WASHINGTON (AP) — Trailed by a lengthy, flowing veil, President Joe Biden’s granddaughter Naomi Biden walked across the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday toward an altar of shrubs and flowers to marry her longtime boyfriend Peter Neal in a rare wedding on the grounds.
Their wedding was just the 19th in 200-plus years of White House history.
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted the wedding of their eldest grandchild, which took place just a day before the president’s 80th birthday.
“It has been a joy to watch Naomi grow, discover who she is, and carve out such an incredible life for herself,” they said in a statement announcing the marriage of Naomi King Biden and Peter George Heermann Neal.
“Now, we are filled with pride to see her choose Peter as her husband and we are honored to welcome him to our family,” they said. “We wish them days full of laughter and a love that grows deeper with every passing year.”
Guests began arriving at the security checkpoint hours before the ceremony, including women in open-toed shoes despite the chill. Some guests were given hand warmers. Most wore coats, and some topped off with hats and scarves.
Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to ordinary pedestrians before and during the ceremony, as was a sidewalk bordering the Ellipse, the park just south of the White House.
After the ceremony, the newlyweds, their families and the wedding party had lunch in the White House. A reception with dessert and dancing was planned for later Saturday. President Biden went to church in Washington in between events.
Naomi Biden is a lawyer in Washington. She is the daughter of Hunter Biden and his first wife, Kathleen Buhle.
Neal, of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania law school. He works at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. His parents are Drs. Mary C. and William “Bill” C. Neal of Jackson Hole.
The couple, who have been living at the White House, was set up by a mutual friend about four years ago in New York City and have been together ever since, the White House said. Neal proposed in September 2021 near his childhood home in Jackson Hole with a ring that repurposed the band of his grandmother’s engagement ring, according to the White House.
The White House has released few other details about the wedding, citing the couple’s desire for privacy. The Biden family will pay for all wedding activities, officials have said.
“Naomi and Peter have asked that their wedding be closed to the media and we are respecting their wishes,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday.
Photos released by the Associated Press captured the wedding from a distance, and Naomi can be seen wearing an elegant lace and tulle princess silhouette gown in the couple’s ceremony on the South Lawn. Dr. Biden shared a photo on Twitter Saturday afternoon of her and President Biden beaming as they stand alongside Naomi and Peter for a portrait.
White House weddings are rare. There have been 18 documented weddings in the 200-plus-year history of the White House. Nine involved a president’s daughter, most recently Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia in 1971 and Lyndon Johnson’s daughter Lynda in 1967.
But nieces, a grandniece, a son and first ladies’ siblings have also gotten married there. One president, Grover Cleveland, tied the knot at the White House, too, while in office.
Some of the weddings were open to coverage by the news media, while others weren’t at all.
Journalists were allowed into Tricia Nixon’s wedding to Ed Cox, the first wedding held in the Rose Garden. Her wedding planner — a three-ring black binder in the offices of the White House Historical Association — includes extensive notes on the media plan.
But the May 1994 wedding of a brother of then-first lady Hillary Clinton and the daughter of then-U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer — the first since Tricia Nixon’s marriage — was closed to the press. Clinton’s spokesperson commented afterward and the White House released a photo.
It was the same for the October 2013 wedding of Pete Souza, President Barack Obama’s official photographer, and his longtime partner, Patti Lease. The White House announced the wedding in a statement following the small, private wedding in the Rose Garden.
The White House Correspondents Association, which advocates for press access to the White House and the president, said it was “deeply disappointed” that the White House declined its request for press coverage of Naomi Biden’s wedding.
“White House weddings have been covered by the press throughout history and the first family’s wish for privacy must be balanced against the public’s interest in an event occurring at the People’s House with the president as a participant,” the WHCA board said in a statement.
Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, said it’s important to remember that first families are families first.
“Their privacy should be respected, their wishes should be respected,” he said.