Toasting his daughter Jenna Bush and Henry Hager after their wedding at his Crawford ranch Saturday night, President Bush began by confessing, “I am an emotional wreck.”
The night before the wedding, about half of the more than 200 invited guests attended the rehearsal dinner in Salado, Tex., an hour’s drive south of Crawford. Laura Bush gave a toast at the dinner, hosted by Hager’s parents at the Old Salado Springs Celebration Center and Retreat.
The next evening, the wedding guests rode chartered buses to Crawford for the 7:30 p.m. wedding. The sun was setting as the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell of Houston’s Windsor Village United Methodist Church performed the outdoor ceremony. For both of the president’s inaugurations, he delivered the benediction. In January, he endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president.
The ceremony took place before a white limestone altar and cross that had been erected beside the ranch’s lake. Jenna wore a white silk organza embroidered gown by Oscar de la Renta. Her maid of honor and twin Barbara wore a gown of moonstone blue silk. The groom’s brother, John Vigil “Jack” Hager, stood as best man.
Jenna had 14 young women as attendants, whose chiffon dresses each represented a different hue of Texas wildflower. Hager had 14 ushers. The flower girl was the granddaughter of Maria Galvan. As detailed in my book “Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady,” Galvan is the Bush’s personal housekeeper from Austin who helps Laura in the White House and is treated like a member of the family. [Editor's Note: Get Ron Kessler's book. Go here now.]
The Bush’s family chef, who cooks at the ranch and Camp David, makes a mean guacamole and also can sing. He performed four solos, including “Ava Maria” and “On the Wings of a Snow White Dove.” A mariachi band played during the service.
Dinner, served inside a large tent decorated in a white-and-gold motif, featured classic Mexican cuisine. Bush teared up as he toasted Jenna and her husband. Hager’s father, former Virginia lieutenant governor John H. Hager, spoke from his wheelchair about the commitment the couple was making to marriage in good times and bad. In 1973, he contracted polio, which robbed him of the use of his legs.
After dinner, the tent was transformed for dancing from formal white to a profusion of color, with Mexican decorations made by locals. Nashville-based Super T and His Dance Band provided the music. The father of the bride and his daughter danced to “You Are So Beautiful to Me.”
John Hager vigorously danced from his wheel chair, twirling his wife Maggie around him.
Jenna and Hager each invited about 50 couples. Beyond that, only family members and a few close Bush friends who had known Jenna when she was a baby attended. Jenna’s grandfather, George H.W. Bush, was a standout in a white seersucker suit.
Jenna did not hire a wedding planner. Kenneth Blasingame, the Bush’s interior designer, took care of decorations. An aide who helped plan the inaugurations handled the logistics.
“The wedding was sweet and joyful,” a guest said.
The location of the event — first reported along with the month of the wedding by Newsmax last August — fits Jenna’s personality. While Jenna’s sister Barbara Bush went to Yale, Jenna chose the University of Texas.
Jenna also chose to keep the wedding hush-hush. Only a few details and 11 wedding photos have been released to the media, leaving reporters to write stories about the dearth of information. At 9:28 p.m. on Saturday, a White House email to the press confirmed that the two had exchanged wedding vows. The CIA could not have done a better job at maintaining secrecy.
Before boarding Air Force One for Washington, President Bush said to reporters, “The wedding was spectacular. It was all we could have hoped for.”
Jenna, 26, will teach public school in Baltimore. Hager, 30, is about to graduate with an MBA from the University of Virginia and plans to work for Baltimore’s Constellation Energy Group.
Pamela Kessler contributed to this article.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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