Biden’s South Lawn wedding is one White House tradition all can celebrate—until the president shows up.
This story is a part of the USA TODAY Network project The Week in White House. Read more USA TODAY Network stories.
It’s a sunny Saturday morning in late April when President Obama steps out of the White House to watch his daughter, Ann, and her then-fiancé take their vows under the historic blue sky at the South Lawn.
This is an event that White House staff can mark on the calendar as a time-honored White House tradition. But will it survive even as the president himself is gone more than half the time?
“People who love the White House, even from the president’s perspective, might be a little bit confused by how this is going,” says John F. Kennedy Jr., the president’s nephew.
Obama’s wedding was supposed to be the start of a tradition in his first term: White House weddings from a long list of his family members, including his daughter and her now-fiancé were to take place over the summer or fall.
But the president has often been away from the White House since taking office: In February he was on a trip to Africa and Asia for about a week, and he’s been gone in late April and early May, too. In an attempt to avoid an even longer absence from the White House, Obama’s office announced that there’d be no White House weddings that month.
“That’s a big mistake he made,” says Jack Pitney, a historian and a co-author of a book about presidential weddings that was due out this summer. “And now he’s trying to make up for it. Well, as much as he can at this point.”
And what about those who live in the White House? Can they attend the weddings?
“Well, I’ve heard they do, yes,” says one person who lives in Washington.
The White House says it is trying to figure out how to accommodate the wedding requests.
“The White House is looking into it,” says spokesman Kevin Lewis. “We’re trying to make sure that it’s a great wedding experience for everyone and that we’re still able to have the ceremony.