WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s wedding day at the White House.
Naomi Biden and Neal were exchanging “I do’s” during a ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m. — with temperatures forecast in the high 30s — on the South Lawn, which has been turned into a wedding venue for the very first time. It’s also the first White House wedding with a president’s granddaughter as the bride.
Scores of white folding chairs dotted the South Lawn on Friday and rental trucks were parked on the driveway as event planners began setting up. The South Portico of the White House, which faces the lawn and the Washington Monument in the distance, was being decorated with wreaths and garland bearing white flowers.
The public will see none of the festivities, unlike some past White House weddings. The bride and groom have decided to keep journalists out, although the ceremony will be outdoors on the grounds of what the president and first lady call the “people’s house.”
Naomi Biden, 28, is a lawyer in Washington. Her parents are Hunter Biden, the son of the president and first lady Jill Biden, and Kathleen Buhle, Hunter’s first wife.
Neal, 25, of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania law school. He works at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. His parents are Drs. Mary C. and William “Bill” C. Neal of Jackson Hole.
The couple, who have been living at the White House, was set up by a mutual friend about four years ago in New York City and have been together ever since, the White House said. Neal proposed in September 2021 near his childhood home in Jackson Hole with a ring that repurposed the band of his grandmother’s engagement ring, according to the White House.
After the 20-somethings officially become husband and wife, their families and the wedding party will get out of the cold and head back inside the White House for lunch, which is to be followed in the evening by a dessert-and-dancing reception, according to a person familiar with the planning who was not authorized to publicly discuss the wedding schedule.
Few other details were released before the ceremony.
To accommodate public interest, the president and first lady planned to issue a statement and release photos after the first of their six grandchildren ties the knot, the White House said.
President Biden and the first lady were among those who attended the wedding rehearsal dinner Friday at the Renwick Gallery steps from the White House. Neal’s parents hosted.
The Biden family will pay for all wedding activities, White House officials have said.
“The wedding of Naomi Biden and Peter is a private one,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the president’s chief spokesperson, said Friday. “It’s a family event and Naomi and Peter have asked that their wedding be closed to the media and we are respecting their wishes.”
There have been 18 documented weddings in the 200-plus-year history of the White House. Nine involved a president’s daughter, most recently Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia in 1971 and Lyndon Johnson’s daughter Lynda in 1967.
But nieces, a grandniece, a son and first ladies’ siblings have also gotten married there. One president, Grover Cleveland, tied the knot at the White House, too, while in office.
Some of the weddings were open to coverage by the news media, while others weren’t at all.
Journalists were allowed into Tricia Nixon’s wedding to Ed Cox, the first wedding held in the Rose Garden. Her wedding planner — a three-ring black binder in the offices of the White House Historical Association — includes extensive notes on the media plan.
But the May 1994 wedding of a brother of then-first lady Hillary Clinton and the daughter of then-U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer — the first since Tricia Nixon’s marriage — was closed to the press. Clinton’s spokesperson commented afterward and the White House released a photo.
It was the same for the October 2013 wedding of Pete Souza, President Barack Obama’s official photographer, and his longtime partner, Patti Lease. The White House announced the wedding in a statement following the small, private wedding in the Rose Garden.
The White House Correspondents Association, which advocates for press access to the White House and the president, said it was “deeply disappointed” that the White House declined its request for press coverage of Naomi Biden’s wedding.
“White House weddings have been covered by the press throughout history and the first family’s wish for privacy must be balanced against the public’s interest in an event occurring at the People’s House with the president as a participant,” the WHCA board said in a statement.
Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, said it’s important to remember that first families are families first and foremost.
“Their privacy should be respected, their wishes should be respected,” he said.
The wedding is just one half of a big weekend for the Biden family. The president’s 80th birthday is Sunday and family members in town will celebrate him at a brunch hosted by the first lady.
Darlene Superville, The Associated Press