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‘Here comes the bride’: White House to host its 19th wedding

Wedding AP.jpeg
Posted at 2:33 PM, Nov 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-13 22:26:38-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Here Comes the Bride” will be heard at the White House very soon. Again.

Naomi Biden, the granddaughter of President Joe Biden, and Peter Neal are getting married on the South Lawn on Saturday in what will be the 19th wedding in White House history.

It will be the first wedding with a president’s granddaughter as the bride, and the first one in that location, according to the White House Historical Association.

A mutual friend set up Naomi Biden, 28, and Neal, 25, about four years ago in New York City and the White House said they have been together ever since. Naomi Biden is a lawyer; her father is Hunter Biden. Neal recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania law school. The couple lives in Washington.

Nine of the 18 documented White House weddings were for a president’s daughter — most recently Richard Nixon’s daughter, Tricia, in 1971, and Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughter, Lynda, in 1967.

But nieces, a grandniece, a son and first ladies’ siblings have also gotten married there. One president, Grover Cleveland, tied the knot there, too, while in office.

First lady Jill Biden said she’s excited to see her granddaughter “planning her wedding, making her choices, becoming, you know, just coming into her own, and she’s just so beautiful.”

“So I can’t wait till all of you see her as a bride,” the first lady said during a recent appearance on singer Kelly Clarkson’ s talk show.

Stewart McLaurin, president of the historical association, said special occasions at the White House aren’t soon forgotten.

“If you were to have the privilege of celebrating a holiday there or a special occasion in your life, like a wedding, it is a very memorable occasion,” he said.

Five weddings were held in the East Room, four took place in the Blue Room and two unfolded in the Rose Garden, steps away from the Oval Office.

In June 1971, some 400 guests watched as Nixon walked Tricia down the steps of the South Portico to a waiting Edward Cox, and the couple exchanged vows in a gazebo set up in the Rose Garden for the first wedding ceremony ever held there.

Her planner — a black, three-ring binder labeled “TRICIA’S WEDDING” and kept by the historical association — has tabbed sections for every aspect of her special day, including the attendants, social aides, gazebo, flowers, parking, seating, menu, champagne, the press and more.

Her wedding cake was a six-tiered, 350-pound (159 kilograms), 6-foot-tall (1.8 meters) lemon-flavored pound cake decorated with blown sugar love birds and the initials “PN” and “EC.”

The White House released the recipe, but home bakers and food critics said it produced a “soupy mess” and speculated that the White House had scrambled the number of egg whites versus whole eggs, according to White House History Quarterly magazine’s weddings issue.

President Nixon sent a thank-you note to Rex Scouten, the White House chief usher, for his help coordinating physical arrangements for the wedding. The letter is in Tricia Nixon’s planner.

“I want you to know how grateful all the Nixons are for your splendid contributions on this very special day,” Nixon wrote.

In October 2013, Barack Obama’s chief White House photographer, Pete Souza, and Patti Lease married in a private ceremony in the Rose Garden after 17 years of being a couple. Obama had gotten to know Lease because she attended some White House events.

“He kept pestering me about why we hadn’t gotten married,” Souza told The Associated Press. He said Obama made what he thought was an off-hand comment about having the wedding in the Rose Garden, but later “I found out that he was not joking.”

He and Lease exchanged “I do’s” in the presence of about 30 family members and friends. They felt overwhelmed by the venue, but were honored by the president’s gesture, he said.

“It gives people a sense that I had a unique relationship with Barack Obama that he would insist I have the wedding at the White House,” Souza said. “I’m so honored, as is my wife, to have my wedding ceremony at the White House. Not many people can say that.”

The Rose Garden helped unite two Democratic political families when Anthony Rodham, a brother of then-first lady Hillary Clinton, and Nicole Boxer, a daughter of then-California Sen. Barbara Boxer, exchanged wedding vows in May 1994 during a private ceremony.

Hillary Clinton had first offered Camp David, the official presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, for the wedding, but later on suggested the Rose Garden, Nicole Boxer said.

“I was like out of my mind excited with the possibility of it,” Nicole Boxer recalled during a telephone interview from California. “Can you imagine a more perfect venue?”

Among the approximately 250 guests were President Biden and his wife, Jill. Biden and Barbara Boxer served in the Senate at the time.

The reception was held in the first lady’s garden, followed by dinner in the State Dining Room and dancing in the East Room. President Bill Clinton played his saxophone; daughter Chelsea was a bridesmaid.

“You just think you’re the luckiest person in the world and I think it’s something you have to appreciate,” Nicole Boxer said. “It’s like being part of the American fabric.”

A White House wedding is no guarantee of a lasting marriage. The couple divorced in 2001. Rodham died in 2019.

Lynda Johnson Robb said she never thought about a White House wedding, but circumstances practically dictated that she and Marine Capt. Charles Robb marry there in December 1967. The year before, her sister Luci had a Roman Catholic church wedding in Washington.

“We had to get married sooner than I would have liked because he was going to be going to Vietnam, and so we wanted to be married a little while and that was just three months before he left,” Lynda Johnson Robb said on a White House Historical Association podcast in 2018.

The couple met because Robb was assigned to the the White House as a military social aide.

They wed in the East Room with White House bride Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who was married in the same room in 1906, among the approximately 500 guests. The couple walked under a saber arch created by Robb’s fellow Marines as they left the room afterward.

Following tradition at military weddings, they used Robb’s sword to make the first cut of their wedding cake — a 6-foot (1.8 meters)-tall, 250-pounds(113.4 kilogram) pound cake with raisins decorated with sugar scrolls, roses and love birds.

Lynda Johnson Robb said she was lucky. Red is her signature color and December nuptials meant the White House was already decorated for Christmas. Her mom, Lady Bird Johnson, was spared some stress.

“They could use the same decorations and that was great,” she said. “My mother was always trying to find ways to save money.”