On Saturday, President Biden’s granddaughter Naomi Biden, 28, married Peter Neal, 25 — the 19th White House wedding and the first for a presidential family member held on the grounds since the Clinton era. The bride and groom shared their vows in front of about 250 guests outdoors (Bro) with the South Portico as an impressive photo backdrop. The ceremony was followed by an intimate luncheon in the State Dining Room and later that evening a dessert and dance reception for several hundred friends. To answer the question that critics immediately asked – “Who paid for all this?” – the answer is the Biden family, not the taxpayers, according to the first lady’s spokeswoman.
The groom’s family hosted a rehearsal dinner Friday night in the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Naomi wore a pleated tulle cape covered in lace flowers to the rehearsal and then changed into a tailored jacket, according to designer Danielle Frankel.
The next morning, through their telephoto lenses and binoculars, the media could see green-and-white flower garlands adorning the south portico, and – hmm, let’s squint a little harder – are those two officiants? Three bridesmaids? Is the president making his entrance?
Yes, yes, and yes, according to an account of the weekend’s events by guests who spoke to The Washington Post, along with a glimpse of the print program.
Security was tight, with a heavy police presence in both Lafayette Square and the Ellipse, which was cordoned off with yellow tape and metal barricades. Guests had to go through background checks and get a coronavirus test. It was clear but chilly – 39 degrees – and guests who had to check their cell phones at the door were given hand warmers and white scarves for the 7 p.m. ceremony. 11.
First, President Biden escorted the groom’s two grandmothers, each using a cane, then turned, jogged back up the aisle and returned to the altar with First Lady Jill Biden. Then came the wedding party: Naomi’s sister Finnegan, 22, was maid of honor and the groom’s brother, Robert, was best man. The bridesmaids – who wore matching blazers to keep warm – included Naomi’s other sister Maisy, 21, and her new sister-in-law, Katherine “Betsy” Neal.
Naomi made her entrance from the Diplomatic Room of the White House in a lace sleeved ball gown with a high neckline that channeled actress Grace Kelly’s famous wedding dress. Her dramatic lace-edged veil trailed several meters behind. The groom, in a three-piece navy suit – also Ralph Lauren – wore a flower brooch as a boutonniere. The First Lady wore a teal silk chiffon dress and matching wool crepe with belt Coat by designer Reem Acrawho also dressed her for the recent Kennedy Center honors and the 2009 presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.
The bride was escorted down the aisle by her father, Hunter Biden, and mother, Kathleen Buhle, to the tune of “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by Verve. Although the president did not speak at the ceremony, Ashley Blazer Biden — Naomi’s aunt and the president’s daughter — read “God is love” from the New Testament. Another part of the ceremony included a reading of “I Carry Your Heart With Me” by ee cummings. The groom’s father, William C. Neal, sang “Ubi Caritas” with an ensemble of singers from DC
The couple wrote their own vows, which were performed by a Catholic monsignor and a Presbyterian minister. “They reminisced about their experience with each other and what brought them to today,” said Linzi Lane, a friend of the Neal family. “It was beautifully done. … I don’t think there was a dry eye.”
Lane said a bee landed on Naomi’s dress during the ceremony and Peter gently brushed it off.
Vivaldi played as the bride walked back to the White House for lunch. She could be seen lifting her bouquet triumphantly. She and Peter later did a photo shoot and kissed on the state balcony. A small army of official wedding photographers included Corbin Gurkin – who shot Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ wedding and was named one of the best wedding photographers in the world by “Bazaar Bride”. A small army of unofficial wedding photographers included a drone that flew over the Ellipse to capture aerial shots.
Programs were engraved with an intertwined N and P, and included a note of gratitude from the couple: “Thank you for being by our side today. We are grateful to be surrounded by the people we love. Naomi and Peter. “
After lunch, the President and his daughter Ashley attended Saturday Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown. One attendee says the congregation sang “Happy Birthday” to the president, who turned 80 on Sunday. (The first lady hosted a brunch in his honor.)
On to the evening! Guests who didn’t make the cut earlier still had a chance to celebrate the couple at a larger but still exclusive black-tie evening reception. Attendees reported that the guest list was packed with friends of the couple from Sidwell Friends, George Washington University, Penn and Columbia, but few Washington dignitaries. (In bold at the morning ceremony included former Sen. Chris Dodd, former Sen. Ted Kaufman, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his wife, Evan Ryan, who is the Cabinet Secretary in the White House.)
Don’t give us cabinet members, give us the details!
Okay. The dress: Naomi changed into a strapless ivory dress with a scoop neckline, a small train and embellished buttons on the back, a guest reports. She wore her engagement and wedding rings over a pair of tulle gloves and the same Tiffany diamond and pearl earrings she wore to the ceremony. Women’s Wear Daily reported that the evening gown was designed by Alexandra O’Neill for Markarian — the label the first lady wore on Inauguration Day.
The cake: Seven tiers and all-white fondant. Individual discs were handed out in boxes to the participants, as a party gift. The taste was “lemonish,” says the guest.
The music: Two bands playing a mix of romantic oldies and pop music, including songs by Amy Winehouse and Beyoncé. In addition to the traditional first dance and parent dance, the bride danced with her grandfather, the president, whom she calls “Pops.”
“He never stopped whispering in her ear,” reported one guest. “That was probably one of my favorite moments of the whole night.”
The party spanned the entire White House with several rooms for drinking and dancing. The white and green floral motif from earlier in the day was carried over into the evening’s decor, along with lots of candles. The festivities were orchestrated by Bryan Rafanelli, one of the country’s top wedding planners, who planned Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in Rhinebeck, NY, as well as other White House holiday events and state dinners.
Peter offered a toast. Maisy wore a pinstripe suit. The first lady wore an icy blue knee-length dress, embellished with sequins. Baby Beau, the bride’s 2-year-old half-brother, wore a tiny tuxedo and reportedly had a little meltdown at the end of the night — up after his bedtime, one guest speculated. The President stayed late to mingle with the guests.
Peter and Naomi, both lawyers, met on a date arranged by a mutual friend in 2018 and have lived on the third floor of the White House. “These two fell in love after two days,” a friend, Asha-Kai Grant, wrote on Instagram last year.
The bride’s grandparents released a statement Saturday. “It has been a joy to watch Naomi grow, discover who she is and create such an incredible life for herself,” the president and first lady said. “Now we are filled with pride to see her choose Peter as her husband and we are honored to welcome him into our family. We wish them days full of laughter and a love that grows deeper with each passing year .”
Rafanelli, the event planner, posted several photos on his Instagram account. Other than that, the official channels have remained silent, allowing the newlyweds to enjoy their day. Most friends did the same. But you didn’t need binoculars to see that the pair were head over heels for each other.
“Naomi danced from start to finish,” said a friend of the groom. “They were just so in love and so happy.”
Jura Koncius contributed to this report.