First family wedding seeks cover in Texas

May 9th, 2008 - 1:10 pm ICT by admin  

By Pat Reber
Washington, May 9 (DPA) A first family wedding with no paparazzi? Presidential daughter Jenna Bush is retreating to the family home in Crawford, Texas, to get married Saturday, ducking the demand for publicity that would have gone with a White House wedding, even though the event might have raised her father’s sagging popularity.

She’s the first presidential child to take vows with dad in office since 1992. That’s when US President George W. Bush’s sister, Dorothy, married during the White House tenure of their father, George Bush.

That, too, was a private affair, as were the weddings of 13 of the 22 children of presidents who have married while their fathers were in the White House since 1820, according to Doug Wead, author of “All the Presidents’ Children”.

Instead of bucking tradition, Jenna, 26, is in fact upholding a publicity-shy history by marrying Henry Hager, 29, son of a prominent Virginia Republican family, out of public sight.

No photographers. Few details. An outdoor affair with 200 guests at the family’s Texas ranch. It was in keeping with the style of Jenna, who once stuck her tongue out at the press.

Not that she’s been spared during her father’s seven-plus years as president. When she and her twin sister Barbara violated drinking laws, when they were still under-age in 2001, both made a media splash. Jenna had to pay a $600 fine in Texas for one of several offences.

She explained her need for privacy to Vogue magazine recently.

“Henry and I are far less glamorous than the White House,” Jenna said. “I was raised in Texas, and it just felt right.”

The president - who has spent more time than his predecessors away from the White House, mostly at the ranch - flew Thursday to Texas to join the rest of the family.

“I was watching the weather very carefully,” Bush told ABC Television’s Good Morning America this week. “We, of course, are hoping for good weather. I think it will be beautiful. I know the wildflowers are blooming, and it’s very green. We’ve gotten some good spring rains.”

But Daddy has already leaked some details. He told ABC that it was his idea to build an outdoor altar for the religious vows.

“That’s where she’s going to get married, right in front of this Texas limestone altar with a cross on it - by our lake,” the president said.

The wedding, however, is a case of separation of powers, with First Lady Laura Bush “in charge”, in the words of her husband. But she has kept details under wraps.

Earlier this week, she tore into the Myanmar military government for its handling of the cyclone aftermath, smiling only at the end of the White House press conference when a reporter wished her well for the wedding.

“We’re getting, for us, our first son,” the first lady said.

The female twins are the first couple’s only children. She joked that the grandchildren might have names like “George and Georgia, Georgina” or even “Georgette”.

Jenna “just wanted to get married at home. She just feels a lot more comfortable there. … We want what she wants”, Laura said.

Would the president be out early Sunday for his usual bike ride?

“Since he probably won’t be staying up to dance the last dance, it’ll probably be early,” Laura said, laughing.

USA Today reported that such private weddings reflect a American social trend against over-the-top, encrusted traditions.

The last high style White House weddings were Lynda Bird Johnson’s 1967 marriage to Marine Captain Chuck Robb, while dad Lyndon was mired in the Vietnam War, and Tricia Nixon’s 1971 all-out affair with a towering, two-metre-plus cake as dad Richard launched his re-election campaign.

Jenna and Henry met in 2004, when he was working in the White House for Bush’s former political strategist, Karl Rove, USA Today reported.

The couple are to live in Baltimore, where they have bought a 128-year-old row house for $440,000. He is to work at an energy company while Jenna is an intern for Unicef in Latin America. She has written several books, including a children’s book that she wrote with her mother.

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