The wedding is at the White House, but the details are top secret

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The wedding is at the White House, but the details are top secret
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WASHINGTON — The names of the president and first lady appear on wedding invitations. The suppliers have all signed non-disclosure agreements. And the bride and groom don’t have to travel far to their meeting place, because they live in the White House.

When Naomi Biden, President Biden’s eldest granddaughter, weds her fiancé, Peter Neal, in a private ceremony on the South Lawn on Saturday morning, it will be the quintessential Biden affair: planned by the close-knit family and a handful of trusted aides, and treated as a state secret, despite a public background.

The White House has kept details of the event to a minimum, but a person familiar with the planning said a family luncheon and wedding party will take place at the White House immediately following the South Lawn ceremony, scheduled for 11 a.m. A black tie evening reception with dessert and dancing will follow. The White House plans to release photos from the event on Saturday afternoon.

Of the seven Biden grandchildren, Ms. Biden, 28, is a particularly influential presence in Mr. Biden’s life. She was the one who called a family meeting to urge her grandfather to run for president in 2019. And she will be involved in family discussions when Mr Biden, who turns 80 the day after the wedding, considers a second race.

A Washington lawyer with an interest in politics, Ms Biden was a frequent presence at White House events, twirling in a feather-fringed dress on the South Lawn when Elton John performed there in September, and sitting in the audience of a Cinco de Mayo Celebration in May. She is the daughter of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, and Kathleen Buhle, who divorced in 2017.

Mrs. Biden, as the president often says, was named after his eldest daughter, who died in a car accident with Mr. Biden’s first wife, Neilia, in 1972.

In April, Mr. Biden introduced himself as “Naomi Biden’s grandfather” at a White House event celebrating the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. In October, Ms Biden stood next to her grandparents in a pink wig – her grandmother’s was purple – and handed out Halloween candy to cheaters.

So it came as a surprise to few who know the family that the president and first lady were active in the wedding planning process, according to people familiar with the event. Dr Biden told the ‘Today’ show in September that she had attended most of the planning meetings and had watched her granddaughter ‘flourish’, adding: ‘Really, there is so much joy about it, and I can’t wait.”

And the president, his aides say, is a beloved grandfather. He slips $20 bills to his grandchildren and makes it a rule to answer the phone whenever they call. Ms Biden has released a compilation of voicemails he left her during the presidential campaign – ‘I just called to tell you I love you,’ he said said in many.

“They expand his mind and his way of thinking about things in a way that I don’t think anyone else I’ve seen does,” said Jen Psaki, Ms. Biden, on the president’s relationship with his grandchildren. “They are his connection, in some ways, to the outside world.”

Wedding planning meetings were reserved for a select group, including the first couple and Hunter Biden; Anthony Bernal, senior adviser to Dr. Biden; and Elizabeth Alexander, its director of communications. But they were the first couple whose names appeared on the wedding invitation.

White House advisers have said very little publicly about the wedding, except to relay that the Biden family will bear all costs associated with the event.

Ms. Biden and Mr. Neal live in the White House, according to two people familiar with their situation.

“Consistent with other private events hosted by the First Family and consistent with traditions of previous White House wedding festivities in previous administrations, the Biden family will pay for wedding activities that take place at the White House,” Ms. Alexander in an email. .

On the way to the wedding, Mr. Neal, 25, and Ms. Biden posted occasional updates on Instagram. The couple were celebrated with a floral-themed shower in August, and they traveled to Wyoming, where Mr Neal grew up, for festivities with friends later in the summer. Mr. Neal, 25, is from Jackson Hole, Wyo., and is the son of Drs. Mary C. Neal and William C. Neal of Jackson Hole. On Thursday, Mr. Neal posted a photo of the couple standing under a white archway at a marriage license office in Washington.

Weddings at the White House are rare. There have been just 18, with couples ranging from President Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsom, who married in the Blue Room in June 1886, to Pete Souza, President Obama’s White House photographer, and Patti Lease. , who married in the Rose Garden in 2013, in a small affair studded with blue flowers. (The couple had been together for two decades and saw no need to marry until the president’s constant harassment won out.) Ms. Biden is the first granddaughter of a president to marry there.

It’s usually up to the couple to share as much or as little as they want on their nuptials, but the curiosity factor is always high.

“The White House as a home is always a topic of great public interest,” said Anita McBride, who served as Laura Bush’s chief of staff when she was first lady. “A first family wedding is a particularly joyous and rare occasion, which adds a special footnote in the compelling stories of our White House life story.”

Tricia Nixon’s 1971 wedding to Edward F. Cox at the Rose Garden helped create an expectation that modern White House events should be open to the public. This wedding was accompanied by a six-tiered wedding cake and some 700 accredited journalists covering the event.

The couple leaned into the idea that their wedding was part of American history: Among their guests were several women who had married at the White House, including Alice Roosevelt Longworth, 98, who was married in 1906, and the two daughters of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, Lynda and Luci Johnson.

But Ms Biden, who grew up staying with her grandparents at the vice president’s residence – where they set up bunk beds for their grandchildren – didn’t take that approach. Instead, she and Mr Neal decided to plan the wedding “as a private celebration for friends and family”, said a person familiar with their wishes.

With privacy a major concern, the Bidens hired Bryan Rafanelli, the wedding planner responsible for high-profile global political events, including Chelsea Clinton’s 2010 wedding, to carry out the process. It is known to require confidentiality agreements with its suppliers, which the White House also requires.

Ms. Biden and Mr. Neal, who did not respond to a request for comment, were set up on a date by a mutual friend in New York in 2018, according to the White House. Mr. Neal proposed on September 4, 2021. Ms. Biden is a partner at high-powered law firm Arnold & Porter. Mr. Neal graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School this year. He is associated with the Center on National Security at Georgetown Law.

Only one person in the Biden family couldn’t resist breaking family protocol to talk about marriage.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Biden was on tour through Egypt, Cambodia and Indonesia, working to rally American allies against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and holding a high-stakes summit with the president. Chinese Xi Jinping.

But his granddaughter was on his mind at a mangrove farm in Bali, when a man approached him to mention they had met before, at an event Mr Biden had attended with Ms Biden .

“This granddaughter is getting married in four days,” the president said proudly, shortly before leaving for Washington.

nytimes

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