President Joe Biden turns 80 this weekend, but the White House gala was for a completely different, younger occasion. Biden’s eldest granddaughter, Naomi Biden, married Peter Neal on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday.
A day after the wedding, Biden will become the only octogenarian in U.S. history, a numerical milestone that underscores a major issue plaguing Biden and his opponents: his age. Despite a string of recent victories — the Democrats’ better-than-expected midterm elections, a relatively error-free trip to Egypt and Asia, and his longtime rival Donald Trump declaring a lackluster presidency — Biden still can’t shake off his most recent turmoil. Elder Commander-in-Chief – Chief America once had.
But a glamorous wedding for two 20-somethings that kicks off a new chapter of life with music, dance and revelry can inject youth into an 80th birthday weekend. Two people familiar with the wedding planners said it was no coincidence that Naomi Biden’s wedding weekend fell on President’s Day — noting that “age issues” were never something Biden wanted to emphasize.
“The wedding provided some cover,” said one of the people.
CNN has learned that the wedding, which included the Biden family on the guest list, as well as friends and family of the couple, also marks the beginning of serious discussions among the close-knit Biden family about whether Joe Biden should run for No. Two terms.
Jill and Joe Biden will head to Nantucket, Massachusetts, for the Thanksgiving holiday shortly after their wedding; Christmas follows, and as the day progresses, Biden will need to say whether he will be in 2024. Take office or step down. Both the president and first lady have said they will weigh the pros and cons of a second round, which Biden has previously said he “intends” to do.
A person familiar with the plans told CNN that the wedding itself consisted of three parts. The ceremony was scheduled to start around 11:15 a.m. ET and end at 11:50 a.m. ET on the South Lawn — a location never before used for a White House wedding. Sources confirmed earlier that there were no tents, making the morning outside a cold 39 degrees. Guests arrived at the White House complex Saturday morning, where they were all tested for Covid-19, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. They get blankets and shawls on the seats to keep them warm.
The bride’s parents, Hunter Biden and Katherine Buhler, walked her down the aisle, according to two people familiar with the wedding details. The band played The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” as Naomi Biden walked down the aisle. The same source said the bride wore a long-sleeved gown with a veil and trailing dress by Ralph Lauren.
Joe Biden escorted two of Neal’s grandmothers — Paulita Neal and Betty Thom — down the aisle to their seats, a source said. The president then turned around and did a “classic Biden jog” down the aisle to meet with the first lady and walk her down the aisle to their seats, according to the source.
The show, seen by CNN, lists Naomi’s sister Finnegan James Biden as her maid of honor, along with her sisters Roberta Mabel Biden, also known as Maisy, and Catherine Elizabeth Neal for bridesmaids. The groom’s best man was his brother Robert Elliot Neal, who was listed as Joseph Robinette Biden IV and Charles W. Geertz.
Peter’s father, Dr. Accompanied by singers, William Neal sang a song at the ceremony, sources said. Emy D’Amato reads the poem “I Carry Your Heart” by EE Cummings.
According to sources, the bride and groom wrote their own vows for the ceremony.
“It has been a joy to watch Naomi grow, discover who she is, and carve out such an incredible life for herself,” the president and first lady said in a statement from the White House on Saturday. “We are so proud now that she has chosen Peter as her husband and we are honored to welcome him into our family. We wish them many days of laughter and hope their love grows stronger each year. ”
Notable attendees include the former Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Ted Kaufman of Delaware, as well as Secretary of State Tony Blinken and his wife Evan Ryan, a former White House cabinet secretary.
After the exchange of vows, a smaller family-only and wedding-party-only lunch is expected at the White House, and guests will return later for a formal reception with dessert and dancing, also indoors.
In a way, Naomi Biden, 28, is living through a White House wedding thanks in large part to her own aggressiveness. Biden, a partner at the law firm Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C., first pushed her grandfather to run.
Despite being the patriarch, Joe Biden has always included his larger family circle, including his five oldest grandchildren, when weighing his life choices. His sensitivity to their feelings, and the aggressiveness of a sordid political fight, weighed heavily on his mind.
“I don’t think there’s any decision, big or small, that we haven’t made as a family,” Naomi Biden said in a video interview aired at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Although usually called by the elders of the Biden family, it was Naomi Biden who called the most critical, face-to-face, all-hands-on family meeting that would have the greatest impact on Joe Biden’s future. Biden is worried — however, they are not.
“He thinks we’re having a meeting about whether we want him to [run,] But we actually called it ‘Go to that game! hurry up! ’” said Naomi Biden. In the years since, Naomi has been speaking openly on her social media channels about democratic issues and supporting her grandfather. On Nov. 12, she tweeted He wrote: “Democracy wins in the Senate. Never think your vote doesn’t matter. ”
Naomi is also the closest granddaughter to her grandparents. A person familiar with the living arrangements told CNN that she and Neal, 25, a recent Penn law graduate who works at Georgetown University’s National Security Law Center, moved into the White House last August.
Being so close to the couple’s wedding location only increased their involvement in the planning. CNN has learned that Jill Biden was primarily involved in wedding planning, working with Rafanelli Events founder and wedding planner Bryan Rafanelli. Rafanelli is no stranger to throwing fantasy parties at the White House. During Barack Obama’s presidency, he hosted seven state dinners, including a final for the Italian government, which included a tent with a glass ceiling on the South Lawn and Gwen Stefani’s Performance.
He also planned and planned Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010.
Rafanelli-made weddings don’t come cheap. Many of his events start at around $300,000 and go up to millions of dollars. “Consistent with other private events hosted by the first family, and following the tradition of holding wedding ceremonies at the White House during previous administrations, the Biden family will pay for the wedding event at the White House,” said Elizabeth Alexander, Jill Biden’s communications director. told reporters. CNN.
Naomi Biden’s parents, who divorced in 2017, have each written memoirs about struggles in their relationship, many of which deal with Hunter Biden’s years-long struggle with addiction.
Neal’s family is from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the couple got engaged in September 2021. (A person with knowledge of its construction told CNN that the engagement rings, which include a ring from Neal’s grandmother’s engagement ring, were designed by DC jewelers.)
Naomi Biden’s choice of Ralph Lauren as her wedding dress designer wasn’t entirely a surprise; several fashion insiders CNN contacted previously speculated that the job It fell to Lauren, possibly the most iconic American fashion designer alive today. Joe Biden is partial to Lauren suits, which he wore on inauguration day, while Jill Biden has also been photographed wearing the brand. In March, Naomi attended the Ralph Lauren Fall 2022 show in New York City with her 23-year-old sisters, Finnegan and Neal, which sparked much of the discussion that she would wear the designer in at least one wedding dress. The White House has not commented on the gown speculation, but two sources familiar with the matter told CNN that the bride will wear two different wedding looks, one for the ceremony and one for the reception.
Photos of the wedding are scheduled to be released to the media on Saturday afternoon, between the morning ceremony and evening reception, the people said. Despite repeated protests by the White House Correspondents’ Association to allow media coverage because the wedding was held at the People’s House, the White House insisted that the bride and groom wanted privacy during the ceremony.
There is no doubt that the wedding will be a social event in the White House and the entire Biden administration this year. Garlands of white roses and other flowers hang from the Truman Balcony, weaving along the stairs to the South Lawn; large matching garlands and floral arches surround the entrance to the Diplomatic Room. This is only the 19th White House wedding, the last being for Obama’s chief photographer, Pete Souza, who married in the Rose Garden in 2013. In June 2008, Jenna Bush was the last president’s daughter to wed at the White House. A few months earlier, Bush held a wedding and reception at the Bush family’s ranch in Texas, but her father, George W. Bush, hosted about 600 guests at the White House for a second time Host daughter’s house.
But the scope and scale of Biden’s wedding is most associated with Lucy Johnson, who held a reception in the East Room after her marriage to Patrick Nugent, and Linda Johnson, who held a reception in the East Room of the White House in 1967. Hall married Charles Robb. Tricia Nixon married Edward Finch Cox in June 1971 under a white, flower-filled gazebo in the Rose Garden. All these weddings are media hype, with newspapers publishing recipes for 6-foot-tall wedding cakes.
Fragments of Johnson’s daughter and Nixon’s cake were sent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. (According to the White House Historical Association, Nixon hardened into a 2-inch by 2-inch piece that now looks like a dry sponge.)
There’s no word yet on the flavors of Biden’s cake, and it’s not known whether, as with the aforementioned White House wedding, guests will take home a piece as a party favor at the end of the evening.
This story has been updated with more details.