Few state secrets are guarded as closely as the details surrounding the upcoming wedding of former first daughter Chelsea Clinton. Yet as with all things in Washington, details are starting to leak out inexorably.
The big date is less than two weeks away: On July 31, the 30-year-old Chelsea and her 32-year-old fiance, Marc Mezvinsky, will wed. Reporters are pretty sure it will be in Rhinebeck, N.Y., 90 miles up the Hudson River from New York City, and that the bride will wear Oscar de la Renta. But all that the 400 invited guests know is that the nuptials will be in the vicinity of the Big Apple.
“The invitations are save-the-date invitations, with just the date and no information about where it’s going to be held,” New York Times White House correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg told TODAY’s Ann Curry Monday in New York. “People were told, ‘Get yourself within New York City driving distance, and we’ll give you the details with a week to go.’ ”
Stolberg had reported in The Times that the wedding will probably be held in a century-old pavilion called Astor Courts in Rhinebeck. The 13,000-square-foot pavilion was inspired by Versailles.
“It is within driving distance of New York. It’s a lovely place. It’s secluded on 50 acres; owned by some Clinton donors, Kathleen Hammer and her husband, who’s a real estate developer, and it’s easy to get to,” Stolberg said.
In her Times story, Stolberg reported that at least two hotels in the town have been totally booked for the wedding weekend, although no one is saying by whom.
MOTB’s ‘lips are sealed’
As secretary of state, the mother of the bride, or MOTB, as she has taken to referring to herself, is accustomed to keeping secrets, and this one is no different.
In an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell in Pakistan, Hillary Clinton said, “My lips are sealed. I am under very strict orders not to talk about it, and I think for the right reasons, because it is hers, and it is a family wedding. The people coming are her friends and people who have been meaningful in her life, as it should be.”
Former President Bill Clinton, the father of the bride, had previously told TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager that his role is to pay for the wedding. At Chelsea’s request, he’s taken off 15 pounds so he looks his best walking her down the aisle.
“You should assume that if he makes it down the aisle in one piece, it’s going to be a major accomplishment,” Hillary Clinton told Mitchell with a laugh. “He is going to be so emotional, as am I.” Stolberg said the mother of the bride has been minutely involved in Chelsea’s wedding.
“She’s been absolutely hands-on. She’s been viewing flower arrangements by e-mail. She said that she’s been squeezing in tastings and dress selections. She’s obviously very excited about this, as is her husband,” Stolberg said.
The reporter added that she thinks it’s likely the secretary of state is planning to wear an updo hairstyle.
“Did you see her hair?” Stolberg asked Curry. “She’s obviously grown it out. As soon as I saw that, I thought, there comes the updo.”
Four hundred people may seem like a crowd, but it’s an intimate gathering for a family that knows the most famous people in nearly every walk of life on the planet.
“The guest list is small by Clinton standards, about 400 people, which is big for you and me, maybe, but intimate for people who know kings and presidents and Hollywood stars,” Stolberg said.
Knowing the former president or the secretary of state isn’t good enough to get in.
“In order to make the cut, you have to be a friend of Chelsea and Marc. So all those big-time donors, you heard the secretary say, ‘We love you, but it’s Chelsea’s wedding,’ ” Stolberg said.
Stolberg said no one outside of those planning the wedding knows the guest list. “We do know that some very close friends of the Clintons, people like the [Terry] McAuliffes, Harry Thomason and his wife, longtime close family friends, are certainly on the list. President Obama — Hillary Clinton’s boss — is on the list, but the White House says he won’t go. That makes sense, because he travels with a big press entourage, and they’re trying to keep this secret,” she said.
According to other sources, the guest list may also include Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg and Ted Turner.
About the couple
Mezvinsky is Jewish and Clinton is Christian. Stolberg said it’s likely both a minister and a rabbi will preside at the nuptials, but it’s unlikely Chelsea will convert to Judaism after the marriage.
Always extremely private, Chelsea Clinton was 12 years old when her family moved into the White House. When Bill Clinton was revealed to have been unfaithful, it was Chelsea who seemed to keep the family together. A doting father, Bill Clinton once postponed an overseas presidential trip to help her study for exams.
Chelsea met Mezvinsky as a teenager on a Renaissance Weekend at Hilton Head, S.C. The pair both went to Stanford, but Chelsea dated others and didn’t start getting serious about Mezvinsky until several years after graduation.
Mezvinsky’s mother, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, is a former congresswoman from Pennsylvania who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. His father, who is divorced from his mother, is a former congressman who served five years in prison for fraud. He was released in 2008.
Curry asked Stolberg if she could explain why the public is so fascinated with this wedding.
“We don’t have royalty in this country,” she replied. “We’re particularly fascinated with Chelsea, because she was such a gawky teenager. She grew up, obviously, into a lovely young woman. Everyone remembers that picture of her walking to the helicopter with her parents, holding the hands of each after the president confessed to infidelities. People wondered, how is this kid going to turn out?
“She’s obviously turned out really well. It’s a nice ending.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.