In a welcome break from two wars, terrorism and soaring oil prices, US President George W Bush on Saturday celebrated his daughter Jenna’s wedding on his Texas ranch.
Far from the pomp and publicity of past White House nuptials, Jenna, 26, wed fiance Henry Hager, 30, less than one year after he proposed at dawn atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park on Maine’s coast.
“Today is my daughter Jenna’s wedding day. This is a joyous occasion for our family, as we celebrate the happy life ahead of her and her husband Henry,” the president said in his weekly radio address.
“It’s also a special time for Laura, who this Mother’s Day weekend will watch a young woman we raised together walk down the aisle,” he said, hours before the ceremony on the 850-hectare estate.
With twin sister Barbara as her maid of honor and Hager’s brother Jack as best man, 14 young women attendants and 14 male ushers, Jenna and Henry married at 7:30pm before a cream-colored Texas limestone cross that the president ordered erected near a lake on the ranch.
A Houston minister, Kirbyjon Caldwell, officiated. Caldwell recently announced he was supporting Democratic Senator Barack Obama, a fierce Bush critic, for president in the November election.
“He is a family friend,” said Laura Bush’s press secretary, Sally McDonough.
Hours before the outdoor ceremony, tiny Crawford — population 751 — sat under a gray ceiling of clouds and the weather forecast called for a partly cloudy evening with 33˚C temperature.
The more than 200 family and friends — including former president George Bush and wife Barbara — gathered by a lake on the property for the event, followed by a reception under a tent.
“She just wanted to get married at home. She just feels a lot more comfortable there. And it will be really beautiful. This is the time when the wildflowers are all blooming,” Laura Bush said on Monday.
Guests were to shake their tail feathers to the funk, classic rock and rhythm and blues tunes of The Tyrone Smith Revue party band, McDonough said.
Best wishes messages could be seen at a local church as well as some of the tiny town’s souvenir shops, which were making the most of the attention, selling US$11 computer mousepads and US$10 coffee mugs adorned with the happy couple’s picture.
Jenna was to wear an Oscar de la Renta gown with matte beading and embroidery and the ring was to be a Hager family heirloom reset with sapphires, McDonough said.
She declined, however, to confirm that the newlyweds would honeymoon in Europe before settling down in Baltimore, about 45 minutes drive from Washington and the most powerful father- and mother-in-law in the world.
Hager, who is set to receive his business degree in a few weeks, met Jenna during the president’s 2004 reelection and worked as an aide to Bush’s since-departed political guru, Karl Rove.
The White House managed press attention with near-surgical precision, claiming that key details were “private,” then doling them out either in dribs and drabs sure to stoke media interest, or in splashy exclusive interviews like a Vogue magazine article that drove early coverage.