The fox and the hounds are at it again.
Rumors are flying that Chelsea Clinton will be marrying her beau, Marc Mezvinsky, the last week of August on Martha’s Vineyard. The Clintons deny any such plans. But the National Enquirer insists that all the signs are there — including President Barack Obama’s scheduled vacation, also on Martha’s Vineyard.
If the rumors are true, Chelsea and Marc are doing their best to have a private wedding — in the fine tradition of many other White House brides throughout history — with media hounds pursuing in full cry.
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 he or she gets 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 10 invited reporters into the church in Independence, Mo.
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. Fanny Hayes was 10 when she entered the White House, but her wedding, which came long after the family had moved out of Washington — even after her father, President Rutherford B. Hayes, had died — still commanded stellar attention. The sitting president and his cabinet took trains to Ohio to be present as Fanny Hayes was wed.
And the wedding of Esther Cleveland to a 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, whenever it comes, will be 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 will be a moment for history.
To see this and other columns by Doug Wead, visit his Web site. To see Wead discussing Chelsea Clinton on CBS go here now. To see Wead discussing Chelsea Clinton on Fox go here now. Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dougwead1234
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