You might expect the U.S. Presidents’ and First Ladies’ weddings to be lavish and over-the-top, but before they lived in the White House, many of these couples were simply young and in love.
You’ll be amazed at how low-key some of these weddings were, including a woman who selected her wedding dress the day before and two future first ladies who didn’t wear white.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s Wedding Dress
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In 1905, Eleanor Roosevelt, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt’s brother, married Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president’s fifth cousin. They first met when she was 14-years-old and he was 18-years-old. After losing touch they reconnected four years later when they crossed paths at a horse show in Madison Square Garden.
The event was attended by Roosevelts from both sides of the family. F.D.R. proposed to Eleanor when he was 22 and she was 19. A Roosevelt-Roosevelt marriage was not uncommon. Her high collared gown had puffy fabric shoulders, and she wore an elegant hat.
Jackie Kennedy’s Last-Minute Wedding Gown
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In 1953, Jackie Bouvier tasked fashion designer Anne Lowe with making her wedding dress, but tragedy struck. Ten days before the wedding, a water pipe broke and caused havoc at Lowe’s studio on Madison Avenue. It ruined 10 of the dresses for the wedding, including Jackie’s gown, which had taken two months to construct.
In a panic, Lowe ordered additional ivory French taffeta and pink silk faille to remake the dress. She and her team of seamstresses were able to do it in the nick of time. The gown, with a classic neckline and bouffant skirt, is one of history’s most iconic wedding gowns.
Barbara Bush Wore Her Mother-In-Law’s Veil
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George H.W. Bush met his future wife, Barbara Pierce when they were teenagers in 1941. The former president talked about their first meeting in the documentary titled 41. He said,“They called it a holiday dance at Christmas time and here she was in this red and green dress. I said, ‘Who is this good-looking girl, that beautiful girl over there?’ ‘That’s Barbara Pierce from Rye, New York.’ So then a guy named Wozencraft introduced us. And the rest is history.”
The couple got married in 1945 at First Presbyterian Church in Rye, N.Y. Barbara wore the wedding veil that George’s mother donned in her own ceremony.
Laura Bush Wore A Simple Tan Dress For Her Wedding
Laura Lane Welch married George Bush on Nov. 5, 1977, at her childhood church in Midland, Texas. The newlyweds posed with the future president’s parents, George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. Unlike her mother in law, Laura did not opt for the traditional, fancy wedding gown. Instead, she wore a simple tan dress she bought off the rack to the ceremony.
She met George at a backyard barbecue in July, and they became engaged just three months later. He was the Governor of Texas from 1995-2000 and became the President of the United States in 2001.
Hillary Clinton Got Her Wedding Dress At The Mall
Hillary Diane Rodham met the future president, Bill Clinton, while they were both attending Yale Law School in 1971. He was staring at her in the library, so she went up to him and introduced herself. They fell in love and he proposed three years later. Bill wanted a big wedding while she didn’t even care about an engagement ring. (He gave her one anyway.)
The wedding was intimate, but she didn’t even have a dress until the day before. Hillary’s mother went to Dillard’s in the Fayetteville Mall and bought her daughter a Jessica McClintock Victorian lace gown. They wed in their living room.
Michelle Obama’s ’90s Wedding Gown
Like Hillary and Bill Clinton, future president Barack Obama met Michelle Robinson through their love of law. They connected while working at the Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago. Michelle originally opposed dating a colleague, but he convinced her to go on a date with him in 1989. Three years later, they tied the knot.
They got married at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Michelle’s brother walked her down the aisle, and they danced to “You and I” by Stevie Wonder. Michelle opted for a pretty white dress with pointed sleeves on her shoulders and a veil.
Mamie Eisenhower Was Another Teen Bride
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images Mamie Geneva Doud married future president Dwight Eisenhower on July 1, 1916, when she was just 19 years old. She had just graduated from the finishing school Miss Wolcott’s. Dwight was 25 and an Army lieutenant. They tied the knot at Mamie’s parents’ home in Denver, Colorado, and later honeymooned at a nearby resort.
The couple had an adventurous beginning as newlyweds and moved around the world to accommodate Dwight’s various postings. They traveled everywhere from the Philippines to Panama. Once “Ike” was elected president, Mamie spent much of her time entertaining foreign dignitaries, who enjoyed her style and fashion.
Bess Truman Loved Hats & Wore One On Her Wedding Day
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Elizabeth Virginia “Bess” Wallace married future president Harry Truman on June 28, 1919, in Independence, Missouri. She has been described as being a tomboy when she was a child. However, as she turned into a young woman, she liked fashion and particularly enjoyed wearing hats. One friend said of Bess: “Bess always had more stylish hats than the rest of us did, or she wore them with more style.”
Harry met Bess before he left for World War I and proposed in 1911. She said no. He decided to earn a good living before proposing again. She wore a lovely brimmed hat at their wedding.
Lou Henry Hoover’s Dark Wedding Gown
Lou Henry was a fascinating woman. She enjoyed camping with her dad and was a proficient taxidermist. She loved rocks and minerals. She graduated with a B.A. in Geology at Stanford University, where she met future president Herbert Hoover. She was fluent in Chinese and the only First Lady to speak an Asian language.
She and Herbert wed in February 1989 at her parents home in Monterey, California. She decided to become a Quaker like the groom, but they were married by a Roman Catholic priest. The bride did not wear the traditional white dress; instead, she opted for a dark-colored gown.
Lucy Hayes’ Wedding Day Dress
Lucy Ware Webb was 21 years old when she married Rutherford Richard Hayes on Dec. 30, 1852, at her family’s home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Lucy had a couple of different suitors before settling down with Rutherford. Rutherford’s mother wanted her son to marry Lucy because she admired the young woman’s moral character and religious background.
Rutherford wrote in his diary in 1851: “I guess I am a great deal in love with L(ucy)….Her low sweet voice…her soft rich eyes.” He also called her a “genuine woman.” The couple had eight children together and wore dark clothing on their wedding day.
Nancy Reagan Hid A Baby Bump Under Her Wedding Gown
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Nancy Davis was an actress in the 1940s and 1950s, and she dated many stars before meeting Ronald Reagan, including Clark Gable. She met Ronald in 1949 when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. Ronald was not big on marriage, particularly following his divorce from Jane Wyman.
He and Nancy wed in 1952 after three years of dating. The wedding was last minute to avoid the press, and only the best man and matron of honor were in attendance. Nancy was pregnant during the ceremony at the Little Brown Church in Los Angeles. She wore a simple, no-frills dress.
Frances Cleveland Wed A Significantly Older Man
Frances Folsom’s eventual marriage to Glover Cleveland is a bit difficult to swallow in today’s perspective. Grover met his future wife when he was 27 years old and she was just an infant. He doted on her when she was young and bought her several gifts. When her father died in 1875 without a will, Grover became administrator of his estate. Frances was 11.
They became romantically involved when she was in college. They wed in 1886 when she was 21 and he was 49. She wore a white gown with orange blossoms and laurel leaves on the dress.
Plenty Of Labor Went Into Melania’s Wedding Gown
The elaborate, custom designer gown Melania wore when she became Mrs. Donald Trump took a lot of time to complete. According to Vogue, the Christian Dior brand took 550 hours to make Melania’s dress, which was no easy feat with a strict deadline and such a high society event as Trump’s wedding.
The train alone was 13-feet long, paired with a 16-foot veil. In total, the dress wore an incredible 60 pounds! On Melania’s slim frame, it must have weighed much more. She didn’t wear the dress after the reception though.
Melania’s Second Dress: Vera Wang
After Melania and Donald Trump exchanged their wedding vows, Melania stepped out to change into her second wedding gown of the night. But what could possibly follow a custom Christian Dior gown? Vera Wang, that’s what.
While her Dior gown boasted extravagance with plenty of satin, rhinestones, and pearls, her Vera Wang gown was designed to flaunt her model figure. The Grecian-style Vera Wang gown hugged her body and was floor-length with a knee-length skirt slit- perfect for dancing at a Florida wedding.
Betty Ford Didn’t Wear White At Her Second Wedding
Elizabeth Anne “Betty” Bloomer married Gerald R. Ford at the Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, MI, in 1948. Unlike most brides, she did not wear white on her wedding day. But she looked fabulous in her shiny dress with matching pumps. It was Betty’s second marriage. Her first husband, William G. Warren, was an alcoholic. They divorced in 1947.
After she met Ford, they delayed their wedding while he was running for the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the New York Times, “Jerry was running for Congress and wasn’t sure how voters might feel about his marrying a divorced ex-dancer.”
Helen Louise Herron “Nellie” Taft’s Home Wedding
Helen Louise Herron “Nellie” Taft and William Howard Taft were married on June 19, 1886. She became First Lady of the United States when Cleveland took the office of the president in 1909. Nellie then served as First Lady until 1913. The Tafts’ wedding ceremony took place at Nellie’s parents’ home in Cincinnati, Ohio. During their honeymoon the couple visited New York City and Sea Bright, New Jersey. They then traveled to Europe for three months.
On their wedding day, Nellie wore a short-sleeved gown and had her hair styled into an updo, with a decorative accent to match her dress.
Edith Wilson’s Dark Wedding Dress
On December 18, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson married Edith Bolling Galt. They were married in Washington, D.C. The wedding was the second for each of them. The President had been widowed the year before, and Edith’s first husband passed away in 1908.
Although many thought that Wilson’s hopes of a second term as President could be harmed by his quick courtship with Edith, these fears were unfounded. Wilson was inaugurated for the second time in March of 1917. Edith proved to be an invaluable advisor to her husband during his second term, which included the beginning of WWI.
“Like A Moth Drawn To A Flame”
Lyndon Baines Johnson, often called “LBJ,” was the 36th President of the United States. Johnson married his bride Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor in San Antonio, Texas, on November 17, 1934. A honeymoon to Mexico followed the ceremony. Johnson became President in 1963, following the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy.
LBJ and Lady Bird were introduced to each other by a friend. Afterward, Lady Bird confessed that she felt drawn to LBJ “like a moth drawn to a flame.” He must have felt the same way, as he proposed marriage on their first date. Two weeks later, Lady Bird accepted the proposal.
Long Before Watergate
Before his name became synonymous with one of the biggest American political scandals in modern history, Richard Nixon was just a guy in love. He and his future bride Thelma Catherine “Pat” Ryan met one night while they were both auditioning for a community play. The story is that he fell in love with her on that very first night.
The couple was married on June 21, 1940 in Riverside, California. They honeymooned in Mexico. The photo above shows the Nixons at their wedding shower. They became President and First Lady of the United States following Nixon’s second presidential campaign.
America’s First Presidential Marriage
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The future first President of the United States, George Washington, married Martha Dandridge on January 6, 1759, at the White House, at that time a plantation. Martha was a widow and had four children from her previous marriage. George was 26 and Martha 27 when they tied the knot.
According to Wikipedia and the few remaining depictions of the event, “Washington’s suit was of blue and silver cloth with red trimming and gold knee buckles. The bride wore purple silk shoes with spangled buckles, which are occasionally displayed at Mount Vernon.” Her dress was also blue, to coordinate with Washington’s.
Barack And Michelle Obama Did The Traditional Garter Toss
For their anniversary in 2018, Michelle Obama took to Instagram with this intimate photo taken at their wedding reception. She shared that Barack had been sick with a cold that morning but felt better at the altar.
She wrote: “We ended up dancing almost all night. Twenty five years later, we’re still having fun, while also doing the hard work to build our partnership and support each other as individuals. I can’t imagine going on this wild ride with anybody else.
Bill Clinton Bought Hillary A House Before They Were Married
Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary Rodham many times before she finally accepted and agreed to become his wife. As she later described, “I was desperately in love with him but utterly confused about my life and future. So I said ‘No not now’ — what I meant was ‘Give me time.’”
What set her over the edge? He had purchased a home for them to live in together, one she’d casually mentioned liking earlier. This showed her that he was serious about wanting to spend his life with her, and she said yes.
Another View Of The Reagans On Their Wedding Day
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Ronald Reagan had a great love for his bride Nancy and frequently gave her special gifts: drawings he’d done himself and signed “I.T.W.W.W.” (I love you more than anyone ‘in the whole wide world). We didn’t know he was such a romantic!
The Reagans’ Best Man was William Holden, the Academy-Award winning famous for films like Sunset Boulevard, The Wild Bunch, and Sabrina. Maid of Honor was his wife, actress Brenda Marshall.
Laura Bush Found Family
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One of the beautiful things about marriage is that it means two families are coming together. In the case of Laura Bush, she was also gaining siblings for the first time. Having been an only child for her entire life, Laura was elated to gain several brother and sisters-in-law when she wed George W. Bush. George is one of six children of George and Barbara Bush.
Although they had a quick engagement and marriage, the couple has been happily married for four decades. George W. has even said that marrying Laura was the “best decision of [his] life.
Grover Cleveland Was The First (And Only) President To Be Married At The White House
When Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom in 1886, he became the first and only president to be married at the White House! The celebration took place in June, 1886. Before he married, his sister Rose had served as the first lady.
Reporters were so desperate to get details about the Presidential honeymoon that they followed President and Mrs. Cleveland with binoculars. The couple eventually had five children and remained together until Cleveland’s death in 1908.
A Founding Father’s Wedding
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson married a widow named Martha Wayles in 1772. At the time, Jefferson was the Governor of Virginia, so his bride became the state’s first lady. As a gift, Jefferson presented Martha with mahogany forte-piano that he said was “worthy the acceptance of a lady for whom I intend it.”
The couple lived together in his home, Monticello. Martha died a full two decades before Jefferson became the third President of the United States.
Jackie’s Ten Bridesmaids
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When Jackie and John F. Kennedy wed on September 12, 1953, the entire Kennedy clan turned out in Newport, Rhode Island. The couple invited 800 guests to attend the ocean-front wedding at Saint Mary’s Church, and who wouldn’t RSVP ‘yes’ to that event?
Jackie’s bridesmaids included her sister, Lee, her stepsister Nina Auchincloss, John’s sister Jean, sister-in-law Ethel, and Jackie’s former roommate, Nancy Tuckerman. There were ten bridesmaids total, plus a maid of honor, all wearing pink taffeta gowns.
Surrounded By Powerful Men
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Of course, John F. Kennedy included his brothers in his bridal party. Jackie is pictured with the men of the family, including Edward and Robert Kennedy, standing on either side of John.
JFK was holding office as a United States Senator at the time, and included his Senate colleague George Smathers in his party, along with his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, cousin Joe Gargan, and brother-in-law Michael Canfield. A few of his friends included Lem Billings, Red Fay, and Torbert Macdonald. Of course, Charles Bartlett stood by the couple when they wed- he was the one who introduced them.
You Can See Jackie’s Dress On Display
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We’re not fortunate enough to have all of the First Ladies’ wedding dresses on display to admire in person, but Jackie Kennedy’s dress is! The dress designed by Ann Lowe is now iconic for American brides and has been deemed one of the best-remembered bridal gowns of all time.
Jackie mostly wore the gown by itself, with little jewelry. She held a bouquet filled with pink and white spray orchids and gardenias. You can see the dress displayed at the Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. Several other iconic outfits of Jackie’s are also on display here.
The Social Event Of The Season
Much like royal weddings, nuptials as exciting as John and Jackie Kennedy’s wedding don’t happen often. But when they do it’s a highlight on everyone’s calendar. Life photographer Lisa Larson wrote, “Their wedding turned out to be the most impressive the old society stronghold had seen in 30 years.”
The wedding was so important, even the Pope himself blessed the couple. JFK proposed to Jackie after the couple had been dating for two years. He presented her with a 2.9 carat diamond ring with a matching emerald.
The Happiest Day Of Their Lives
Jackie Kennedy was the first Catholic woman to serve as First Lady of the United States. She was baptized at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan and shared her beliefs with John.
Pictured kneeling together in the century-old church of St. Mary’s, this was the happiest day of the couple’s life. It was 1953, before JFK’s successful campaign for the presidency, before the Vietnam War, and before Robert F. Kennedy was killed. Ten years later, Jackie would tragically become a widow.
President Johnson’s Daughter Was Married in the East Room
Two of President Johnson’s daughters wed while he was in office. Lynda Baines Johnson, the eldest daughter of the President married Marine CApt. Charles S. Robb in 1867. The couple met while Robb was an aide in the White House, and they ended up marrying in the East Room of the White House.
He later went on the become the governor of Virginia, making her the First Lady of Virginia. The couple would have three daughters and although Robb reportedly had an affair with Miss Virginia USA 1
Chelsea Clinton Had A Lavish Wedding
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Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton was married to her investor beau Marc Mezvinsky on July 31, 2010. The two were wed at an estate on the Hudson River in Rhinebeck, New York. Chelsea’s famous father, of course, gave her away.
The beaming 30-year-old bride chose a strapless Vera Wang gown of ivory silk organza, with an embroidered waistband and a Cathedral-length wedding veil. The dress is rumored to have cost around $25,000.
400 Guests Attended Clinton’s Wedding
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Although there was (understandably) tight security surrounding Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, some details about the event have emerged. For example, Bill Clinton toasted his son-in-law during the reception, saying that he was “looking forward to having some company because I’m outnumbered.”
Chelsea and Bill reportedly danced to a Frank Sinatra song, with Bill shedding tears during the poignant moment. Guests were then treated to a 500-pound, gluten-free vanilla sponge cake.
A White House Wedding For Woodrow Wilson’s Daughter
Eleanor “Nellie” Wilson was lucky enough to have her wedding in the White House while her father was in office. President Woodrow Wilson gave away his daughter Nellie to her husband William McAdoo, who was the Secretary of the Treasury in 1914.
The couple married in the Blue Room. Nelli was 24 years old at the time, and McAdoo was a 50-year-old grandfather, widowed with six children from his previous marriage. After the couple divorced in 1934, McAdoo married a 26-year-old when he was 71!
Tricia Nixon Had The Only Rose Garden Wedding
The daughter of President Richard Nixon, Patricia “Tricia” Nixon Cox, and her husband are still the only couple to be wed in the Rose Garden at the White House. She was married in 1971 to Edward Finch Cox, who was a law student at Harvard.
The wedding was a huge event, described as a wedding of “American royalty” with Tricia’s father holding office. The cake was made with 400 egg whites and of course the guest list included D.C.’s elite. After marrying, the couple moved to the suburbs of New York and live a relatively quiet life with their son.
Amy Carter Refused To Let Her Father Give Her Away
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Former President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy married James Wentzel in a relatively no-fuss ceremony held in Plains, Georgia, in 1996.
Amy, who grew up in the White House, didn’t let the fact that her dad was a former president influence her wedding plans. She bucked tradition and didn’t let her father give her away, saying that she “belonged to no one”. She also kept her own name.
Dorothy Bush Was The First Presidential Daughter To Be Married At Camp David
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Dorothy Walker Bush, daughter of President George H.W. Bush and the sister of President George W. Bush, was the first presidential daughter to be married at Camp David. The wedding, to Robert Koch, took place in 1992.
Camp David is the ultra-private presidential retreat located in the woods of Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland. President Franklin D. Roosevelt turned the former military camp to a presidential retreat in 1942. The facility is named after Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower.
Alice Lee Roosevelt’s Marriage Was Rocky
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Alice Lee Roosevelt, the eldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, was a wild child. She was once quoted saying, “If you haven’t got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”
In 1906 she married Republican Congressman Nicholas Longworth in a White House wedding. He was 14 years older than she, and Alice wasn’t ready to settle down. She was caught having an affair with a Senator, which resulted in a daughter between the two. Longworth had a reputation for being a playboy, and the two ended up having a very unstable marriage.
George Washington Gave Away His Step-Granddaughter
When Eleanor “Nelly” Curtis was married in 1799, her Step-Grandfather, President George Washington, gave her away. She married a nephew of Washington’s by the name of Lawrence Lewis. The wedding was a huge event, and even had a song created in its honor, named, “Nellie Grant’s Wedding March.”
After they were married, the couple lived near Mount Vernon at Woodlawn, adjacent to Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.