Weddings

25 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Presidential and White House Weddings

From Martha Custis to Chelsea Clinton: a trip down memory lane with the first families.
Chelsea Clinton, walked down the aisle by Bill Clinton. Photographed by Genevieve de Manio.

1. As a wedding gift to his betrothed, Martha Wayles, Thomas Jefferson ordered a mahogany forte-piano that was to be “worthy the acceptance of a lady for whom I intend it.” [National Women’s History Museum]

2. Caroline Kennedy wore a gown by Carolina Herrera at her wedding to Edwin Schlossberg in 1986. The designer and her husband were said to have attended the ceremony themselves. [New York Times]

3. Though Barack Obama was invited to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding, he declined to attend. [Washington Post]

4. When Jenna Bush, daughter of George W. Bush and Laura Bush, wed Henry Hager in 2008, she wore a gown by Oscar de la Renta that the designer had picked out for her himself. [Today News]

Richard Nixon with his daughter, Tricia, on her wedding day. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

5. At Richard Nixon’s daughter, Patricia (Tricia) Nixon’s wedding to Edward Finch Cox in 1971, the cake was seven feet tall to feed all the guests–and the 600 journalists in attendance. [Today Weddings]

6. Ronald Reagan was so infatuated with his wife Nancy, he would give her little sketches he’d made signed with “I.T.W.W.W.” which translated as, “I love you more than anyone ‘in the whole wide world.’” [Fox News]

7. Maria Shriver was the matron of honor at her cousin Caroline Kennedy’s wedding to Edwin Schlossberg. [Boston.com]

8. Designer Vera Wang, actor Ted Danson, and Madeline Albright were among the notable attendees at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010. [The Wall Street Journal]

Nellie Grant’s wedding to Algernon Sartoris. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

9. Ulysses S. Grant disapproved of his 18-year-old daughter Nellie’s wedding to Algernon Sartoris, which took place in the East Room of the White House. Grant reportedly cried through the whole ceremony. [Washington Times]

10. Before he could walk her down the aisle, Chelsea Clinton insisted that Bill lose 15 pounds. He cut out junk food and started exercising more, and by her wedding day, he was 20 pounds lighter. [The New York Times]

11. Michelle Obama knew President Barack Obama was “the one” after their first date in 1989. “We clicked right away,” she said. “By the end of the date it was over…I was sold.” [InStyle]

12. For her wedding to Patrick Nugent, Lyndon B. John’s daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, wore a gown with a three-yard train. [Huffington Post]

Martha Custis and George Washington’s wedding. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

13. For her wedding to George Washington, Martha Custis placed an order for purple silk shoes from London. [George Washington’s Mount Vernon]

14. The first wedding to take place at the White House was Dolly Madison’s sister, Lucy Payne Washington, to Thomas Todd in 1812. [The White House Historical Association]

15. Though there was a threat of rain, Tricia Nixon insisted that her wedding take place in the White House Rose Garden. [Time]

16. When Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy, wed in 1996, she bucked traditions by refusing to let him give her away. She said she “didn’t belong to anyone.” [Time]

Jacqueline Kennedy preparing to throw the bouquet at her wedding. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

17. Over 1,200 guests attended Jacqueline and John Kennedy’s wedding reception, which was held on the terrace of Hammersmith Farm in Newport, Rhode Island. [John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum]

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18. Though Ulysses S. Grant proposed to Julia Boggs Dent in 1844, their wedding was delayed for four years while he served in the war with Mexico. Julia referred to her husband as “the nicest and handsomest man I ever saw.” [National Park Service]

19. When Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd, he gave her a ring that was engraved with “A.L. to Mary, Nov. 4,1842. Love is Eternal.” [National Park Service]

20. After Edith Wilson and Woodrow Wilson wed on December 19, 1915, they honeymooned in Hot Springs, Virginia. [National First Ladies’ Library]

21. Lauren Bush, George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush’s granddaughter, married at a 17,000-acre ranch in Colorado. Due to the great elevation–around 9,000 feet above sea level, the senior Bush couple were ordered by their doctors not to attend. [Vogue]

Grover Cleveland’s wedding to Frances Folsom. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

22. When Grover Cleveland married 21-year-old Frances Folsom at the White House in 1886, Folsom became the youngest First Lady in history. [Smithsonian]

23. William Taft met his future wife, Helen, at a sledding party. She referred to him as “that adorable Will Taft.” [The White House]

24. When Richard Nixon’s daughter, Julie, married Dwight Eisenhower’s grandson, David, the pair was determined to keep the ceremony small and private–David didn’t want a repeat of 1966 when a baseball game was pulled from the television broadcast to show Luci Johnson’s wedding instead. [AARP]

25. Harry Truman first spotted his future wife, Bess Wallace, in Sunday School when he was six years old and she was five. “I thought (and still think) she was the most beautiful girl I ever saw,” he later said. Truman never sought to date any other woman–he’d met his true love in kindergarten and never thought twice about it. They were married for 53 years. [National Archives]

Editor’s Note: This post previously stated that Tricia Nixon’s wedding was the only one to have taken place in the Rose Garden at the White House. That is incorrect, and this post has been updated to reflect the correction.

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Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.