President Joe Biden will turn 80 this weekend, but the big party at the White House was for an entirely different, more youthful occasion. Biden’s great-granddaughter, Naomi Biden, married Peter Neal at the South Lawn White House on Saturday.
One day after the wedding, Biden will mark his place in American history as the only octogenarian president, a digital milestone that highlights a fundamental issue that Biden grapples with his opponents: his age. Despite a recent string of wins—better-than-expected midterm elections for Democrats, a relatively flawless trip to Egypt and Asia, and a lackluster presidential announcement from longtime rival, Donald Trump—Biden can’t shake being the oldest leader. America’s all-time achievement.
But a glamorous wedding of two in their 20s, starting a new chapter in life with music, dancing, and revelry, can really bring a youthful touch to an 80th birthday holiday. It was no coincidence that Naomi Biden’s wedding weekend coincided with President’s Day, two people familiar with the wedding planning said — noting that the “age issue” is never something Biden wants to highlight.
“The wedding gives some cover,” says one person.
The wedding, which CNN was told includes the extended Biden clan on the guest list, as well as the couple’s friends and family, also marked a launch of sorts for a tight-knit Biden to begin serious discussions about whether Joe Biden should run. second period.
Shortly after the wedding, Jill Biden and Joe Biden will travel to Nantucket, Massachusetts, for the Thanksgiving holiday; Christmas is quickly on its heels, as the hour draws nearer for Biden to decide whether to be in or out in 2024. Both the president and first lady said they would weigh the pros and cons of a second round, something Biden has previously said he “intends” to do.
A person familiar with the planning told CNN that the wedding itself has three parts. The ceremony, which was scheduled to start at about 11:15 a.m. ET and end at 11:50 a.m., took place on the South Lawn — a location that had not previously been used for a White House wedding. And the source confirmed earlier that there was no tent, which makes it a cold morning outdoors, with a temperature of 39 degrees. The guests arrived early Saturday morning at the White House compound, where they all underwent tests for Covid-19, two people familiar with the matter told CNN. They were given blankets and shawls for their seats to keep warm.
According to two people familiar with the wedding details, the bride’s parents, Hunter Biden and Kathleen Ball, walked her down the aisle. As Naomi Biden walked down the aisle, the band played “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve. The same sources said that the bride wore a long-sleeved gown with a veil and a train, designed by Ralph Lauren.
Joe Biden escorted Neal’s grandmothers — Paulita Neal and Betty Thom — down the aisle to their seats, a source said. The president then turned back and did the “classic Biden trot” down the aisle, according to the source, to meet the first lady and walk her down the aisle to their seats.
The programme, seen by CNN, listed Naomi Finnegan’s sister James Biden as her maid of honor and sister Roberta Mabel Biden, also known as Maisie, and Catherine Elizabeth Neal as bridesmaids. The groom’s best man was his brother, Robert Elliott Neal, and the groomsmen are listed as Joseph Robinette Biden IV and Charles W. Gerdts.
The source said that Peter’s father, Dr. William Neal, who was accompanied by the singers, sang a song during the ceremony. The poem “I Carry Your Heart With Me” by E.E. Cummings, which was read by Amy D’Amato, was also read.
And the bride and groom wrote their own vows for the ceremony, according to the source.
“It has been a joy watching Naomi grow up, discover who she is, and carve out such an amazing life for herself,” the president and first lady said in a statement released by the White House on Saturday. “Now, we feel honored to see her choose Peter as her husband and we are honored to welcome him into our family. We wish them days filled with laughter and love that gets deeper with each passing year.”
Notable attendees included former Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Ted Kaufman of Delaware, and Secretary of State Tony Blinken and his wife Evan Ryan, who served as Cabinet Secretary in the White House.
After the exchange of vows, a small luncheon reserved for families and weddings only was expected at the White House, and later, in the evening, guests would return for a black-tie reception with dessert and dancing, also indoors.
Somehow, Naomi Biden, 28, is having a White House wedding, thanks in large part to her glee. Biden, a colleague at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Arnold & Porter, pushed her grandfather to run for the first time.
Although the father, Joe Biden has always included his larger family circle, including his five eldest grandchildren, when considering life choices. His sensitivity to their feelings and the aggressive nature of a vicious political battle weigh on him.
“I don’t think there was any decision, no matter how big or small, that we didn’t make as a family,” Naomi Biden said in a video interview shown at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Although it was usually the older Biden family members who invited them, it was Naomi Biden who held the most important family meeting, in person, that would have the greatest impact on Joe Biden’s future. Biden was worried — but they weren’t.
“He thought we’d kind of call a meeting to discuss whether we wanted him or not [run,] But they were really calling it out to be like, “Get in this race!” Naomi Biden said. In the years since, Naomi has been the most publicly vocal on her social media channels about Democratic issues, standing up for her grandfather. : “Democracy wins in the Senate. Never think your vote doesn’t matter.
Naomi is also the granddaughter who is closest – literally – to her grandparents. She and Neal, 25, a recent University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate working at Georgetown University’s Law Center on National Security, moved into the White House last August, a person familiar with the living arrangements told CNN.
The proximity to the couple’s wedding location increased their involvement in the planning. Jill Biden was essentially the wedding planning person, CNN was told, working with wedding planner Brian Ravanelli, founder of Ravanelli Events. Ravanelli is no stranger to throwing fancy parties at the White House. He oversaw seven state dinners during Barack Obama’s presidency, including the administration’s final game for Italy, which featured a glass-roofed tent on the South Lawn and a performance by Gwen Stefani.
He also planned and organized the wedding of Chelsea Clinton in 2010.
A Ravanelli wedding isn’t a cheap endeavor. Pricing for many of his events start around $300,000 and can run into the millions of dollars. “In keeping with other special events hosted by the First Family and following the traditions of previous White House wedding ceremonies in previous administrations, weddings that occur at the White House will be paid for by the Biden family,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Jill Biden’s director of communications. CNN.
Naomi Biden’s parents, who divorced in 2017, wrote a memoir about the struggles in their relationship, many of which involved Hunter Biden’s struggle with addiction.
Neal’s family is from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the couple were engaged in September 2021. (The engagement ring includes Neil’s grandmother’s engagement ring, and it was designed by a DC jeweler, a person familiar with its construction told CNN.)
Naomi Biden’s choice of Ralph Lauren as her wedding dress designer wasn’t a complete surprise. Several fashion insiders contacted by CNN previously speculated that the job had gone to Lauren, who is perhaps the most famous American fashion designer alive today. Joe Biden is part of Lauren’s suits, having worn one on Inauguration Day. Jill Biden is also pictured wearing the poster. In March, Naomi and her sister Finnegan, 23, and Nell attended Ralph Lauren’s Fall 2022 show in New York City, which sparked most of the chatter that she’d be wearing the designer for at least one of her wedding looks. The White House has not commented on the dress speculation, but two familiar people told CNN that the bride will wear two different looks at the wedding, one for the ceremony and one for the reception.
The wedding photos are scheduled to be released to the press on Saturday afternoon, sometime between the morning ceremony and the evening reception, the person familiar with the planning said. Despite numerous protests from the White House Correspondents’ Association, which demanded that press coverage be allowed as the wedding takes place in the People’s Home, the White House has been adamant that the bride and groom want privacy in their marriage.
Without a doubt, the wedding will be the social event of the White House this year, and possibly the entire Biden administration. Garlands of white roses and other flowers were hung from Truman’s balcony, and woven along the stairs down to the south lawn; The entrance to the Diplomatic Hall is flanked by matching large garlands and a floral arch. It’s the 19th wedding to take place at the White House, and the latest was for Obama’s chief photographer, Pete Souza, who wed in 2013 in the Rose Garden. The last presidential daughter to celebrate a White House wedding was Jenna Bush in June 2008. Bush held her wedding and reception months earlier at the Bush family ranch in Texas, but her father, George W. Bush, hosted nearly 600 guests at the White House for his daughter’s second reception.
But the scope and scale of Biden’s wedding is most closely related to those of Lucy Johnson, who held her reception in the East Room after marrying Patrick Nugent, and Linda Johnson, who in 1967 married Charles Robb in the East Room of the White House. In June 1971 Tricia Nixon married Edward Finch Cox under a white flower-laden gazebo erected in the Rose Garden. All these weddings were catnip, newspapers were printing recipes for 6-foot-tall wedding cakes.
Pieces of the Johnson and Nixon daughters’ cake were sent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. (Nixon was stiffened into a 2-inch by 2-inch piece that now looks like a dry sponge, according to the White House Historical Association.)
No word yet on the flavor of the Biden cake, or whether, like the aforementioned White House weddings, guests will take home a slice as a treat at the end of the evening.
This story has been updated with additional details.