The 5 most lavish weddings at the White House in history
Charles Robb and Lynda Bird Johnson
9 DECEMBER 1967
Lynda was the oldest daughter of LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson.
The plot: According to a Kansas City wedding planner’s website, Priscilla Kidder personally told him this story: During her sister Luci’s wedding, Lynda got into an argument with celebrity dress designer Priscilla of Boston because Lynda believed that because she was the bride’s sister, her dress should stand out from the other bridesmaids’ outfits. According to this report, Kidder was not having it and chopped Lynda’s floor-length headpiece to the elbows, shouting, “There! “You now stand out!” Lynda, predictably, picked a different designer for her wedding.
The specifics: Lynda, unlike her sibling, chose to hold the wedding at the White House. Following the ceremony, the newlyweds and their 500 or so guests (including Alice Roosevelt Longworth) enjoyed Champagne, cake, and dancing in the East Room, which was decorated with string-lit topiaries and ribbon, according to the White House Historical Association. The bride carried a modest white bouquet and wore a Geoffrey Beene mock-neck, long-sleeve princess-line gown; the groom wore his Marine Corps uniform. Seven bridesmaids carried red bouquets while wearing red floor-length velvet gowns and half-up bouffant hairstyles with red ribbons.
Patrick Nugent and Luci Johnson (Reception Only)
6 AUGUST 1966
The ceremony at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was followed by a reception at the White House for First Daughter Luci Johnson’s wedding in 1966. Henry and Carole Haller and the Family/White House Historical Association provided the photograph.
The link: Luci was President and First Lady Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson’s younger daughter.
The specifics: The pair married at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, followed by a White House reception. According to Time magazine, which described the wedding as a “semimonarchical ceremony,” Luci “voted automatically for spectacle over seclusion” by becoming the first couple to marry in the world’s largest Roman Catholic Church. The United States, with a “100-voice choir.” Priscilla of Boston, who also designed the bride’s mock-neck, long-sleeve lace gown, designed the bridesmaids’ bubblegum-pink gowns. The cake weighed 300 pounds and stood eight feet tall.
Francis Bowes Sayre and Jessie Woodrow Wilson
25 NOVEMBER 1913
Jessie was President Woodrow Wilson’s and First Lady Ellen Wilson’s middle daughter.
The specifics: According to the New York Times, 500 guests were treated to refreshments in the State Dining Chamber, an “old-fashioned Southern supper” in a breakfast room decorated in pink roses, and impromptu dancing back in the East Room after the ceremony. The New York Times reported a month before the wedding that the President had prohibited extravagant gifts and requested that gifts come only from friends of the couple—a move said to be in response to reports that when Alice Roosevelt married, the gifts “were of such value and number that detectives were called in employed to protect them for several weeks before the wedding.”
Nicholas Longworth and Alice Lee Roosevelt
17 FEBRUARY 1906
Alice Roosevelt welcomed 1,000 guests to her White House wedding, which featured an 18-foot train.
The link: Alice was President Theodore Roosevelt’s elder daughter.
Teddy Roosevelt was a popular President, and Alice was a well-known, lively First Daughter. The wedding was the largest ever hosted at the White House, with over 1,000 people, according to various sources. Alice chose no bridesmaids because she wanted to be the center of attention, but there were nearly a dozen ushers (and her sister, Ethel, may have played a small ceremonial part). The wedding was the first to take place on a Saturday at the White House, and it developed into a huge party—the largest ever held at the White House. “Romp follows the ceremony,” the New York Times declared the next day. As guests and passersby were distracted, the pair climbed out of a window to a getaway car at the end of the evening. “It was a good party, a really good party,” Alice told the New York Times six decades later. When asked if she would have liked a smaller wedding, she replied, “A cozy wedding is a rather scary thought.”
MAY 21, 1874: Nellie Grant and Algernon Sartoris
The wedding of First Daughter Nellie Grant is regarded as the first “really spectacular” event staged at the White House.
Nellie was President Ulysses S. Grant’s and First Lady Julia Grant’s daughter.
According to the White House Historical Association, the President and First Lady were concerned about the wedding because Nellie, who was 19 at the time, would be relocating to England with Algernon. (They weren’t very fond of him, either.)
The specifics: According to one report, the wedding was the first “truly magnificent” wedding at the White House and had around 250 attendees. The East Room was fully redecorated in white with gold leaf, according to the WHHA, and the chandeliers were replaced with more extravagant replicas. After breakfast in the State Dining Room, there was a ceremony in the East Room, which was decorated with flowers, foliage, and a pink rose bell. The bride and her eight bridesmaids, all dressed in white, ascended a magnificent staircase and entered Cross Hall, which was flanked on either side by military officers standing at attention.