White House Weddings: No more in the building, but grounds are popular

Published 9:53 am Tuesday, September 26, 2023

By  Betty Etchison West

For the Enterprise

The wedding of Lynda Bird Johnson and Charles Spittal Robb in the East Room at the White House was the last wedding that took place inside the White House to date.

A few weddings, however, have taken place on the grounds of the White House since the Johnson/Robb wedding.

On June 12, 1971, Tricia Nixon, the daughter President of Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon, married Edward Cox, a Harvard law student, in the White House Rose Garden; 400 guests attended, joined by about 700 media people.

When the Kennedys designed the Rose Garden, they had a grassy area put in the middle so that there would be a perfect place for guests to sit for any kind of occasion.

Rafanelli, who designed many events at the White House, said: “The Rose Garden is the ultimate outdoor venue. It is one of the few places in the world that cannot be replicated.”

There was an ironwork gazebo placed in the Rose Garden, and it was covered with white roses for the Nixon/Cox wedding. That gazebo was made in the White House Metal Shop.

The aisle in the Rose Garden was lined with French-style tubs filled with topiary trees of pink and white roses. The pictures of the decorations are stunning so seeing the real thing must having been an unbelievable experience.  The ironworks gazebo used for that wedding is now in the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California.

A news release at the time described the bride’s dress:  “Tricia Nixon’s dress was of silk organdy appliqued with Alencon lace and embroidered lilies of the valley over silk crepe.”

The dress was sleeveless, which was somewhat controversial because it was considered to be too revealing. Tricia looked beautiful, and the fairy-tale setting worked even though the weather was threatening throughout the day. The bride thought the soft rain made the fragrance of the garden all the sweeter.

After the wedding, there was a cake cutting in the North Portico Hall in front of the historic gilded mirror. The cake was six-feet high. Around the bottom of the cake was blown sugar love birds and the initials “T” and “E.”. Tricia wanted the cake to be big enough for the guests and the media people to have a piece.  One of the guests, who got a piece of that beautiful cake, was Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who was quite old at that time.

President Nixon wrote his daughter a note and left it under her pillow the night before the wedding, which said something to the effect that your wedding day will be a day that we will always remember because all of us were beautifully and simply happy.

This marriage does indeed seem to be one that has been happy as indicated by Tricia as she reminisced about her wedding day on her 50th anniversary.  Among other things, she remembered that Rev. Edward G. Hatch performed the ceremony that made her the wife of Edward Cox.

Edward and Tricia had one son, and, after he needed less attention, Tricia served on boards of some medical research institutions. She is an active member of the Board of Directors of the Nixon Presidential Library in California.  Edward Cox is a corporate lawyer and is chair of the New York Republican State Committee.

The last White House wedding of the 20th Century was the wedding of Anthony Rodham, the brother of First Lady, Hillary Clinton, and Nicole Boxer.  That wedding was also held in the Rose Garden.  It took place on May 28, 1994. It had been 25 years since there had been any kind of White House wedding.

Thirty-nine-year-old Anthony Rodham wed 25-years-old Nicole Boxer, the daughter of California Sen. Barbara Boxer, under a white canopy.  The 40-minute ceremony was performed by Judge Perer Capua, a family friend, after remarks by a Methodist minister and a Jewish lay representative.

Chelsa, the daughter of President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, served as a bridesmaid.

After the ceremony, the 250 guests retired to the First Ladies Garden before moving to the States Dining Room for a buffet dinner.  After dinner, there was dancing in the East Room.

The Clintons said they paid for the wedding and they wanted it to be private.  No media people were allowed.  If fact, there were some shields put up to assure privacy.

Anthony Rodham, who is Hillary Clinton’s younger brother, was the Regional Coordinator for the Los Angelos Democratic National Committee.  His bride, Nicole, was a film company executive.  The Rodhams had one son, Zachary.

The Rodham/Boxer marriage did not work out for the long haul.  Anthony Rodham and Nicole Boxer Rodham were divorced in 2001.  Eighteen years later, Anthony Rodham died when he was only sixty-four years old.

The Rodham/Boxer wedding was the last the White House wedding to take place in the twentieth century.