging Selena to meet her alone. "Yolanda started freaking out and telling her all these lies, claiming that she had been abducted in Mexico," Macias recalled to Texas Monthly. Nueces County District Attorney Carlos Valdez told the outlet that Pérez went with Selena for the meeting.

The next morning, Saldívar called Selena and claimed she was assaulted and asked that Selena come alone to take her to the hospital. "I had no idea that she was going to pick up Yolanda and take her to the hospital," Pérez told Texas Monthly. The shooting occurred when the pair returned to Saldívar motel. In a 2021 episode of "E! True Hollywood Story" (via People), Pérez said some fans have questioned how the family could let such a tragedy take place. "Come on now, you think that I would let anything happen to her, like seriously?" he said. "None of us thought that [losing her] was even a possibility."

Many of Chris' dreams died with Selena

Selena Quintanilla's family was determined to keep her memory alive after her death. One of the ways they did that was to release her unfinished English language album, "Dreaming of You" on July 18, 1995. Selena's widower Chris Pérez told "E! True Hollywood Story" (via People) about his experience recording the guitar parts for that album. "Them pushing play for me to record the guitar tracks and to hear her voice coming out the speakers in the studio, it was just painful to go in [the recording booth] and have to create parts and make them sound a certain way, when really inside you're just dying," he recalled.

While Selena's loved ones were able to make some of her career dreams come true, Pérez's dreams for their family died with her. Shortly after her death he told VH1 that they planned on having a big family (he said Selena wanted five kids), and were building a house with enough land to raise horses on. "Basically, what I had to do was let go of a lot of those dreams," he said. "But it wasn't that hard because she's not here. That's the hard part ... To be honest, I don't want the land without her. I don't want that house without her."

Chris Pérez didn't watch his wife's biopic until 2017

The 1997 biopic about Selena Quintanilla's life, simply titled "Selena," introduced people around the world to the Tejano singer's music and story. It also helped launch a young actor named Jennifer Lopez into the Hollywood spotlight. But even though Selena's husband Chris Pérez has told several outlets like News 4 San Antonio that he's friends with actor Jon Seda, Pérez did not watch most of the movie until 2017. He chronicled the experience with fans on Facebook. "Gonna grab a bottle of wine from the kitchen and sit through the movie in it's entirety for the first time (besides the premier...where my eyes were closed half of the time)," he wrote.

Pérez confirmed on Facebook important details for fans like the fact that his late wife loved pizza so much that they said "I love you" while eating it. He also shared that the infamous scene in the movie where Chris trashes a hotel room actually happened. "Not one of my prouder moments. But I paid THOUSANDS in damages. Lesson Learned. [Selena]...was...PISSED," he wrote. He didn't make it to the end of the movie but he did praise Jennifer Lopez's performance. "Jen did a great f!@#king job. Super proud. Will not watch the ending of the movie," he wrote before signing off Facebook. We completely understand why he didn't want to relive the end.

Chris Pérez had legal issues with the Quintanilla

Chris Pérez decided to share his love for Selena Quintanilla with the world in a 2012 book called "To Selena, With Love." And, as Pérez recalled to Billboard, Abraham Quintanilla Jr. was initially on board. "When I was done and talked to Abraham about it, he said, 'Son, if it's something you feel you need to do, you have every right to do it,'" he said. Evidently, something changed by 2016 when Pérez was in talks with the production company  Endemol Shine Latino to produce a TV series based on the book, as reported by Billboard.

Abraham took Pérez and the company to court. "Defendant Perez expressly agreed that he would not exploit any of the Entertainment Properties in any manner or medium, including, without limitation, by way of a book, television series, movie, or any other motion picture medium," official court documents read. The rights belong to the Quintanillas' production company, Q Productions.

Caller Times reported that the suit was dismissed in 2019, and it sounds like ties are all but severed. "I haven't seen the family or been to Q Productions in quite some time," Pérez told News 4 San Antonio in 2021. He didn't elaborate about issues but alluded that it was because of Abraham's "energy" and added, "It's hard taking the high road all the time." 

Chris Pérez keeps Selena's legacy alive

Chris Pérez admitted to News 4 San Antonio that he struggled being in the spotlight and pursuing a path in the music industry after his wife Selena Quintanilla's death. "For the longest time after she was gone in interviews and things that I had to do I was...made to look a certain way through the press," he said. He added that the media would focus on the fact that he was a widower even while he was trying to promote music by the Grammy-winning Chris Pérez Band and that made it difficult to move forward in the industry. "I overthought things, I wasn't just free and open," he shared, noting that he always worried that if he put out a song about her people would think he was exploiting Selena's legacy.

And what a legacy it is. "You can't fake it, man," he told News 4 Antonio. "She was authentic to the core. And the talent that she had, it was something special." He now regularly makes appearances and does interviews to honor Selena on important anniversaries, like when he played on stage with Jennifer Lopez at the Billboard Latin Music Awards to honor his late wife in 2015.

"She taught me a lot," he said on the "E! True Hollywood Story" (via People). "I used to never tell people I love them, you know? Or I miss them, or just give them gifts just because. I learned those things and many, many other things from her."