The wedding and the media?
Can a child of the White House be married in Peace?
By Doug Wead
Crowds are descending on Rhinebeck, New York and they will keep coming for days, looking for little souvenirs left behind.
Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky have done a good job of keeping their wedding under wraps but the media is in full pursuit. The fox and the hounds are at it again.
When future ambassador Frank Sayre was courting Jessie Woodrow Wilson, they would “escape the eagle eyes of reporters,” by meeting at a canal’s bank and paddling away in a canoe. Reporters clustered around the White House for Jessie and Frank’s wedding, awaiting the new married couple’s exit, but the newlyweds sneaked out the south entrance and escaped.
Six months later, sister Eleanor married Secretary of the Treasury William McAdoo, and the press was determined not to be fooled. But Mac, as he was called, parked four cars in various places around the White House with the shades drawn. At the appropriate moment, Jessie and Frank jumped into one car, with three other conspiratorial couples diving into the others. In a whirl, all four cars sped away, “pursued,” Eleanor said, “by wild-eyed reporters.” When all was quiet at last, Mac and Eleanor calmly got into the “real” car and motored serenely away.
But can a child of the White House be married in peace if they get married after their father has left office? For example, Ms. Clinton?
Margaret Truman said, in 1956, “I feel that marriage vows are sacred, and I hope that mine will be spared the hurly-burly attending a news event.” She and her husband, Clifton Daniel, managed it, allowing only ten invited reporters into the church in Independence, Missouri.
Julie Nixon was married just before her parents moved into the house on Pennsylvania Avenue, insisting on a private ceremony closed to the press, and officiated by her favorite minister, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.
In a secret ceremony that defied all odds, John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his bride, Carolyn Bissette, pulled an impossible coup on the media and wed on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia, in a church that didn’t even have electric lights.
But these are exceptions to the rule. Ten-year-old Fanny Hayes was the same age as Malia Obama when she entered the White House, but her wedding, which came long after the family had moved out of Washington—even after her father had died—still commanded stellar attention. The sitting President and his Cabinet took trains to Ohio to be present as Fanny Hayes, daughter of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president, was wed.
And the wedding of Esther Cleveland to minor English gentry at Westminster Abbey in London was a huge international event, even though her father, President Grover Cleveland, had long ago passed from the public stage.
So the wedding of Chelsea Clinton is a biggy. The nation still sees her walking across the White House lawn, flanked by her mother and father, quietly taking each of their hands in her own, a teenager, holding things together. And the nation loves her for it. When the daughter of any former President and sitting Secretary of State gets married it is a big deal around the world. But a wedding for Chelsea? It is a moment for history.
Chelsea Clinton Coming out. CBS interviews Doug Wead.